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Transparency In Sales: Selling During an Inventory Shortage

Dice spelling out of stock
Article Highlights:

  • Customers are becoming suspicious of high prices and ordering delays.
  • Learn tips to maintain customer trust even when inventory is tight.

After years of decreasing profit margins, dealerships everywhere are selling vehicles at prices well above MSRP due to inventory scarcity. Even used vehicles are catching onto the trend, with prices nearly 40% higher than last year[1].

The downside? Consumers are becoming increasingly suspicious of skyrocketing prices, and those who have to pre-order their cars are frustrated with delays. Unfortunately, these problems reinforce the perception that car dealerships are untrustworthy.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to maintain customer trust during the sales process even as inventory shortages continue.

Present Options

By the time a customer arrives at your dealership, they usually have a clear idea of the vehicle they want. After all, most buyers spend time doing research online before they ever set foot in your dealership. So, what do you do when you don’t have the desired vehicle on your lot and ordering will take months?

Presenting alternative options to the customer is key. Do you have a slightly older model the customer can upgrade with accessories they want? Can you trade with another dealership for the right vehicle? Is the customer’s timeline flexible, allowing you to reach back out when your new allocation arrives?

These are all important considerations. The last thing you want to do is force a customer into one option or turn them away completely. Not only will you lose sales, it could earn your dealership a reputation for being pushy or unhelpful.

Show The Math

When it comes to financing, remember that buyers are currently wary of high prices. The more details you can show during financing, the better. A comprehensive desking tool can help you present multiple payment options to the customer based on factors like down payment, interest rates, and any rebates or incentives available to them.

Make sure your technology allows you to quickly rework the deal so you can run through several different scenarios with the customer. For example, if they want to see how changing their loan term will affect their monthly payment, you shouldn’t have to spend time doing the math from scratch.

Showing multiple payment options, side-by-side, can help the customer feel in control of the buying process and chose the option that works best for them, even when prices are higher than usual.

Communicate Consistently

Now, what if your customer ends up deciding to order a vehicle? Before you even consider starting that process, it’s important to be upfront about the timeline. In many cases, built-to-order vehicles take months to come in, and it’s best to set that expectation from the start. Not every customer has the luxury of waiting for their new vehicle.

If the timeline is unclear, make sure you stay on top of updates and don’t overpromise. Keep in mind, the sale isn’t guaranteed just because the customer put down a deposit and placed an order. It’s important to provide consistent communication. A reliable CRM that prioritizes follow up activity and allows you to send customers automated emails about their order status will ensure no one is forgotten.

To give customers a more personalized experience, try to ensure updates come from the same salesperson each time. Customers will feel better talking to someone who already knows them and their unique buying situation. In addition, if questions arise, buyers won’t be confused about who to contact if they’ve consistently received updates from the same person.

Even though the inventory shortage has the potential to make buying difficult for customers, it’s important to do everything you can to meet their needs. Giving them a great experience despite these challenges could earn you a loyal customer for life.


[1] Fox Business

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Director, Reynolds Consulting Services

Carl Bennett is the vice president of customer success services. This team, under Bennet’s leadership, teaches automotive retailers in the U.S. and Canada how to achieve higher levels of success and better results throughout their dealership. Bennet has spent over 15 years with Reynolds, helping dealerships through training, consulting, and installation roles. Prior to joining Reynolds, Bennett worked in dealerships for 15 years as a general manager, finance director, and sales manager.

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