- Cleveland-based Halleen Kia auto dealership combines its Internet sales team with its traditional sales force to improve its customers' shopping experience.
- Dealership customers who first talk with an Internet sales rep eventually meet with a traditional showroom salesperson to finalize the deal.
- This unique arrangement allows product-savvy salespeople to fully introduce potential buyers to specific features on the car before the deal is signed.
CLEVELAND — Don Bazzo, Internet sales manager at Halleen Kia describes his sales team as being closer to customer service reps than traditional salespeople. Much of their job consists of answering customer questions, offering pricing or calculating payments.
When the customer has all the needed info, they are encouraged to visit the dealership, and are told that they will meet with another team member who will introduce them to the vehicle and handle the paperwork should they choose to make a purchase.
This sales method differs from most. When a customer contacts Halleen Kia via the Internet sales department, they are given as much information (or as little) as they want. Some customers want only to know if a certain vehicle is in stock, while others are looking for more detailed info, like pricing or features.
In some cases, a customer has already selected a vehicle, and a deal is worked out it in its entirety before the buyer arrives at the store.
What makes this process different from other Internet sales departments is that the customer doesn't complete the deal with the Internet salesperson, but with a floor salesperson. The reason? The salespeople at Halleen have an average tenure of 3.5 years with Kia, and know the products well. The showroom team doesn't try to upsell the already agreed-upon deal, but instead concentrates on making sure that the vehicle selected is indeed the best choice for the buyer's needs. With the terms of the deal already settled, the buyer and salesperson are free to focus on attributes of the car.
Letting the shopper know in the early stages of the deal that they will be meeting a new face is an important step. It helps to avoid confusion. The shopper will initially meet the Internet sales consultant, and then be introduced to the salesperson, who will finish the deal.
The salesperson will already know the details of the customer's buying motivation and preferences, so although they will not have met, the salesperson won't be starting from scratch. In addition, if terms have already been worked out, the salesperson will know that, too.
The process seems to work, and customers have responded well to the program. Reviews are positive, and after-sale customer survey scores are high. So high in fact, that Halleen Kia received the exclusive Kia Presidents Award, an honor only given to dealers that receive both sales and customer service scores in the top 1 percent of all Kia dealerships nationwide.
"Car dealers have been known to say whatever it takes to get a customer into the showroom. Our approach is different. We tell customers what they need to know, not just what they want to hear," Bazzo says.
Edmunds says: Today's shoppers aren't looking for just a good salesperson or a good price, but an overall good shopping experience. Halleen Kia seems to have found the right balance between information and customer service.