People like to talk about themselves, so let them; it helps sell cars, says Michelle Primm, managing partner of the Cascade Auto Group, a three-brand dealership in Cuyahoga Falls, OH, south of Cleveland.
But to get the conversation going, draw them out, she adds. “Be like a detective. Ask questions. A good detective is a good conversationalist.”
Primm (pictured, below left) offers those auto-retailing communication tips and more at CXAUTO 2021, an online conference focused on the customer experience.
Among the questions she recommends that salespeople ask of customers: Why are they in the vehicle market?
“It’s about needs,” she says. “Were they in an accident with their current vehicle? Are they having mechanical problems with it? Is it at the end of a lease?”
As an investigator would, salespeople should “look for clues,” Primm says. “If they sent you an email, when did they send it? Was it 2 a.m.?” If it were, that could indicate something about their lifestyle, if only that they are night owls.
“Know the customer,” Primm says. “It helps build trust, but trust takes time.”
Cascade’s managing partner started working there in high school as a service department file clerk.
While attending college, Primm moved to Cascade’s main office. After graduating from Kent State University with finance and economics degrees, she became the dealership’s business manager, then general manager. Cascade represents Audi, Mazda and Subaru.
When interviewing job candidates, Primm looks for people who are inquisitive and understanding, among other things. “The best employees understand the customer journey.”
That understanding should show itself whether a staffer is communicating with a customer in person, by phone or online, she says. “Focus all your attention on that lead in front of you. No distractions. No disruptions.”
Even if a conversation is over the phone or by email, the customer should perceive a smiling person on the other end, she says. “Human interaction trumps technology every time.”
A dealership representative who uses a consultive approach sells more cars. “Be a listener, not a price hammerer,” says Primm, who recommends following Subaru’s “mantra” of honesty, empathy, appreciation, respect and trust.
On a more granular level, she also offers grammar and style advice for writing emails to customers: no abbreviations, no car lingo, no all-caps, no emoticons, watch out for auto-corrections that change words to something totally unintended, “get to the point and watch your tone.”
Steve Finlay is a retired WardsAuto senior editor. He can be reached at [email protected].