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Overcoming Inventory Challenges in the Dealership

Nov 28, 2022
Dealers, Sales, Training

While many challenges factors are outside of a dealership’s control, here are some practices to keep in mind to sell from inventory and market to drive traffic.

by Melinda O'Connell
Senior Content Editor

With inventory challenges persisting through Q3 of this year and only expected to continue, what can you do to help your team navigate these challenges and boost sales? While many factors are outside of a dealership’s control (supply chain interruptions, rising interest rates, fewer vehicle options, etc.), let’s take a look at what you can control: selling from inventory and marketing to drive traffic. 

The following principles and suggestions are ones that dealerships and their teams should always keep in mind, and it’s more important now than ever to revisit these ideas and put them into practice.

Selling from Inventory

At its most basic level, part of the sales process involves uncovering what a customer wants or needs in a vehicle and why. Unfortunately, low inventory obviously limits the customer’s options, and these questions may not seem as helpful as they once were. After two years of shortages, it’s understandable that salespeople may become discouraged because they don’t have exactly what their customers are looking for in stock. But simply adjusting the salesperson’s mindset and making slight changes to their customer interview questions can make a world of difference.

First, rather than focusing on what the dealership doesn’t have, help the salespeople focus on what they do have. It’s cliché, but maintaining a “can-do” attitude is actually quite powerful. What do they have in inventory? What can they do for the customer? A positive outlook not only has the potential to impact sales, but it can also impact the overall customer experience, leading to higher CSI scores and customer loyalty.

Second, asking preference questions during the customer interview gives a salesperson more flexibility to meet the customer’s needs. For example: “Do you prefer a lighter or darker color?” Phrasing the color preference question in this way gives them room to maneuver. If they ask which color the customer wants and they don’t have that color in stock, they’ve shot themselves in the foot. If instead they find out the customer prefers a darker color, and they’ve got midnight blue, hunter green and charcoal gray, they’re more likely to satisfy the customer with one of these colors. Objections on general preference are easy to overcome if there are alternatives.


If traffic is an issue due to decreasing consumer demand, what can a dealership do to drive traffic and get more people in their stores? Market to their audience. One key element of marketing is simply putting yourself in a consumer’s shoes: What would grab your attention and compel you to visit a dealership? Consider the following:

• Are you not sure what you’re looking for?
• Do you know what you’re looking for but not sure you’ll find it due to low inventory?
• Are you apprehensive about cost and affordability?
• What about financing options?

Dealerships can offer solutions by showcasing the options they do have in inventory, focusing on pricing deals and offering trade-in specials, among other things. Empathizing with customers in the midst of the current economic climate can actually drive sales and, again, impact customer experience.

Take time to sit with your team and discuss solutions for selling from current inventory and reaching out to the community with marketing ideas. OEMs and suppliers are looking for their own solutions to inventory challenges, but they won’t be accomplished overnight. In the meantime, encourage your sales staff to focus on what they can control. Despite the challenges we face today, higher profits and increased customer satisfaction can still be achieved with the winning combination of smart sales techniques, savvy marketing and a lot of hard work.

*This article originally appeared in AutoSuccess Online on November 14, 2022.