There are many skills and tools that go into creating and maintaining a successful career in auto sales. Perhaps the most useful idea, however, is to deconstruct the very idea of “making the sale” and strip it down to its core. It comes down to two simple questions:
• Why do you want to make the sale?
• What does the customer want out of the experience?
The common answers to these questions are, for the sales consultant, “To make the most compensation possible from the deal,” and for the customer, “To spend as little as possible.” It’s possible to get a deal done like this, but one party is going to feel they’ve been taken advantage of, or if they compromise, neither really got what they wanted.
That’s not a way to sustain a career or a customer base. Customers who feel they’ve gotten the short end of the deal will probably never return to your store, and they’ll tell anyone who cares to listen about their experience.
Instead, my Theory of 5 mentors and I have discussed this, and have come up with a better way to answer those two basic questions:
• The customer has a need or want they are trying to achieve.
• You are there to support and guide them in meeting that need.
That’s it. It’s that simple.
If you can reframe the experience of buying a vehicle at your dealership using this mindset, you change the relationship you will have with all your customers. Instead of an “us vs. them” mentality, you go in with the thought of building a win-win situation for everyone involved and gaining a customer for life.
The customer is there to find a vehicle because they either don’t have one, they need a vehicle that fits their changing lifestyle or they want an additional vehicle for their family. It’s our job to find the best vehicle in our inventory that will fit their situation.
If they understand that this is our mindset — that we care about them — they will work with us. However, if they sense we are in it to squeeze every last penny we can out of the transaction, their defenses will go up, and it becomes a tug-of-war situation.
Two Ears, One Mouth
Part of this process is to understand exactly what are the wants or needs the customer is trying to fill.
Since many customers come into the dealership already on high alert because of preconceived notions about the dealership experience — or have personally had a terrible experience at a dealership — they might not be as forthcoming with the information as would be helpful. In addition, they might not have considered their situation in those terms. They might not know what vehicle would work best for them. They might not even know it exists.
That’s when it’s our job as sales consultants to get to work and support and guide them in narrowing down their choices until they find the vehicle that best suits their wants and needs. To do this, we have to do something that we might think we are already doing, but might be surprised by the cold, hard facts if we honestly appraise our approach. We need to listen.
Exceptional sales consultants ask questions and listen to what their customers say. These professionals make it a point to ask open-ended questions (the “Who, What, When, Where, Why and How” questions). These are the questions that start a discussion, rather than just providing “yes” or “no” answers.
The customer’s son is going away to college, and he needs a vehicle. Rather than just start by showing the vehicles you think might work, ask a few follow-up questions. Where is he going to school (Would snow and ice be factors, or is he going to a school in a warmer climate)? What are his interests (Does he like to go hiking or rock climbing, or is he happy to stay in the city)?
Questions like this help paint a picture of how the vehicle will be used, and which vehicles would enrich his life in his new surroundings. They also show the customer that we are interested in them as people, rather than as leads. They’ll understand that we care about them, and this builds rapport. They’ll see us as competent professionals and not someone out to take their money. When the time to discuss payment comes, we will have built a positive relationship and will have an easier time agreeing to terms and finishing the deal to everyone’s benefit.
The Solution is There — Find It
In my career in sales, I have never felt like I was selling; rather, I was guiding and supporting someone to fill a need, want or desire. I’ve always believed I am a problem solver or “solutionist.”
By listening to our clients, providing consistent communication and asking the right questions, we will home in on the correct solution to their individual needs. This makes the process smoother and more rewarding for both sides. There won’t, in effect, be different sides — we’ll be on the same side, where we can both win. It just takes making an effort to find better answers to the basic questions.