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What you need to know to turn used-car shoppers into buyers

First commandment to turn shoppers into buyers

Know thy customer.

Three simple words that are easier said than done for dealerships that sell used cars.

“As dealers, you want to match up the right car with the right customer as quickly as possible,” says the introduction to a CarStory white paper based on responses to a recent survey of used-car shoppers. “It helps you move cars, and it helps turn shoppers into repeat, happy customers.”

So what did CarStory find were reasons Americans were seeking a used car instead of new?

The top two reasons far and away, followed by the percentage of shoppers who chose each, were: save money, 60 percent, and get a good deal, 53 percent. In fact, four lesser reasons also made some reference to savings, including getting more features for the money, 26 percent; reducing insurance costs, 19 percent; minimizing depreciation, 17 percent, and avoiding hidden fees, 13 percent.

Value-based propositions

Only two of the top eight reasons cited by CarStory (surveyed shoppers were allowed to select more than one reason) involved something other than saving money. Those were getting a special model you can’t buy new, 32 percent, and getting exactly what you see, 26 percent.

So, first and foremost, be sure you are making a strong value-based proposition.

In “How to convert used car shoppers to buyers,” CarStory also reported that eight in 10 used-car buyers (81 percent) want to know vehicle condition, followed by accident history (77), service history (75), listing price (74), value of the vehicle (73), make (72) and mileage (71). Also important are price compared to the market, dealership’s reputation, selling prices of similar vehicles, mileage compared to similar vehicles, comfort features, cost of ownership and fuel efficiency.

Vehicle descriptions matter

But dealer vehicle descriptions fall short for most shoppers, according to the survey, in which 47 percent of women and just 38 percent of men felt they got all the information needed to make a decision.

“Understanding what information your customers need to make a purchasing decision can help move them along the buying process,” says CarStory, which provides independent reports about the value of individual vehicles and features in specific markets.

Understanding what customers are feeling, meanwhile, can take a positive experience even further.

CarStory found that used-car shoppers who answered the survey were mostly excited (49 percent) or optimistic (44 percent) and, to a lesser extent, satisfied (28 percent) or happy (23 percent).

The trick, of course, is to make sure they stay that way during and after the sale.

The most important three-letter word

The WOW factor.

That’s what car dealers must achieve in the used-car sales process.

Car shoppers today go through a lot of steps before deciding what they’re going to purchase, so grabbing and holding their attention are major challenges for dealerships.

“This implies that dealers have just a few opportunities to really wow potential buyers,” says CarStory, which conducted a three-week survey of used-car shoppers, and not much time to do it.

“Today’s auto shoppers use 24 research touch points in their car-buying process,” says CarStory, citing a Kelley Blue Book report, in a white paper, How to Convert Used Car Shoppers to Buyers. “Every time a consumer leaves a dealer website to find more information, it is a lost opportunity.”

Following are the most common steps from CarStory’s own map of the buying process, in order, with the percentage of shoppers who referred to it in the survey (most frequent in boldface):

  1. Search for vehicles online, 86 percent
  2. Calculate the amount I can afford to spend, 68 percent
  3. Ask friends and family about purchasing a car, 36 percent
  4. Read online reviews, 53 percent
  5. Check vehicles’ market value, 59 percent
  6. Narrow down the search, 52 percent
  7. Consider other vehicles, 60 percent
  8. Sell or trade another vehicle, 31 percent
  9. Ask a dealer for recommendations, 14 percent
  10. Read auto magazines, 13 percent
  11. Check accident history, 59 percent
  12. Test drive a vehicle, 74 percent
  13. Call dealer to pre-negotiate, 20 percent
  14. Negotiate price at dealer, 56 percent
  15. Negotiating financing at dealer, 41 percent
  16. Drive the car home, 76 percent
  17. Share vehicle purchase on social networks, 7 percent

The process offers a key lesson to dealerships selling used cars, according to CarStory.

“The best way to capture most shoppers [is to] engage them in the online research phase,” says CarStory, referring to the most-typical first step by consumers in the used-car-purchase process. “But how long do dealers have to capture a buyer’s attention before that buyer moves from the online research phase to, say, Step No. 6, narrowing the search? Not long.”

“To better understand consumer attention span … we looked at the average number of search results pages (SRPs) and vehicle detail pages (VDPs) that consumers across our marketplaces view,” says CarStory. “And then we looked at how many leads, on average, consumers submit.”

The results show that out of 7.8 million unique consumers who viewed SRPs across 350 marketplaces, 4.1 million made it to at least one VDP, generating a total of 182,533 leads, says CarStory.

That means eight visits to your website generate five VDP views and just one or two leads. So, go out and wow your prospects, then be prepared to make the most of those results.

And now the most important number

Consider nine your lucky number.

So suggests a white paper on results of a customer survey by CarStory.

“From our survey, we learned that most people who buy a used vehicle do so to save money, or at least to get more bang for their buck while minimizing depreciation,” says CarStory in its report. “Based on this, we looked at ways that dealers could price vehicles to improve consumer interest.”

And what pricing insight did the survey provide? That the number “9” is better than “0.” Seriously.

“We looked at ways that dealers could price vehicles to improve consumer interest,” says CarStory in its report. “We started with an obvious question: What effect does ending a price in 9 have on consumer interest and conversion? This, of course, is the oldest trick in the book and one that is detailed in the journal of Quantitative Marketing and Economics.”

Yes, it really works

“We found that dealers that end their prices in 99 convert shoppers from the search results pages to vehicle detail pages much more often,” reports CarStory. “Prices that end in 99 versus 00 showed a 16 percent lift in SRP-to-VDP conversion. Prices that end in 999 performed nine percent better than those ending in 000. … Take away: Always end your price with multiple 9s.”

But, apparently, the number nine isn’t just important in used-vehicle pricing, according to CarStory. It also comes into play in the number of photos dealerships should use to maximize impact on shoppers.

“The first best practice when it comes to images: represent the car accurately … [because] misrepresenting the car online will just lead to disappointment and frustration in person,” says CarStory. “Second best practice: Use fewer images [on non-dealer websites] that show the vehicle highlights, including the hero shot, dashboard, seating configurations and key features.”

Post fewer images?

And by fewer images, CarStory apparently means nine. Not 10. Not 20. Certainly not 30. Just 9.

“Using fewer photos may seem counterintuitive, but we looked at lead submission rates on vehicles based on the number of images the posting contained,” said the CarStory report. “We found that nine images offered optimal lead submission potential. Postings with nine images saw a 50 percent higher lead submission rate than those without any images, 56 percent higher lead submission rate than those with 20 images [and] 71 percent higher lead submission rate than those with 30 images.”

“It appears that consumers are suffering from image fatigue,” said CarStory. “We see some listings with 40 images. When you share so many images it forces the consumer to navigate the picture carousel to find the ones that best tell the vehicle’s story.”

Now, what’s your lucky number?

When words matter most for sales funnel

Words matter.

Especially when you’re asking someone to take action on your website that keeps them engaged (increasing your chances to convert them into a customer).

“The first step towards acquiring a new customer [is] getting them to raise their hand and take an action,” says CarStory in its white paper. “Providing the right call to action (CTA) is yet another way you can convert a shopper to a buyer by winning their attention and their clicks.”

CarStory even compared specific CTA words and phrases to see which words generated bigger responses.

The calls to action to which shoppers are most likely to respond by category?

Double-check that CTA

They are “Check price” (about 36 percent of shoppers survey), “More information” (about 27 percent), “Contact the dealer” (about 14 percent) and “Schedule a test drive” (10 percent). Some CTAs that didn’t fare as well: “Check availability,” “Make an offer,” “Save/add to wish list” and “Request financing.”

But even knowing the right categories for your CTAs doesn’t mean your work is done.

“In the price category, the CTA ‘Check price’ outperformed every other option by three to 10 times,” CarStory said, with about 46 percent of respondents saying that would move them to action. Fails included “Is this a good deal,” “Get an e-quote,” “Free price check,” “Get an awesome deal” and others.

“If you are using anything but ‘Check price,’ now would be a good time to update your website.”

In other CTA categories, similar action wording did best with prospective customers:

More information: “View details” was scored 31 percent better than “Vehicle details,” even more over “See more details,” “Get information” or “Request more information.”

Contact the dealer: “Email dealer” generated a greater response than “Call dealer” or “Contact dealer.” Added CarStory: “It is interesting to note that consumers flagged ‘email dealer’ … when, in fact, most sites don’t allow you to send an email, but rather have you submit a lead form.”

Scheduling a test drive: “Schedule a test drive” outscored “I want to test drive” or, simply, “Test drive.”

Or, as CarStory says: “Calls to action – they are not all created equally.”

We’ve made you a list, so check it twice

We know what you’re thinking …

Now that you have read the first four parts of this blog post, what you really need is a checklist that hits the high points of the series to ensure that you are making the most it.

(Although, for details, you still will have to go back and read parts 1 to 4 above as needed.)

The checklist is divided into four parts – pricing, value, attention and merchandising. Here’s the checklist from the CarStory white paper and where you can find details:

Pricing

  • Understand where each vehicle falls in the market and make sure you’re highlighting the points consumers value most (Part 1).
  • Always end prices with a 99 or 999 (Part 3).

Value

  • Never miss an opportunity to highlight “must have” features (Part 2).
  • Always include seller comments and remember to highlight reconditioning details (white paper).
  • Provide consumers as much of the information as they need, otherwise they will leave your site or your lot and find it somewhere else (Part 2).

Attention

  • Always include the right images, but only nine to 10 at most for your marketplace partners. You should absolutely include all images directly on your website (Part 3).
  • Update your calls to action to include a strong verb-plus-direct-object construction (Part 4).
  • Don’t overwhelm the user with too many CTAs – focus on the ones that will move buyers through the process (Part 4).

Merchandising

  • Focus your merchandising efforts on the [top five] areas that matter most to consumers (Part 1):
  • Vehicle condition
  • Accident history
  • Service history
  • Listing price
  • Value

“Dealers can do a lot to improve the way they communicate to consumers with better information, pricing and merchandising,” says CarStory. “By doing so you will help consumers move through the sales process more efficiently, help your inventory stand apart and, ultimately, drive more sales.”

This checklist and this blog post should help you get and stay on track.

101816-il_shoppersintobuyers_mainimage_wp

 

Social media changes the game online, but what’s it to you?

Connecting.

It has a lot to do with whether your business is successful.

“Relationship selling has been around for years, but sometimes what’s old can – and should – be made new again,” wrote Mike Esposito at Dealer Solutions magazine.

And today that almost certainly means having a positive social-media footprint.

Would you buy a car from you?

If you’re looking at your dealership from the outside-in to answer that question, as suggested in two previous articles, how you are represented by your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or other social media accounts must be among your success metrics.

033017 IL Time to move on from tax season and plan for May-hem (and summer)In those articles, we pretended to be a general manager of an actual dealership pretending to be a customer and looked at online impact and reputation and how easy our website is to use.

RELATED

Paying attention to your dealership’s online reputation matters

How easy is your website to use compared to the competition?

We weren’t entirely satisfied with the results as we looked at the websites of our dealership and two of its nearest competitors representing the same brand.

How do our social media efforts stack up?

The competitor that made the best online impression in our previous assessments – website impact and ease of use – came out with the strongest first impression on Facebook with a distinctive, themed cover photo compared to the fairly standard dealership photos used on our page and the other competitor’s.

They also were crushing it on Facebook with an audience three times that of ours and the other competitor’s. And they generated a better review average (some were included on their timeline).

Although timelines of the three dealerships we’ve been comparing were similar, none fared very well against a list of possible content provided by Esposito in Dealer Solutions magazine.

Those content ideas in Dealer Solutions were:

  • Vehicle maintenance tips
  • Travel tips
  • Dealership employee profiles
  • Manufacturer news
  • Safety recommendations
  • Community involvement
  • Customer testimonials
  • Dealership events
  • How-to guides (infotainment use, driving in bad weather, etc.)

The top dealership also had the most active Twitter timeline, but all three leaned heavily on promoting products rather than engaging audiences with vehicle-related content such as that on the list.

Our general manager had seen enough to know he/she had work to do to enhance online presence.

Now that you know the lay of the online landscape, how would you answer the question: Would you buy a car from you? If the answer is no, maybe or I don’t know, you may have some work to do, too.

How easy is your website to use compared to the competition?

The question remains …

Would you buy a car from you?

“To help improve the customer experience … consider looking at your dealership from the outside-in to examine your dealership processes and experience what customers experience,” wrote Chris Walsh, marketing strategy, competitive analysis and sales process expert.

He posed the question in a recent article in Dealer Solutions Magazine, so we took it a step further, pretending to be a general manager of an actual dealership pretending to be a customer.033017 IL Time to move on from tax season and plan for May-hem (and summer)

Related: Paying attention to your dealership’s online reputation

This time we took the analysis a step further, moving on from online search results and reviews to look at the websites of our dealership and two of its nearest competitors representing the same brand. For purposes of this exercise we also looked at the same model vehicle.

It didn’t go as we hoped, possibly leaving our dealership to wonder about the answer to that question.

Two of the three dealerships, including ours and the one that received the best online reviews, delivered similar homepage experiences, providing a search function that allowed us to identify certified pre-owned models that we were seeking and generating similar results.

The same two dealerships also offered real-time online chat, which they initiated but didn’t overplay.

The third dealership provided a less robust search function – in this case, requiring an extra and not-so-obvious step to screen for certified pre-owned vehicles – and no live chat opportunity.

The presentation of CPO models that met our search criteria was the same across the board.

Another point of difference, however, was the Web page navigation bar – our dealership offered 11 choices, dealer No. 3 offered 10, and the No. 1 dealership provided seven, although it had the strongest eye appeal and dropdowns that were better organized and more engaging.

Overall, the dealership with the highest review ratings also provided the most pleasant, friendly interactive experience online – a result that could motivate our general manager to make some changes.

Because every minute a prospect spends with your competitor is one he/she isn’t spending with you.

In any case, looking at your store as a customer would, seeing what they see, can be eye-opening, helping you make your dealership’s online presence a better customer experience, and, most important, bringing more prospects to – and through – your doors.

Next: Social media changes the game online, but what’s it to you?

Sizzlin’ Summer sales season the right time for a perfect pitch

Are you ready for another Sizzlin’ Summer?

Although sales have fallen a little short of last year’s record pace so far in 2017, the months from late spring through the end of summer typically are among the strongest of the year.

“To be sure, the overall industry remains in decent shape with sales at a near-record pace following two consecutive full-year highs in 2016 and 2015,” reported USA Today, following automakers’ announcements earlier this month of March sales of 1.56 million.

Even a plateau in volume means strong selling opportunity for franchise dealerships.

IL-BLOG_70404-12 (Sizzlin' Summer III Logo)_300x300Santander Consumer USA (SC) is positioned to help dealers plan for the big months ahead with tools and programs meant to strengthen relationships that help build businesses.

The Dealer Extranet, the Rehash Tool, which allows dealers to rework their own deals 24/7, our Dealer Advocacy program, S-Guard, a revamped RoadLoans program, and a direct-mail program have the potential to generate powerful results.

Many of these SC tools and programs will be featured in our upcoming baseball-themed email campaign “Sizzlin’ Summer III,” which should arrive in your inbox approximately every three weeks beginning April 19 with “The First Pitch” and running through Sept. 13 and the “Postgame Show.”

But the linchpin to building successful relationships still is SC’s dedicated team of area sales managers and inside sales managers who cover all 50 states and serve as a Dynamic Resource to dealers.

Most of the top-performing dealerships suggest building relationships with SC buyer and ASM; using all available programs “because this will lead to higher sales” for your dealership, and sending a wide range of credit scores because SC funds deals across the credit spectrum.

“The ASMs are always available and willing to help, and the buyers work to help close deals,” said one dealer. “And Santander gives fast approvals. This is key when trying to work a deal with a customer.”

To get to know SC better see How your ASM can help you make more deals with Santander, then contact your ASM or our sales department to see for yourself.

Because Sizzlin’ Summer is fast approaching.

Paying attention to your dealership’s online reputation matters

Would you buy a car from … you?

That was a question posed in a recent article in Dealer Solutions Magazine. How you ultimately answer it could tell you a lot about the state of your dealership.

“A lot of attention has been paid over the past several years to the processes inside the dealership for buying a car,” wrote Chris Walsh, an expert in market strategy, competitive analysis and sales process.

“Yet, the customer experience outside the dealership is equally important, especially since the vast majority of consumers start their car-buying journey online … Delivering a poor experience online means you’ll likely never get to see those shoppers in your store.”

033017 IL Time to move on from tax season and plan for May-hem (and summer)The article suggests looking at your business from the outside-in – the same way your customers would. And that means you start by looking for a brand or model that you sell.

We tried it with an actual dealership – pretending to be a general manager pretending to be a customer.

To begin with, we Googled a favorite make and model in three adjacent communities, and our dealership came up second in the results after four paid ads, and still on the first screen. Then we searched for our dealership simply by brand and city with our sample dealership coming up first after two paid ads. Not a bad start we figured, but, of course, there’s more to it than that.

Next our general manager’s attention was captured by ratings stars of DealerRater.com, Cars.com, Yelp and Facebook just below and still on the first page of the search results. That proved to be a bit of a double-edged sword, although the outcome generally was favorable.

Our dealership ratings ranged from highs on DealerRater, 4.6 stars out of five from 491 reviews, and Cars.com, 4.6 stars, 619 reviews, to a low on Yelp at 2.6 stars from 143 reviews, with our average rating for 1,427 reviews across the four websites 4.3 stars. Still, we noted that we would go back to take a look at positive and negative results to see what’s working and what needs to be fixed. But be careful about how you handle negative reviews, though – you don’t want to make matters worse.

Then our general manager checked out results for two of our nearby competitors, one of which scored better across all four websites, averaging 4.8 stars from 7,303 reviews, with the second scoring better on one website (Cars.com) but worse on the other three, averaging 4.0 stars from 1,706 reviews.

While online reviews aren’t the only online performance metric to consider, the results certainly are a red flag if our general manager is going to maximize his dealership’s sales.

“Be honest, if you were the customer, from which dealership would you buy?” asked Dealer Solutions.

Next: How easy is your website to use compared to your competitors?

Service excellence, communication separate ‘best’ brands from the rest – J.D. Power

Lexus and Buick.

Brands that you wouldn’t necessarily think have much in common.

But one thing Lexus and Buick do share is J.D. Power recognition for highest customer satisfaction among luxury and mainstream brands, respectively, which could help steer savvy dealerships to greater success.

Customer service made a big difference for Buick in J.D. Power survey.

Customer service made a big difference for Buick in J.D. Power survey.

Power’s U.S. Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) Study measures shoppers’ thoughts about service at franchised dealers or independent service facilities for maintenance or repair work on owned or leased vehicles ranging from one to five years old.

The survey provides insight for automakers and dealerships on customer-service issues affecting loyalty.

“The quality of work – doing the job right the first time – can noticeably affect customer satisfaction and loyalty,” said Chris Sutton, vice president, U.S. automotive retail practice at J.D. Power.

The vast majority (94 percent) of customers who take their vehicles in for service indicate that their dealer fixed the problem the first time. But among the 6 percent of customers indicating the service work was not completed right on the first visit, satisfaction drops more than 22 percent compared to those whose work was completed right on the first visit.

But what happens while getting to that satisfaction number also is important:

  • “Proactive communication with the customer, especially while the car is being serviced, is one element that has a direct influence on loyalty,” according to Sutton.
  • The study shows that among customers who are contacted by phone, 55 percent said they “definitely will” return for paid service, but that loyalty factor jumps to 67 percent when customers receive text message updates, according to J.D. Power.
  • And that preference is significantly higher among Gen Y and Gen X’ers (41 percent) compared to Baby Boomers (25 percent) and Pre-Boomers (10 percent).

“It’s not surprising to see the preference for receiving updates through text messages continue to rise, but only 3 percent of customers indicate they receive text message updates,” Sutton said. “Correcting that disconnect by adding more text message capability should be a priority with a service operation.”

Feedback on factors that go into customer satisfaction provide dealers insight into what currently influences overall satisfaction most and which other areas could use improvement: Service advisers scored 835 points on the J.D. Power 1,000-point scale, followed by service initiation (832), vehicle pickup (810), service quality (809) and the service facility itself (794).

Despite leading its category, Buick ranked just ninth among the top-10 brands scored by J.D. Power and its 1,000-point scale, with the remainder of the top brands falling in the luxury category.

However, Buick was the only manufacturer that received a perfect score (25/25) from owners and lessees for above criteria comprising an overall customer satisfaction score. Among all manufacturers, MINI received the second-highest overall customer satisfaction score (24/25), while Lexus scored highest (22/25) among luxury brands and third-highest satisfaction overall.

Among manufacturers, General Motors scored strongest with four brands in the top five of their respective categories – Cadillac, fifth among luxury brands, and Buick, first; GMC, third, and Chevrolet, fourth, among mainstream brands, according to J.D. Power.

The 2017 CSI Study is based on responses from more than 70,000 owners and lessees of 2012 to 2016 model-year vehicles between October and December 2016.

You can dig deeper into the brand-by-brand results at the J.D. Power website.

“Quality of automotive service continues to show significant improvement and is driving an increase in overall customer satisfaction,” according to J.D. Power.

It’s clearly something dealerships should have in mind before, during and after the sale.

We’ve made you a list, so check it twice to boost used-car sales

We know you read the first four parts of our series.

Or went to CarStory to get your own copy of the white paper on which it is based.

But just in case you didn’t, we’ll share a checklist from How to convert used car shoppers to buyers that hits the high points of the series (for details, you still will have to go back and read parts 1-4).

The checklist is divided into four parts – pricing, value, attention and merchandising.

RELATED: The first commandment for turning used-car shoppers into buyers (Part 1 of 5), The most important three-letter word when selling used cars (Part 2), And now the most important number when selling used cars (Part 3), Calls to action: When Words matter most for your sales funnel (Part 4)

Here’s the checklist from the CarStory white paper and where you can find details in our series:

Pricing

  • Understand where each vehicle falls in the market and make sure you’re highlighting the points consumers value most (Part 1).
  • Always end prices with a 99 or 999 (Part 3).

Value

  • Never miss an opportunity to highlight “must have” features (Part 2).
  • Always include seller comments and remember to highlight reconditioning details (white paper).
  • Provide consumers as much of the information they need, otherwise they will leave your site or your lot and find it somewhere else (Part 2).

Attention

  • Always include the right images, but only nine to 10 at most for your marketplace partners. You should absolutely include all images directly on your website (Part 3).
  • Update your calls to action to include a strong verb-plus-direct-object construction (Part 4).
  • Don’t overwhelm the user with too many CTAs – focus on the ones that will move buyers through the process (Part 4).

Merchandising

  • Focus your merchandising efforts on the [top five] areas that matter most to consumers (Part 1):
  • Vehicle condition
  • Accident history
  • Service history
  • Listing price
  • Value

“Dealers can do a lot to improve the way they communicate to consumers with better information, pricing and merchandising,” says CarStory. “By doing so you will help consumers move through the sales process more efficiently, help your inventory stand apart and, ultimately, drive more sales.”

This checklist and our series should help you get and stay on track.

 

030717 IL The first commandment of turning used-car shoppers into buyers_IMAGE_6

The survey says: Tell us what you think of the Santander dealer experience

We’re listening.

One of the most powerful phrases there is in a business relationship.

Especially when you can expect it to get results.

Such is the intention behind Santander Consumer USA’s “Rate Your Experience” survey, which will arrive in most dealerships’ email inboxes shortly. It will give you the opportunity to tell us what you think about our programs, dealer advocacy and communications efforts.

040317 IL The survey says Tell us what you think of the Santander dealer experienceThe survey, in the form of a quick-and-easy, multiple-choice ballot, also will allow you to tell us what you feel needs improvement most and your overall satisfaction with us.

“We want to get a feel for how we’re doing – areas important to dealers and their feelings about Santander,” said Rush Giffin, vice president of dealer experience. “This survey will give us an opportunity to find out directly from dealers what they are thinking.”

“It is important to us that our many affiliates have an excellent dealer experience,” he added.

While informal feedback from many dealers has been positive, we think you probably can help us find ways Santander can improve the dealer experience.

And your survey responses will help us do that sooner rather than later.

As one Tennessee dealer said recently when we introduced our “Dynamic Backend” allowance program: “I am pleased that Santander takes an interest in continually improving both my ease to do business and willingness to listen to new ideas and get them applied.”

If you don’t want to wait for your email (or missed it), you can Take Survey Now by following the link.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Time to move on from tax season and plan for May-hem (and summer)

How was your tax season?

If it went well, chances are you planned ahead and were ready for it.

And now it’s time to … move on.

A few weeks from now we likely will be looking at another strong sales month, so it’s an opportunity to maintain the pace – or catch up if tax season wasn’t all you had hoped.

Last May, in fact, was the third best sales month of the year, trailing only December and March.

It was the fifth consecutive year that May was among the top three sales months, bridging the gap between tax season and strong summer sales seasons. It’s a good month to set a tone that should continue through August if you’re ready for it.

“In the U.S., car and light truck sales totaled an annualized 17.5 million units in February, in line with the previous month’s performance and the 2016 total,” according to Scotiabank. “Retail activity continues to move higher even as fleet volumes have weakened. Automakers will ramp up production to record highs in the second quarter alongside favorable industry fundamentals.”

March sales results will be announced April 4 and could give a clearer picture of where 2017 is headed.

Positioned to help

Meanwhile, Santander Consumer USA (SC) is positioned to help dealers plan for the big months ahead with tools and programs meant to strengthen relationships that help build businesses.

The Dealer Extranet, the Rehash Tool, which allows dealers to rework their own deals 24/7, our Dynamic Backend program, a Dealer Advocacy program, S-Guard, a revamped RoadLoans program, and a direct-mail program have the potential to generate powerful results.

But the linchpin to building successful relationships is SC’s dedicated team of area sales managers and inside sales managers who cover all 50 states and serve as a Dynamic Resource to dealers.

Building relationships

Most of the top-performing dealerships suggest building relationships with SC buyer and ASM; using all available programs “because this will lead to higher sales” for your dealership, and sending a wide range of credit scores because SC funds deals across the credit spectrum.

“The ASMs are always available and willing to help, and the buyers work to help close deals,” said one dealer. “And Santander gives fast approvals. This is key when trying to work a deal with a customer.”

“My mission is to help my dealer base grow their businesses,” said one SC sales team member. “I want those dealers to see me as an invaluable partner in their dealerships … not just another rep.”

To get to know SC better see How your ASM can help you make more deals with Santander, then contact your ASM or our sales department to see for yourself.

Because now the question is, do you have your dealership ready for the May-hem to come?

Calls to action: When words matter most for your sales funnel

Words matter.

Especially when you’re asking someone to take action on your website that keeps them engaged (increasing your chances to convert them into a customer).

“The first step towards acquiring a new customer [is] getting them to raise their hand and take an action,” says CarStory in its white paper, How to convert used car shoppers to buyers, based on a recent used-car-shopper survey. “Providing the right call to action (CTA) is yet another way you can convert a shopper to a buyer by winning their attention and their clicks.”

CarStory, a company that provides independent reports about vehicles and features in specific markets, even compared specific CTA words and phrases to see which words generated bigger responses.

The calls to action to which shoppers are most likely to respond by category, according to CarStory?

RELATED: The first commandment for turning used-car shoppers into buyers (Part 1 of 5), The most important three-letter word when selling used cars (Part 2), And now the most important number when selling used cars (Part 3)

They are “Check price” (about 36 percent of shoppers survey), “More information” (about 27 percent), “Contact the dealer” (about 14 percent) and “Schedule a test drive” (10 percent). Some CTAs that didn’t fare as well: “Check availability,” “Make an offer,” “Save/add to wish list” and “Request financing.”

But even knowing the right categories for your CTAs doesn’t mean your work is done.

“In the price category, the CTA ‘Check price’ outperformed every other option by three to 10 times,” CarStory said, with about 46 percent of respondents saying that would move them to action. Fails included “Is this a good deal,” “Get an e-quote,” “Free price check,” “Get an awesome deal” and others.

“If you are using anything but “Check price,” now would be a good time to update your website.”

In other CTA categories, similar action wording did best with prospective customers:

More information: “View details” was scored 31 percent better than “Vehicle details,” even more over “See more details,” “Get information” or “Request more information.”

Contact the dealer: “Email dealer” generated a greater response than “Call dealer” or “Contact dealer.” Added CarStory: “It is interesting to note that consumers flagged ‘email dealer’ … when, in fact, most sites don’t allow you to send an email, but rather have you submit a lead form.”

Scheduling a test drive: “Schedule a test drive” outscored “I want to test drive” or, simply, “Test drive.”

Or, as CarStory says: “Calls to action – they are not all created equally.”

NEXT: We’ve made you a list, so check it twice to boost your used-car sales

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