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Auto Sales Professionals Going Digital Can Sell From Their Home

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Special to The Auto Channel

I was a remote worker before COVID-19. A few days a week, for several months, I'd cut down a commute that could last two hours each way and log on from home.

The coronavirus has turned my home office setup into a regular routine. For me and likely millions of others.

Dealerships have had to navigate this, too, while showrooms are closed.

For an industry that has long relied on getting people in the door to seal a deal in person — and one that has taken its share of criticism for being slow to adapt to e-commerce — the transition to remote work is not a natural one.

Yet it's an extension of a larger shift toward online vehicle sales and remote deliveries that the pandemic has accelerated. For dealerships that can sell cars only virtually right now, there isn't much need for a full staff of sales associates.

There are, however, opportunities for home-based Internet sales and business development center employees to respond to leads and help customers navigate online purchases, the National Automobile Dealers Association said in recent guidance to dealerships.

Could remote work follow digital retail into dealerships once we're past the pandemic? It's possible.

The desire for a convenient, efficient, seamless car-buying experience is a driving factor behind the technological shift.

If customers find they enjoy buying a car online and having it delivered to their homes, will they want to spend as much time in dealerships the next time? If the answer is no, will dealerships need as many sales employees in showrooms?

"I think we can assume with relative certainty that this is absolutely going to increase people's insistence on that type of doing business," Erik Nachbahr, president of dealership information technology consultant Helion Technologies, told me.

Brick-and-mortar dealerships aren't going away. But this is one more opportunity to try new ways of selling cars.

-- Lindsay V.