By Jim Maxim, Jr.
In the blink of an eye – that’s how quickly that new generation the car industry worried so much about – the Millennials have grown up and bought houses and cars like we were told they never would. Some predictions were spot on, some were off, but what is not in question is that if you want to do business with millennials, you must stop…and listen. If they feel you didn’t listen, they will post that negative experience, share it, and “like” it on a social network your customers listen to.
Data varies on how big this market is – the numbers range from 62 million to 80 million – but the pioneers of the generation are now 37 years old and the trailing edge 17. Various studies find them loyal consumers seeking quality, a good experience, and social engagement from the brands they prefer. Fifty-three percent own homes and 80% cars, notes CNBC.
Therefore, if the Millennial-era buyer is a news story anymore, that headline would read, to borrow from a Forbes piece, “Always be Collaborating, Not Closing.”
One way to lose a Millennial F&I customer’s trust is to engage using yesterday’s practices. No more bully tactics, smooth words, or fast talk. Not only must the sales pitch go, but so too should old-school objection-handling talk tracks and the paper-based tools for putting any deal together. These customers are bored because they have already read about it before they reached you. (Can you hear their eyes roll?) At worst, you are demonstrating that you are not interested in meaningful engagement or meeting their individual needs, but your own.
Fortunately, because 47% of dealership new hires are Millennials, according to NADA’s Workforce Study, the numbers are in favor the F&I manager the customer will meet is a Millennial. That should work well for creating that collaborative atmosphere Millennial’s want when engaging a business. The goal is a balance of empathy for customer needs and necessity for F&I to sell something.
That caution noted, a review of F&I basics for a Millennial marketplace:
- Listen and advise: Today’s buyers, regardless of generation, have done their homework. They’ve got most facts. TrueCar removes mystique about pricing, DealerRater and similar review sites tell them what peers think of your dealership and staff, and any number of handy online apps give them the real skinny on trade-in valuations, and what a vehicle service contract should cost according to various parameters the consumer plugs into the online tool.
- Help them interpret reality: Stats are cold, so people often need help understanding what they mean to them. When information is obtained online, while it may be true, data is a mere skeleton until you help buyers see the whole reality. Connect the meaning of the data to the customer’s real world situations.
- Let them lead: Do not push too hard on the steps to the sale, instead track with their thoughts, advising as concerns, issues or questions arise. Answer their questions. They may already know and understand a lot, but F&I’s job is to complement that job already started by the customer. Ask questions that help you both focus on the main things.
- Let them control: Put tools in their hands that require some action. With a tablet in their hands loaded with a digital predictive analysis survey, they will identify for you their product interests and risks. Give them the power to scrutinize your product menu and configure their choices and how those choices modify their payment. They’ll appreciate the transparency.
- Help them see: Digital F&I tools put your offerings and prices front and center. Every change made to the deal is clearly demonstrated, so the old smoke and mirror fear evaporates. Use your experience to link a product to a real solution. Help them connect your experiences with theirs; help them see how purchasing a service contract can mean a more safe automobile for their young family; a prepaid maintenance plan to help offset future services to protect vehicle performance and their wallet; a lease wear and tear policy to compensate for the potential a large family of rowdy kids can do to a car interior.
However you approach your Millenial customers, don’t fudge on honesty. Listen, process, and speak in sound bites that ring true for their stage in life. Make the connection with their concerns and your own experiences. Share stories, which everyone prefers over facts. It is cirtical to embrace the social component at play in every transaction you do with a Millennial. Authentic personal engagement, informed by compelling data, and guided seamlessly through flexible, all-in-one digital stage result in good news…that will travel fast.
Jim Maxim, Jr. is the Chief Digital Officer at MaximTrak Technologies, a provider of digital F&I platforms for dealers. He is an F&I visionary recognized by an Agent Entrepreneur and CIO Review magazines, a frequent panelist and speaker at various F&I conferences and summits, and a contributor to automotive retail media about evolving F&I technologies. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.