At least once a day my phone rings with a fellow car dealer from somewhere else in the country with the same question. “What is your strategy to sell cars to women and hire women, salespeople?” Frankly, my strategy is no different for women than it is for any other consumer—but understanding how women shop has shaped everything that I do.
Men buy. Women shop. It’s an experience, and women with money to spend have been conditioned to enjoy shopping. While men schedule golf outings, women organize a day around shopping. Over the decades of being in retail—both in the automotive world and in fashion—I have noticed that women will gather a group of friends, make reservations at a fabulous restaurant and then head out for an afternoon or evening of shopping. It can be entertainment, “retail therapy,” or just an opportunity to socialize with other women outside of their usual routine. Shopping disregards religion, political beliefs, and backgrounds, giving women a chance to gather and bond.
Given that, why is it that when women are surveyed 6 out of 10 would rather have a root canal than visit a car dealership? The answer is simple….It’s the experience or lack of one!
I like to use a dressing room analogy. When a woman goes to a department store and is looking for the perfect cocktail dress, she grabs three or four off the rack. She puts each dress on and inspects it in the privacy of her dressing room. Only when it has passed her critical inspection, she steps into the common area with the big full-length mirror…in hopes, another woman is there. Even a complete stranger can provide validation that she looks great OR let her know that the color is just not right. Women tend to trust each other’s counsel when it comes to things as important as the cocktail dress for her company Christmas party. Women are authentic and transparent, and they expect that from others, and not just in a retail dressing room.
I tell this story to illustrate that women are driven by relationships, trust, and transparency. Numerous trainers and marketers profess to have all the answers on how to sell cars to women. As a female car dealer, and one who feels strongly about creating a unique shopping experience in my showroom, I keep an eye and an ear on what goes on every day. I don’t think there are magic words or different sales “closes” that are proprietary to selling cars to women. I do know that a world-class experience must be created at the dealership to entice her to enter, compel her to stay, and inspire her to purchase.
My top 10 tips for dealers to authentically compete in this segment:
- The management team and sales staff MUST mirror the demographics of the consumer entering the dealership. Do the calculations. Fifty percent of today’s consumers are female.
- How is she greeted when she walks through the door? Does she feel welcomed or intimidated? I still hear stories from women that they are immediately asked upon entering the dealership “Are you the decision-maker?” YES, she is! Even if she has a spouse to consult, don’t kid yourselves. Women influence 95% of all purchases in the household.
- Women are more interested in product benefits than specs. How will this vehicle help her? Is it safer? What is its fuel economy? Is service convenient? How does it meet her personal or family needs? Listen to her wants, needs, and desires. Don’t try to overwhelm her with knowledge or facts that are not important to her or that she has not requested—torque and horsepower usually aren’t at the top of her list.
- Your dealership must be clean, modern and kid-friendly. Women notice details, and the smallest ones are often the most important. Are your restrooms clean? Is your showroom properly merchandised? Are the salespeople’s desks clean and free of debris? Do you have complimentary beverages and snacks? Little things matter.
- Allow her time to “try it on.” Women shop for cars like they shop for expensive shoes. She needs to try several on for size, move around in them and ask for feedback. This is not because she doesn’t know what she wants… it’s simply validation (remember the dressing room story?)
- Your closing process must be quick, efficient and transparent. Women are busy. Many juggle a full-time job, kids, and the bulk of the household chores. While they like to shop, they don’t want to spend a lot of time in the dealership after the decision is made.
- Collaborate with her. For women conflict and negotiations can be stressful. If she knows the salesperson is on her side, she will feel more comfortable.
- Tie your sales and promotions to cause-based marketing. Women love to be part of a bigger cause. Our dealership hosts fundraisers on the showroom floor. From those events, we gain clients, friends and raving fans.
- Play in the social media world. Women use social media outlets to tell about shopping experiences 10 times more often than men. They publicize the good, the fabulous and the UGLY! So beware…great customer service drives word of mouth publicity.
- Thank her for her business…celebrate the delivery of her new car and sit back and watch the power of her referrals to her friends, coworkers, and family.
In conclusion, women are the engine of global economy, driving 80 percent of consumer spending in the US alone. There is no doubt they hold the purse strings. And when they’ve got a tight grip on them as they do now, companies must be shrewder than ever to win them over.
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Managing Partner of FIAT/Alfa Romeo of Austin, Auto expert, Women's advocate in the auto industry, Formula One fan, Ferrari fan, Professional speaker