Most experienced sales managers and staff tend to think about car buyers in terms of income, credit worthiness, and readiness to purchase. However, understanding where the customers are “coming from” can help sales staff relate to customers, and with relationship comes understanding, improved CSI, and increased sales.
We’ve assembled four key facts about millennials that you or your management team can use in the next sales meeting. They’ll help your salespeople and managers understand these customers a little better, with facts and stats to help drive the key points home.
Millennials Often Have Student Loans
In an age where college tuition costs are soaring, it’s no surprise that millennials are often drowning in student loan debt. The average cost of tuition for a traditional 4-year university is $30,094 at private colleges, $8,893 for state residents at public colleges, and $22,203 for out-of-state residents attending public universities (College Data). When you factor in room and board, books, and other expenses, college can cost $15,000 to $60,000 per year. With many students graduating in five years, total student loan debt can easily run into six figures.
Key Take-Away: For many millennial car buyers, student loan debt is often substantial. Make sure your salespeople understand this debt and know how to relate.
Millennials Have A Personal History With “The Great Recession”
While many established workers were somewhat insulated from the most dire effects of the 2008 financial crisis – and subsequent “great recession” – millennials suffered substantially during this time period. Many millennials were either trying to find their very first job during the great recession or the first employees to get laid off as the economy slowed. Some were unemployed (or underemployed) for years, and forced to take part-time work or low income jobs to make their way.
Key Take-Away: Millennials are generally more focused on planning for “worst-case” financial scenarios, as they’ve lived through some relatively tough times. Salespeople need to understand this when dealing with financial objections so they can relate to the customer’s fears.
Millennials Are All About Technology
Due to their tech-driven youth, millennials generally want the vehicles they buy to be technologically advanced, with robust infotainment systems, solid integration with smartphones, and advanced powertrain technologies (like hybrid tech, electric drivetrains, fuel efficiency technology, etc. see AutoWeek for more details). Many millennials see technologically advanced systems as a virtue rather than “unnecessary complexity,” as many of their parents might view these same systems.
Key Take-Away: Sales staff needs to be well-versed on the technology in the vehicles they sell, from basic functionality to advanced setup. What’s more, sales staff needs to be able to impress millennial buyers by talking about the technology behind the vehicle’s powertrain and safety systems. Salespeople can’t just lift the hood and say “Look at the engine!” – they have to be able to do a detailed technology focused walk-around for tech-savvy millennials.
Patience is Perhaps Harder For Millennials
Anyone working in the retail auto industry would argue that all customers lack patience. However, millennials are often particularly lacking in patience because of their experience with instant gratification. They’ve grown accustomed to watching TV and movies whenever they want (via DVRs and on-demand streaming). They’ve grown accustomed to quick purchase process (via Amazon.com etc.)
Key Take-Away: While every dealership works hard to reduce purchase wait times, it’s very important to both a) explain the purchase process to millennials and b) set a reasonable expectation for wait times. Sales staff should also focus on being as efficient as they can be. Starting the delivery process while the customer is waiting to go into finance, for example, is a time-saving measure millennials will likely appreciate.
Summing Up – While Generalities Are Useful, Every Customer is Unique
Generalities about millennials like these are instructional when it comes to informing sales staff and procedures, but – as always – every customer is unique. Not every millennial is a smartphone wielding hipster with the patience of a toddler, no more than every baby boomer is a former hippy.
Still, salespeople and managers can improve customer satisfaction scores and closing ratios by recognizing that millennials may be different than the average customer and planning accordingly.