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Car Buying Stages: Where is Your Prospect Now?

In every aspect of our lives, Google is tracking our online behaviour (on a macro and micro level) and spotting trends that frequently confirm what we already suspect but often providing insights that give us added understanding of offline behaviours and thinking processes. Along with some direct research done by Google (as it pertains to the car buying process) the following findings were recently published by Google:

The car buying process can be split into 3 stages:

  1. Thinking Stage. Average length = 26 Days. There may be some event or realization that starts people thinking about a purchase during which time some conversations with friends, family, and colleagues take place as well as some casual browsing (usually online). As a car sales professional, this is the period when you want your name to come up in those conversations.
  2. Research Stage. Average length = 19 Days. The data collection stage involves lots of online and offline activities (including visiting dealerships) to determine what’s available, reviews/ratings, relative costs, etc. More and more of this phase is being done exclusively online
  3. Buying Stage. Average length = 12 Days.  The buyer is comparing features, pricing, and narrowing down to a short list as well as test driving and checking promotional offers. If dealership visits did not happen during the research stage, they will occur now.

If your prospect in the showroom is in Stage 3, you may have what Duane Marino calls a “transaction-ready” buyer. These folks already know what they want and they have a financing preference so your job is essentially to “get out of their way” and make the purchase as friction-free as possible. For this customer, it is still important to remember your professional obligations to insure they understand which vehicle they are buying and their financing options but dragging them through your 90 minute sales process just for the sake of checking off boxes in your CRM may lose you the sale.

According to Google, the whole process takes 57 days (on average). The important take-away from this research is that if you meet a customer on the showroom floor, they could be at any one of these stages.  If they are at Stage 1 or 2 (or even 3), are you going to stay with them to the end? Can you provide the value and motivation to speed up the process and transition them to the next stage? If today is not the day, do you have a follow up system that respects where the prospect is located in the buying cycle? Have you orchestrated a series of communications with the prospect that, over the coming weeks or days, will provide value and demonstrate your commitment to keeping the prospect’s best interests in the forefront?

What Google has sketched out are averages which means some people work quicker and some slower. Can you build rapport and quickly discover what stage your prospect is in? As a refresher, read my earlier blog post on techniques and wordtracks to make the Discovery Phase of your engagement with the prospect the secret to finding out when and how to close the sale.

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