My Response to Automotive News ‘Wave Goodbye to Walk-Arounds’

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By Ted Ings, Executive Director

At first glance, it appeared to be nothing more than a catchy title.

A title that - in reading the article - later reminds us of how vital the walk-around is in the sales process. Given that the customer does have a lot of time vested in researching their dream vehicle online. All the more reason for the sales consultants to have perfected their walk-around showing how their respective OEM stacks up against the competition. Knowing that having a refined walk-around is applicable to both new and pre-owned vehicles. That said, the best way to respond to this article is to visit each main point. 

“Walk-around contests are anachronisms and should go away”

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Any seasoned sales consultant knows that the walk-around is a pivotal part of the car buying experience. As the walk-around is what sets up the demo for the customer. Where if the sales consultant does not take the time to address what is important to the customer - based on the needs analysis and their research - the customer might not be aware that the vehicle has the features they want or expect. 


Think about it for a moment, the customer spends hours online searching for the right vehicle. To then come into the store only for the sales consultant to just hand the keys to a vehicle in which the customer does not know how the features work with the respective brand. Namely, the customer cannot physically change settings or test drive the vehicle online. Hence why 86% of today's customers - according to AutoTrader - still prefer to come into the store to purchase a vehicle. One of the best examples of how the walk-around plays a considerable role in the sale process has to do with a customer and their sunroof. 

The sales consultant did not take the time to explain how the sunroof opened on the vehicle. In which case, the customer naturally thought their dual sunroof did not open fully open on the front. That the sunroof simply lifted up a bit. This all changed, though, when during their first service visit the advisor mentioned “Mr. Customer, I was concerned with your sunroof as it did not appear to be fully closed. Were you aware of this?” to which the customer said “oh my, no - it just does not open more than that. I was bummed out. As I thought it would have fully opened.” to which the Advisor smiled and said “it sure does. Here, let me show you.” 

That same customer - who is now happy as could be -  happened to have dinged the sales consultant on the OEM survey because they were upset that their sunroof did not open all of the way. That one survey also knocked the respective sales consultant out of their OEM survey money for the quarter. One survey. Still convinced that we do not need a walk-around? 

 As for the “contest” notion, it was not explained in this article. Perhaps the author meant dealers might have previously held contests on a walk-around? Not sure. What we do know, though, is that the walk-around is the “anchor” for holding down the right vehicle.

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“But in today's crowded and segmented market, why? Second, who cares?”

That is a terribly misinformed statement. 

Given that the market is ‘crowded,’ itself, is a reason to ensure that your sales consultants are able to perform a quality walk-around of the vehicle. Where those sales consultants who can provide a high-quality walk-around will make their OEM stand out from the competition. One of the prime examples with this are today’s safety technology advancements. For example, the customer goes to “ABC” motors, and they followed the article's advice simply handing the customer keys or pushing them in front of a screen to go over the options then the customer will most likely not be able to experience the feature they were hoping to! Where showing the feature on a screen is not the same as actually taking the time to show the feature on the vehicle. 

As for the “who cares” statement, the customer cares! A customer who has spent hours and hours researching online is very much interested in purchasing a vehicle. If they knew everything about the vehicle they would not even have to go to the dealership. Purchasing their vehicle from a vending machine.  That having been said, the dealers who do not have quality walk-around will most likely have a lower customer service survey score. Where the survey will likely indicate the customer was not easily able to find the vehicle they were looking for. When in all actuality, had the sales consultant taken the time to explain both the vehicle and its features - in the walk-around - the customer would have most likely been more confident in their vehicle choice! 

Who would suggest such a "brilliant" idea?


“Walk-around contests made sense before the Internet. So did paper-packed Rolodexes”

At this rate, should we forgo the needs analysis too? The solution in the article was to offer the customer a “technology” to “instantly call up option packages, original sticker prices and other details on any vehicle -- new or used, the one on sale or the one it competes against,” which is essentially forcing the customer through the sales process in an antiquated way. Wherein, the customer has already spent their time researching vehicles, and has chosen your OEM! And we know that the customer is not going to more than two dealerships before making a decision. That said if we spend time pushing the customer to use “technology” to select the vehicle they researched without doing a needs analysis or walk-around they could very easily become frustrated wanting to leave the dealership without having test driven a vehicle. This happens far more than you would think. 

Instead of forcing the customer through the research phase again. Take the time to complete a thorough needs analysis, which asks, but is not limited to:  if they have a trade, what do they like about their current vehicle, what are they hoping for, do they have a monthly budget in mind, do they want new or pre-owned, prefer darker or lighter shades, or even asking if safety is important to the customer. In which case the customer is most likely going to say “yes, safety is important.” 

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As the customer is engaging in dialogue with you, it is best to note down what they are hoping for making sure to speak with everyone in the group. Once you have noted down what it is they are hoping for you can select which vehicle might best meet their needs. 

“A salesperson who knows less than the customer about a car can look dumb. But they look even dumber if they guess and they're wrong.”

The customer who is purchasing a pre-owned vehicle might ask a similar question as stated in the article during the sales process.  In which case, if you do not have the answer for then it is best to offer the customer “that is a great question. While I do not have the answer, I can and will try and find out the answer for you.” Most customers will understand and not expect your sales consultants to know every single feature on a non-OEM pre-owned vehicle. As for new vehicles, however, it is imperative to know the OEM’s core vehicles technologies and package options. All OEM’s have trim levels which dictate what comes standard in that particular vehicle. That said, during your weekly sales meetings take a moment to review what the trim levels offer. Making sure that your sales team is up to snuff. 


On another note, there are several instances where the customer will ask specific questions regarding a pre-owned vehicle when inquiring online. In which case, the walk-around can be transported into a meaningful walk-around video! Talk about offering top notch customer service. 

“At the very least, salespeople should be allowed to go online with their customers and review together what Edmunds, or some other site says about the car or truck.”

Yikes. Sending the customer to another site, which houses your OEM’s competitions is not a great idea. Where anyone with dealer level experience knows it is best to use the OEM’s materials, which can assist in providing the customer, relevant, information such as competition stats or vehicle options. Especially since the customer chose your OEM! So instead of going to your competitions sites. Take the time to download common - core vehicle - competition stacks on your tablet. Allowing you to easily show the customer where your product stands without having to interrupt the customer's experience. 

Walk-Arounds are here to stay. And those dealerships who can refine their walk-around will lead in sales. Understanding that pushing the customer into the sales process, again, online using “technology” will not only lose their interest but also lose the sale! This is not to say, however, that technology cannot be apart of the sales process. There are OEM’s who have tablets that are apart of the active delivery. Where the tablet allows the sales consultant the ability to further explain features the customer thought were important during the walk-around. In turn, allowing the customer to leave the dealership feeling great because they were able to enjoy their new vehicle.

And what about a service walk-around? For more tips and best practices on perfecting your walk-around strategies be sure to check out:


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