If 2020 has proved anything about the auto industry, it’s this:
The only certainty in car sales is uncertainty.
Earlier this year, we experienced one of the biggest interruptions in retail history. Now, sales are as strong as ever. Who could have predicted that?
But it’s always possible we’ll experience another disruption. Thinning margins and stagnant sales could be an issue again before we know it.
Your dealership might not be able to predict the future — but it can plan for it. With the right tactics, dealers can build an evergreen strategy that increases sales and profits, no matter what the world looks like.
How to Sell More Cars and Earn More Profit
“How do I sell more cars without sacrificing profits?”
That’s the $462 billion question on every dealer’s mind. So what’s the answer?
There isn’t one — there’s actually 16 (plus 1 tool that can do it all)
Let’s look at 16 different ways you can boost sales and still maintain your front end-gross. From inventory management to advertising, these tactics are proven to help you grow your top and bottom line.
1. Compete on value, not on price
Dealers across the country have spent years watching profits shrink, even as their sales increase. Why?
We’ve been told that the quickest way to improve turn is to lower prices — that front-end losses could be made up on the back-end.
News flash: it doesn’t work that way.
If you’re sacrificing your front-end gross, then it won’t matter how high your turn rate is. Each sale will eat away at your margins — locking you into a vicious cycle of lowering your prices to sell more vehicles.
Fortunately, dealers can quit the race-to-the-bottom by prioritizing high turn and gross.
2. Turn each department into a profit center
Many dealers have written off the front-end. Here’s exactly why you shouldn’t:
When you start competing on value instead of price, each level of your front-end becomes a profit center.
- Sourcing – Buying the right cars at the right price ensures you make more money on each sale.
- Marketing – Communicating your inventory’s authentic value to buyers cultivates customer loyalty and increases turn.
- Sales – Selling cars at their full market price maintains your margins and keeps your dealership competitive.
Optimize each of these areas and you’ll have a dealership strategy built for the modern car market.
3. Upgrade to Real-Time, Hyper-Local Market Data
Building a winning dealership strategy starts with better data — the fuel that drives your inventory, sales, and marketing departments.
The problem: Relying on major pricing books alone won’t cut it anymore. Books like KBB and NADA only provide high-level market snapshots. They lack the hyper-local data you need to buy, sell, and price effectively.
New real-time market data tools allow dealers access to game-changing insights like:
- Local supply/demand metrics
- Turn rates and sales data from local competition
- National and local vehicle trends
These up-to-the-minute insights help you make better decisions at every level of your dealership.
4. Optimize Your Inventory
Inventory is one of the few things in life where it’s okay to play favorites. Some vehicles are just more valuable to your dealership than others.
So how do you identify these profitable vehicles? Look for the inventory that has the strongest combination of market demand, fast turn rate, and high gross margin. These are the cars you’ll want to stock up on the next time you head to the auction.
But optimizing your inventory doesn’t stop there. You’ll need to offload underperforming inventory as well. Identify vehicles that sit on your lot the longest. Stocking fewer of these slow-moving vehicles is critical to accelerating turn.
5. Stand out on 3rd-Party sites with better syndication
Listing your inventory on 3rd-party sites can help you move inventory — if you do it right.
Default vehicle descriptions — the ones encoded by the VIN — won’t help your inventory stand out. You’ll be left competing on price to grab your buyer’s attention.
Be sure your merchandising tool syndicates all of your vehicle’s features and options — even those not encoded into the VIN. The more accurate and enticing your listing, the more you can earn on each sale.
6. Rank higher without paying for premium listings
Better syndication has another benefit: Dealers can rank higher on these sites without paying for premium listings.
Sites like Autotrader want to provide visitors with the best experience. They’ve tweaked their algorithms so that the most appealing vehicles appear at the top of their Search Results Pages (SRPs).
Save money and reach more customers by including stand-out features, options, photos, and vehicle comments in each one of your listings.
7. Be prepared to find the best deals at auction
Today, more than ever, dealers need to buy the right cars at the right price.
Let’s start with the most common source of new inventory: dealer auctions.
Dealer auctions are fast-paced and hectic, whether they’re in-person or online. It’s important to know exactly what you need beforehand so you can make the most out of each auction.
Start by identifying which high-grossing vehicles you’re running low on. Next, look at what your competitors are doing. Take note of the inventory they’re stocking, how they’re pricing it, and how quickly they’re selling those cars. If they’re having success with certain vehicles in your market, consider stocking up on similar inventory.
Remember: You’re looking for more than just the best prices when you’re at auction. Avoid unnecessary headaches and fees so that you can leave with the best deals.
8. Buy directly from the public with a Vehicle Buying Center
Auctions aren’t the only source of new inventory. In fact, businesses like CarMax have demonstrated just how profitable buying directly from the public can be.
That’s something dealers can replicate with their own in-house Vehicle Buying Center (VBC).
Buying directly from the public lets you increase profits by eliminating things like auction fees and transportation costs. You can also improve your inventory turn rate by purchasing cars you want (i.e., the ones that work best for your market) instead of whatever’s available at auction.
Keep in mind that setting up a VBC takes time and effort. However, it can be a game-changer for your sourcing strategy.
9. Switch to Value-Driven Pricing
22% of car buyers say they purchased their vehicle because it was a good deal. But a good deal isn’t just the lowest price — it’s the best value.
Here’s an example of value-driven pricing in action:
Let’s say a customer in your area has already decided which car they’re ready to buy. Now, they’re looking at dealerships that have it in stock. Your competitor across town has priced it at $23,000. You’re selling it for $24,000.
The difference: Your vehicle has had $1,500 worth of reconditioning, comes with a 6-month warranty valued at $1,000, and is priced $500 lower than what CarFax is suggesting — meaning its authentic value is actually $27,000.
You’ve won this sale. Why? Because:
- You’ve earned this customer’s business (and trust) by essentially giving them a $3,000 discount
- You sold it at a fair price that didn’t impact your gross margin
That’s exactly why selling on value (and communicating it effectively) is so critical. It does more than just help you earn more off each sale. It also develops deeper customer loyalty.
10. Use real-time appraisal data
As the old adage goes, “You don’t make money when you sell a vehicle – you make money when you buy it.”
That means your profit is directly tied to your appraisal strategy.
Relying on KBB and NADA is not enough. The classic pricing books are not updated with real-time info. They can’t see deep into your hyper-local market.
Setting an optimal price point requires local market insights that major pricing books don’t provide. Make sure your appraisal strategy is backed up by real-time market data.
Here are just a few of the pricing variables you’ll need to consider:
- Reconditioning Costs
- Trim Level
- Price & Turn Rate of that Vehicle in Your Market
Review every meaningful data point when appraising a vehicle, from its maintenance history to its local market demand. Don’t leave your appraisals up to chance.
11. Direct Digital Advertising
Unfortunately, third-parties are getting more expensive and less effective at delivering leads. Not only that, traditional marketing channels like TV & Radio cost a fortune but can’t guarantee results.
The solution: maximizing reach and ad spend by taking control of your own digital advertising.
Direct digital advertising means creating and running your own online ads. Here’s a quick breakdown of what that looks like compared to traditional marketing channels:
- Customers are sent directly to your website and VDPs, not a third-party
- You can reach more customers for less money through targeting
- You have access to in-depth insights about the customers engaging with your ads
The best part: you’ll no longer be spending money on the “estimated reach” or “impressions” promised by traditional marketing channels. Instead, you’ll be able to serve ads directly to your ideal audience — customers in your area actively looking to buy vehicles in your inventory.
12. Build a better dealership website
More often than not, your website is your first impression with potential customers. It also might be the last: 31% of used car buyers now finish their journey on dealership websites.
Having an outdated website is the fastest way to lose buyers. This is your opportunity to build brand loyalty with new customers — use it!
Cater to today’s digitally savvy customers by making your site mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. Include testimonials and display prices clearly to convert more visitors into customers.
13. Use a Digital Dealership Platform
Building a winning dealership strategy is one thing — actually implementing it is another.
Let’s face it — sourcing, managing inventory, and marketing are all full-time jobs on their own. Doing it all manually is theoretically possible… but not realistic.
That’s where a digital dealership platform comes in. These platforms give you access to the real-time data you need to get your dealership strategy off the ground. They also come with inventory, sourcing, marketing, and pricing tools to help you and your team manage each level of your operation.
Plenty of tools out there promise to help you sell more cars while boosting profits. The problem is that many fail to do both (or either.)
When choosing a digital dealership platform, consider these three things:
14. Choose Value over Velocity
Ever wonder who started the race-to-the-bottom on price (and the margin compression that ensued)? vAuto coined the term “Velocity” to promote the concept of cutting prices to sell more cars.
Now that margin compression is a common issue in the industry, the corporation has backed-off on promoting Velocity. They’ve even introduced a new product to mitigate the loss of front-end gross. Will you have to pay extra for it? You betcha.
Dealers wanting to fight back against margin compression are better served by companies focused on fixing problems for dealers, not creating them.
15. Use a Cloud-Based Platform
Imagine this: One of your salespeople is out on the lot and about to close a sale. They take out their smartphone to pull up pricing data, but don’t have access. Instead, they have to head all the way back to their office to find this information on their desktop.
That’s the problem salespeople face with tools like Laser Appraiser. These platforms force you to switch between devices to access additional features.
On the lot, time is money, meaning your team isn’t benefiting from tools that waste theirs. Use a cloud-based tool that can be accessed from anywhere.
16. Choose a tool with comprehensive features
Very few platforms on the market help dealers optimize every level of their operation.
Budget options like Autoniq fall short. While these tools can handle certain things like pricing, they have little (or no) features that assist with other areas like sourcing or marketing. This forces dealers to spend more on multiple tools to round out their needs.
Choose a platform that helps you optimize every aspect of your front-end business: sourcing, inventory management, pricing, marketing, and more.
Do it all with VinCue: the all-in-one digital dealership platform
VinCue’s all-in-one platform simplifies how dealers buy, manage, and maximize profit from their inventory.
VinCue provides dealers with powerful pricing, sourcing, advertising, and inventory optimization tools for new and used car markets. The platform is backed by powerful real-time data that helps dealers achieve a higher gross and faster inventory turn.
Nothing left out, no profits left behind.
Real-time market data
VinCue’s platform is backed by real-time market data that tracks over 40,000 dealership websites and 7 million vehicles — providing dealers with up-to-the-minute information and unparalleled insights into their local market.
Inventory Management & Optimization
Don’t just manage your inventory, optimize it. VinCue lets dealers identify their highest-grossing inventory and helps them stock more profitably based on their sales history and local market conditions. Plus, VinCue’s best-in-class syndication ensures each vehicle earns its full, authentic value.
Value-driven Appraisal & Pricing
Skip the guesswork and start winning on appraisals. Vincue lets dealers price competitively for their market while still taking into account reconditioning, lifetime warranties, service deals, vehicle history, and vehicle maintenance history.
VinCue’s built-in sourcing helps dealers build their buying strategy. It automatically connects your inventory data with real-time market insights so you know which vehicles to look for — then connects you with major and regional auctions so you can bid on them right from your dashboard. Plus, VinCue comes with all the features you need to get your own in-house Vehicle Buying Center off the ground
Ready to take back control of your marketing and run your own direct digital advertising? AdCue uses real-time market data to craft digital ads that target active buyers in your area. The best part: Adcue sends leads straight to your website, not a third party.
Unlike other premium tools, Vincue doesn’t come with a premium price tag. Dealers who make the switch to VinCue typically see a monthly software savings between 30-50%.