Ask anyone who has been in the business for a while how they create lasting customer relationships. They’ll tell you it’s through conversation.

Of course, technology aids in the process of relationship management. How else would you remember a customer’s favorite color or the names of their kids?

Some of us are better at this than others. However you manage to remember the details of your customers’ lives, if you can’t build a relationship with them through conversation, you’re unlikely to make a sale.

I heard a professional sales trainer say, “People rarely argue with their own conclusions.” Through conversation, whether in person or via Twitter, dealerships have the unique opportunity to guide customers to their own conclusion: to buy a vehicle.

No amount of online reviews, content marketing or advertisements can achieve this goal quite like the good old fashioned art of conversation.

So how can something so simple as conversation actually improve dealership marketing efforts, specifically digital marketing?

Selling isn’t an art, but it is a skill. At its heart, a sale should provide a solution to a problem. In the case of car sales, people need a vehicle for any number of reasons. It’s our job to make sure they find the vehicle that best fits their needs and budget. In order to better understand the needs and budget of our customers, we ask questions and, most importantly, listen.

This is typically a pretty easy task when we are face-to-face with folks. But what about the time customers spend online researching cars, trucks and SUVs without talking to anyone?

Seventy percent of the car-buying process is already complete before prospects are willing to engage with a salesperson, according to one study.

Sure, online reviews can answer questions regarding customer service, friendliness of staff, cleanliness of facility, etc. but that’s not a two-way conversation.

The benefit of an actual conversation is that it builds engagement, which ultimately builds a relationship between the sales rep and the customer. It’s the difference between a floor “up” talking to the first sales rep that greets them on the lot or asking specifically for a sales rep by name. Engagement fosters relationships, which build trust.

Social media provides dealerships with an amazing opportunity: to start the conversation before the customer walks onto the lot. If we stop thinking about digital marketing only as a way to drive website traffic or to improve brand awareness, and more of a conversation starting point, then we can get back to what we do best: building relationships and selling cars.

Instead of spewing social media updates about the weather, local sports teams and dealership events to anyone and everyone who may see it, consider asking questions, responding to requests for information, and leave the hard sale behind. It’s fact finding. It goes back to learning what the customer’s challenge is and asking the right questions to provide a solution that offers value and makes he or she feel in control.

Nate Marquardt is co-founder and CEO of ChatterUP, a social media sales and marketing company. He can be reached at nate@gochatterup.com