Let’s be honest. Car salespeople have a bad rap, one that perpetuates itself year after year, and decade after decade, regardless of technology, education or appearance. Why? It’s all about ego. Car salespeople are fixated on closing deals, on selling cars NOW!, on being the best and selling the most.
Customers are bombarded with features, bells and whistles as soon as they strike up a conversation. It’s the LATEST MODEL with the BEST FUEL EFFICIENCY and MOST POWERFUL ENGINE in ALL THE COLORS OF THE RAINBOW and CHILD SEATS and ENORMOUS STORAGE CAPACITY and GPS and MOONROOFS and SUNROOFS and SELF-CLOSING HATCHBACKS and KEYLESS ENTRY AND …AND… AND... While they might have an immediate need for a new vehicle, most get distracted or put-off by the noise that greets them from most salespeople.
Until this approach changes, our reputations won’t. So, how do we successfully sell without all the noise? First and most important, salespeople have to park their egos at the door. Leave them at home. Salespeople must adopt a new attitude, put the customer first – every time, all the time – and redefine their roles. They must become Selection Specialist whose only job is to serve the customer.
What is a car salesperson’s job? Before selling anything to anyone, salespeople must remember what their job is and why they are going to do it. In the case of selling cars, the why is to help a customer find the precisely perfect vehicle for their unique needs, to help them select a car to purchase. Note, “selling” is not mentioned once in this description. Car salespeople are selection specialists, not salespeople.
What do customers’ need? Don’t assume you know. Put the customer first. Be proactive. Get to know the customer and their needs, what problems do they face, what desires do they want to fulfill. What does a salesperson need to know to help the customer make a decision? What could get in the way? What are the stakes if they fail to act? When do they have to decide – is there an imminent need? By putting themselves in their customers’ shoes, salespeople quickly will learn what car will truly serve their needs. Building relationships are an investment of time and energy especially if salespeople are looking for a loyal customer base that purchases repeatedly from them and that provides golden referrals to others.
Ask the right questions. When salespeople ask the right questions they'll get the answers needed and help customer select the right car. Yes or no questions are worthless. Ask questions that engage customers in conversation. The easiest way to attract more customers and increase sales is to stop talking (sales) and start asking intelligent questions (selection). It’s like the wise old owl we all learned about as children – “the less he talked the more he heard, the more he heard the more he learned. So, why aren’t ‘car salespeople’ like that wise old bird?” Stop talking and start asking the right questions.
Close the sale, but not necessarily NOW! Studies have shown that only 2% of sales close on the first visit. Clarity about whom a salesperson is serving, understanding their needs, and leaving egos out of the equation prepare salespeople to hear and accept “no” or “not yet.” There will always be those who don't need the car that’s available from a particular dealership or who are not ready to buy. Consider their response from their perspective, and what was learned about them. When salespeople let go of the need to close the sale NOW! (and of their egos), they will realize that customers are simply taking care of themselves. This opens the door to continuing to build and nurture a relationship. If the right car is not at this dealership, how can the salesperson continue to help them find it? What can a salesperson do, so that when the customer is ready to buy, they remember the selection specialist who truly put them first.
It’s time for car salespeople to stop selling and embrace their role as Selection Specialists. Selling should be a conversation in which salespeople advocate for those customers who want and can benefit from what they have to offer. Only then can salespeople help customers select the exact model that fits their needs. Only then can customers notice, consider, and decide.
Richard F. Libin is president of APB-Automotive Profit Builders, Inc., a firm with more than 40 years experience working with both sales and service on customer satisfaction and maximizing gross profits through personnel development and technology. He is at email@example.com or 508-626-9200.