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How to Keep Sales and Service Connected While Operating Virtually


It’s challenging in the best of times for dealers to keep sales and service connected. When large portions of your auto dealership are operating virtually, it’s even more complicated – but critically important. 

When operating as a virtual car dealership, possibly with your sales staff at home and your fixed ops team on-site serving customers, how do you keep them connected, delivering consistent customer service and taking advantage of opportunities to create value together?

As auto dealership operations continue to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve shared numerous dealership tips and considerations, spanning from virtual dealership best practices and what your dealership’s BDC needs to be doing differently, to improving customer experience in the service drive and preparing to kickstart auto sales after the immediate disruptions end. 

Your ability to utilize these best practices inside your dealership hinges on one critical consideration: Ensuring your entire organization stays connected and your teams can support each other, wherever they may be.

In this blog post, we share how to keep the two key engines of your dealership, sales and service, connected and engaged by:

  • Working from the same information and insights
  • Communicating effectively
  • Strategically managing the change process in your dealership

Common Systems, Common Experience

One critical question to ask yourself is whether your dealership’s sales and service teams are interacting with the same customer, and if so, are they on the same page? Does information and insights about the customer consistently flow back and forth between your teams and your systems, ensuring there’s a consistent customer experience no matter where they might be in the dealership? This requires you to ensure your DMS and CMS, sales platform and other dealership tools are all integrated effectively. 

We’ve talked before about how critical service drives are to the customer relationship, especially for generating auto sales prospects through building loyalty relationships or starting new ones through service-not-sold conquest. In the current virtual car dealership sales environment, it’s more important than ever that the service department’s interactions with customers be captured effectively and that you have the systems in place for your sales team to turn service interactions into high-quality sales leads.

One way many high-performing auto dealerships keep their sales and service teams connected is by dedicating a salesperson to service conquest. This salesperson’s sole role would be to use your dealership sales platform to identify and engage with high-quality service-to-sales prospects with scheduled service appointments. Now is an excellent time to consider creating that position and getting that person to work on mining what will likely be your auto dealership’s best source of sales leads for the foreseeable future.

Shoot, Move & Communicate

It’s not enough for your sales and service team members to be doing their individual jobs well. If your people are not communicating effectively with each other, your dealership’s customer service and bottom line will suffer.

The U.S. Army’s basic training manual boils down the myriad responsibilities of soldiers in combat into the deceptively simple phrase, “Shoot, move and communicate.” Whether it’s with fellow squad mates, their leadership or supporting units, military trainers hammer home the fundamental truth that communication is critical to mission success. The same is true for the teams in your dealership.

In the current environment, people have turned to a wide variety of communications tools to stay connected to friends, family, coworkers, customers and others. The challenge for a dealership manager is not that there aren’t enough communication tools. Rather, the issue is often that there are too many options, and many of them operate outside your auto dealership’s control, which means they do not engage with your CMS, DMS or other systems.

While operating remotely or as a virtual car dealership, it’s critical that as a leader, you emphasize the importance of your sales and service teams communicating effectively through the channels and processes you identify and manage on their behalf. 

Make effective communication a regular topic of discussion with your teams and highlight best practices with praise or other more tangible rewards. The goal is to both show and tell your sales and service teams that their ability to deliver on customer experience expectations in the current dealership environment is dependent on not letting physical distance interfere with effective communication.

Manage Change – Don’t Be Managed By It

If there were ever a time for what business schools call “change management,” this is it. Making significant process changes without a clear definition of what you’re changing and why runs the risk of not being successful – or even causing more problems than it solves.

In fact, researchers report that three-quarters of corporate change efforts fail to meet their goals, or end up abandoned altogether. 

This shouldn’t dissuade you from the critical effort of looking at the ways in which your service and sales teams usually interact and then defining how those processes must change to meet the needs of the current environment. 

This should be both a top-down review by leadership, as well as bottom-up from the people in the trenches who are trying to make things work. Even if you’re certain that you know exactly what needs to change and how, you’ll have a much stronger acceptance of change if your teams feel a sense of ownership in the process.

Once you’ve identified what needs to change to strengthen the connection between sales and service or in other areas of your auto dealership, the next step is to define exactly how those processes will change. Make sure you can draw a straight line between what you learned from your review about what needs to be done differently and how the changes you’re making address those identified issues. All too often, once organizations start contemplating making changes, the instinct is to make huge changes, or more changes than are needed. It’s easy to fall victim to “scope creep” by trying to change everything all at once. 

For the best chance of success in your efforts to improve the connection between sales and service, you must be able to define what you’re trying to accomplish, explain what you’re changing (including how and why) and then be able to identify when you’ve accomplished that original goal.

Most importantly, don’t get discouraged. Change isn’t immediate. Things go wrong, and it’s easy to get skeptical and frustrated or bail out too early. This is why Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, one of the world’s leading experts on how businesses can successfully reinvent themselves and their operations, coined “Kanter’s Law” – “Everything looks like a failure in the middle.” 

Keep being thoughtful, keep communicating, keep listening to what your team has to say and keep focused on what you’re doing to ensure the best customer experience possible – particularly when customers move through the service-to-sales process.

If we can help you work through the best path forward for your dealership, please contact us.

Explore additional resources related to auto sales during – and after – COVID-19.