Becky's blog

It’s Really Not So Far-Fetched

Virtual dealerships could be new way to sell, finance cars

By Rebecca Chernek

Ward’s Dealer Business, Jan 1, 2010 12:00 PM

Virtual worlds are popping up all over the Internet and it is entirely feasible to sell cars and provide financing options and products to online users.

Already, many of your customers shop the Internet for the best deals before ever stepping foot on a car lot. Many search cyberspace for the best deals on the products usually sold by your finance manager using a menu.

A virtual dealership could provide you with customers who make use of the Internet at night when they have the most time to search for new vehicles.

They like the ease of comparison shopping while in the comfort of their homes. Now is the time for you to take a serious look at how you can change your way of reaching and keeping every customer.

Check out virtual worlds, which is one of the fastest growing free networking communities in the world. Already, sites such as this offer in-world 3-D classroom education through systems from some of the largest and most highly rated universities, including Harvard, Princeton and Stanford.

Several corporations also offer in-world hiring and workshops. Several million individuals from a variety of professions worldwide enter into other worlds with the clear objective of finding new ways to conduct business.

The online experience can be extremely lucrative for the forward-thinking dealer, not only for selling cars, arranging financing and offering a variety of products, but for other services, such as online scheduling of routine vehicle maintenance check-ups.

With a click of a mouse, you would invite each customer to experience a 3-D showing of all the vehicles on your lot. They would be able to chat directly with your sales associate and, at the same time, negotiate the terms of the sale without even driving to your dealership.

The process takes place through your dealer avatar (model/prototype). Once the vehicle selection has taken place, the customer meets your business manager, another avatar who begins to finalize the sale at the online sales desk. The process is no different from the one used if the customer were at the dealership.

The customer is then presented the buyer’s agreement, to ensure the registration information and pertinent buying numbers are correct. The applicable information is viewed on screen by the customer, and each step of the way a checkpoint is set up for proper disclosures.

Once a customer agrees to the vehicle purchase, the business manager reviews and submits the loan application.

The beauty of doing virtual selling is that everything can be time-stamped for process assurance to guarantee the negotiation is compliant.

So, with safeguards in place, your business manager reviews the credit application in its entirety and communicates with the customer to verify all the information for accuracy. If the process includes Dealer Track or Route One, the transaction is easily punched in and an approval is imminent.

If the virtual process is properly set up, your business manager will have no trouble qualifying customers for product sales, after the completion of menu presentation.

A virtual dealership is not a fantasy. It is a very real probability. If you are hesitant or not quite ready to visualize your shop as a virtual world shopping experience for your customers, then I suggest you make every effort to ensure your business manager is tied directly to your Internet manager and customers are given a direct link into the office.

Your business manager must be involved earlier in the sale, especially with Internet customers. Just because the customer is out of the dealership doesn’t mean finance isn’t involved in the transaction.

Internet sales can and will mean big business to dealers who know how to utilize this vast technology.

I remember when we first initiated menu selling. Non-believers said it wouldn’t work. It’s now an industry standard. Virtual selling is here. Welcome it with open arms.

F&I trainer Rebecca Chernek is CEO of Chernek Consulting, LLC. She can be reached at 404-276-4026 and chernekconsulting@earthlink.net.