One of the most common challenges we hear from car dealerships is how to convince used car shoppers to buy a certified pre-owned vehicle (CPO). The answer is not to sell CPOs to shoppers. Success means reading shoppers on the lot and reacting to their needs.
To help dealers do just that, Cars.com did an extensive study of used-car shoppers and buyers as well as dealerships. We wanted to understand what motivates consumers when they are shopping. So we examined the behaviors and attitudes of more than 5,000 in-market shoppers and recent buyers across the United States, got insight from more than 50 dealers, and surveyed in-market Cars.com car shoppers and recent purchasers. We came up with the four common CPO shopper personas as well as strategies for working with them. Here they are:
- The Skeptic
A skeptic compares used and CPO cars through one simple lens: budget. They question the value of a CPO and its features. They are very self-directed: they’re less likely to contact a salesperson or get a quote from a dealer than other types of shoppers. On the lot, a skeptic is typically looking at used cars with minimal options.You are not going to have any luck upselling to a skeptic. You’re better off listening to their needs and, if appropriate, suggest a CPO but not a fancier model. If they say they’re looking at used minivans with 30,000 miles on them, they’re not going to be interested in leveling up. You’re better off saying something like, “Your price range seems to be $22,000. If you are willing to look at a CPO with a warranty, you can save money in the long run – and here’s why.’
- The Receptive Shopper
The receptive shopper researches multiple purchase options. They are looking at a variety of styles. Value – or getting the desired features for the best cost – is very important to them. They are aware of CPOs but could learn more. When you encounter the receptive shopper on the lot, they often have a mix of vehicles in mind.With receptive shoppers, be prepared to spend more time guiding them through a wider variety of options, reading their reactions, and then narrowing recommendations accordingly. You have more opportunity to sell the best match for them, but you also need to work harder to narrow their focus. When suggesting a CPO, consider language such as “What is most important to you in your next car? A certified car might check those boxes.”
- The Experienced Shopper
The experienced shopper arrives at your dealership ready to buy the car they’ve already researched before coming to the lot. They know all about CPOs and their benefits. They understand their options down to VIN-level details. Experienced shoppers usually provide very specific instructions about which cars they want to look at. The best way to work with them is to get out of their way. Do not try to complicate the process by cross-selling vehicles they have no interest in shopping for. With an experienced shopper, having an accurate and complete inventory listing online and on the lot is really the most critical success factor. Knowledge empowers them.
- The Specifier
The specifier loves human interaction on the lot. They are most likely to actively go up to a salesperson and ask questions. They are looking for high-touch, A+ service and a great experience. They are also set apart from the other personas by their interest in new cars as well as used cars. They may be looking for a lot of features that come with new cars but lack the budget to buy the new car of their dreams. With specifiers, it’s important to ask them to clarify which features are most important in their ideal car, such as a moonroof or heated seats. They will likely be willing to sacrifice some features for a CPO that comes close to meeting their needs within their budget.
Here’s how we suggest dealerships work with the four personas:
- Set yourself up for success by ensuring that your inventory online matches your inventory offline, with information such as pricing being accurate regardless of where shoppers find your VDPs.
- First listen to their cues to get a read on the type of shopper you’re talking to.
- Understand shoppers’ lifestyle needs and interests before you talk cars unless they have specific vehicles in mind. Doing so ensures a personalized experience.
- Always make it easy on them. Figure out the fastest way to help them achieve what they want, realizing that some shoppers (such as the receptive shopper) might require more time at first.
For more insight into how to win with the CPO shoppers, contact your Cars.com sales representative.