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selling to millennials

About one in four people in America are Millennials. Born between 1980 and 2000, these 20 something year-olds aren’t car crazy and they sure aren’t crazy about the traditional car buying experience. In the next ten years or so this generation will represent about 75% of all cars sold. Here are a few things you need to know about Millennials to capture their business today and in the years to come.

First of all, they really aren’t in to cars. At least not like my generation was (I’m 52). I had my Mom with me when the DMV opened exactly 30 days after turning sixteen years old to get my driver’s license. Today, less than half of seventeen year olds have a driver’s license and only about six out of ten eighteen year-olds have a license. So what’s going on?

It’s not that Millennials are frugal; they spent over a trillion dollars last year. Millennials have a different set of priorities when it comes to their money and their livelihood.

Many Millennials don’t see a need for a car. I have the perfect case study in my family with sons seventeen and twenty three. My youngest didn’t get his permit till he was seventeen and shows little interest in getting his license.

If he wants to see a movie he flips the Apple TV on and tunes in Netflix. Needs a book? Amazon. If he wants a pizza; order it online (and call your Dad in some far off town for his credit card number). Wants to hang out with his friends; they are all on Facebook, Skype and multi-player gaming. He’d rather spend his money on Microsoft points than gas for his buddy’s car. Need a gadget, pair of shoes or new jeans: Google puts it all at his fingertips, literally.

My twenty three year old just now wants a decent car, but that came with marriage and now a baby on the way. His big hang up about buying an expensive car (relatively speaking) is that he’s paying $350 a month but the car sits in the driveway or his parking spot at work twenty-two hours a day. Seems like a big waste to him and I kind of see his point.

According to the New York Times, nearly half of eighteen to twenty-four year olds would rather have the Internet over a car. Herein lies the dilemma. You not only have to sell them on buying your car but also have to sell them on buying a car.

The last few discouraging facts are the ONLY reason a Millennial will visit the showroom is to test-drive a car, never to gather information. In addition, over half of Millennials say that negotiating with a car salesman is more painful than going to the dentist (AutoNews) and half of Millennials who’ve had a bad experience with a dealership will never consider that brand again. Yikes.

 OK, ready for some good news? There are ways to attract and sell to this generation but you better throw your old playbook away. You have to communicate differently than with any other generation. Forget email, they don’t read email. They don’t have a landline phone and one out of three twenty year olds move annually. If you call their mobile you’ll likely get a voice mailbox that’s never been set up.

 What’s left then? Facebook and texting is how they communicate. This is different and doesn’t fit the current processes in most dealerships.

What to do about it? My first recommendation would be to make sure you have some of these folks working in your showroom. Birds of a feather flock together and people trust people who are like them.

Another is to look at your social platforms from a CRM point of view. Ask them to like your Facebook page but be prepared to give something up for the privilege.

Millennials have a quip pro quo mentality.

Offer them an eBook on how to buy a car then follow up quickly. Be an asset. Educate them on the process then invite them in for a test drive. (Be sure and deflate your 70-foot gorilla because it will certainly scare them away).

Offer comparative data. Show them the total cost of ownership. Price doesn’t resonate like the long-term benefit of owning your car and how it will save them money (so they can buy more Microsoft points).

Win over their friends and their parents. Sharing valuable, educational material on Facebook, where their friends and family are, can do this.

Look at your website forms. Do they have a field asking for permission to text? This is the best way to capture useful contact info from Millennials.

What does your showroom process look like? The old ten step selling process will turn off a Millennial. If your process is centered on gathering information you may be missing the boat with this younger generation. Focus on features and the test-drive instead of the hard close and “if I could would you”.

 Don’t try to haggle. This utterly confuses them and they’ll definitely have to think about it. Don’t contradict online data, especially your own. They’ll fire you in a heartbeat. And don’t rely on brand loyalty. They don’t care even a little what their parents drove or what they are currently driving, assuming they have a car.

As nontraditional as all this sounds it is absolutely sensible to the millennial crowd. I understand you aren’t structured for this type of selling but I encourage you to start adjusting. Like I said, in ten years Millennials will account for seventy five percent of cars sold and it may take us that long to figure them out.