Article

Selling to Millennials

Younger car buyers are an increasingly important group to reach — if you can reach them at all. Learn how Millennials are forcing dealers to rethink their sales and marketing strategies.

February 2013, Auto Dealer Today - Feature

by Greg Wells - Also by this author

About one in four Americans are Millennials. Born between 1980 and 2000, these 20-something-year-olds aren’t car crazy, and they sure aren’t crazy about the traditional car-buying experience. In the next 10 years or so, this generation will represent about 75 percent of all car buyers. Here are a few things you need to know about Millennials to capture their business today and in the years to come.

1. DIFFERENT PRIORITIES

First of all, Millennials really aren’t into cars. At least not like my generation was (I’m 52). I had my mom with me when the DMV opened exactly 30 days after turning 16 years old to get my driver’s license. Today, less than half of 17-year-olds have a driver’s license and only about six out of 10 18-year-olds have one. So what’s going on?

It’s not that Millennials are frugal; they spent over a trillion dollars last year. They just have a different set of priorities when it comes to their money and their livelihood.

Many Millennials don’t see a need for a car. I have the perfect case study in my own family: My youngest son didn’t get his permit until he was 17 and shows little interest in getting his license. If he wants to see a movie, he flips the Apple TV on and tunes into Netflix. If he needs a book, he goes to Amazon. If he wants a pizza, he orders it online and calls dad in some far-off town to get his credit card number. If he wants to hang out with his friends, well, they’re all on Facebook, Skype and multi-player gaming. He’d rather spend his money on Microsoft points than gas for his buddy’s car. And if he needs any gadget, pair of shoes or new jeans, Google puts it all at his fingertips, literally.

My 23-year-old son just now wants a decent car, but that came with marriage and now a baby on the way. His big hang-up about buying an expensive car (relatively speaking) is that he’s paying $350 a month, but the car sits in the driveway or his parking spot at work 22 hours a day. Seems like a big waste to him, and I kind of see his point.

According to The New York Times, nearly half of 18- to 24-year olds would rather have Internet access than a car. Herein lies the dilemma: You not only have to sell them on buying your car; you have to sell them on buying any car.

Lastly, and perhaps even more discouraging, the only reason a Millennial will visit the showroom is to test-drive a car, never to gather information. In addition, an Automotive News report found that more than half of Millennials say that negotiating with a car sales- man is more painful than going to the dentist, and half of them who’ve had a bad experience with a dealership will never consider that brand again. Yikes.

2. PLUGGED IN

OK, ready for some good news? There are ways to attract and sell to this generation. But you’ll have to communicate differently with Millennials than any other group. Facebook and texting is how they communicate. This is different and doesn’t fit the current processes in most dealerships.

What to do about it? My first recommendation would be to make sure you have some younger folks working in your showroom. Birds of a feather flock together and people trust people who are like them.

Another tip is to look at your social platforms from a CRM point of view. Ask them to “Like” your Facebook page, but be prepared to give something up for the privilege.

3. QUID PRO QUO MENTALITY

Offer Millennial shoppers an eBook on how to buy a car, then follow up quickly. Be an asset. Educate them on the process, then invite them in for a test drive. Just make sure to deflate your 70-foot gorilla, because it will certainly scare them away.

Offer comparative data. Show them the total cost of ownership. Price doesn’t resonate like the long-term benefit of owning a car and how it will save them money (so they can buy more Microsoft points).

Win over their friends and their parents. Sharing valuable, educational material on Facebook can help you achieve this, especially since that’s where their friends and family are.

Look at your website forms. Do they have a field asking for permission to text? This is the best way to capture useful contact info from Millennials.

What does your showroom process look like? The old 10-step selling process will turn off a Millennial. And if your process is centered on gathering information, you may be missing the boat with this younger generation. Focus on features and the test drive instead of the hard close and “If I could, would you?” approach.

Don’t try to haggle. This utterly confuses them and they’ll definitely have to think about it. Don’t contradict online data, es- pecially your own. They’ll fire you in a heartbeat. And don’t rely on brand loyalty. They don’t care even a little about what their parents drove or what they are currently driving, assuming they have a car.

As nontraditional as all this sounds, it is absolutely sensible to the millennial crowd. I understand you aren’t structured for this type of selling, but I encourage you to start adjusting. Feel free to contact me anytime. Good luck and good selling.

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