Connecting With the Customer

“Understanding” is what your customers crave most and what your team must learn to deliver.

David O'Brien, Contributor

April 6, 2021

4 Min Read
Dealer-Salesman with customer (Adobe Stock)
Technology should augment, not replace, one-one-one customer relationships.Adobe Stock

If I’ve learned one lesson from many years of teaching sales skills to car dealerships, it is the value behind keeping a narrow focus. You can’t expect your sales or service team to be all things to everyone in all situations at all times.

With that in mind, I’ve distilled five simple, easy-to-use skills your salespeople, business development company (BDC) reps and service advisors can employ to meet the coming challenges, while maintaining their focus on results:

Know how to build a rapport with people who contact you via email, text or phone

Digital retail is a relatively new phenomenon and requires a new skill set. Most dealerships are not there yet. Before the pandemic, when customers would walk into your dealership, your staff could listen to them, read their body language and adapt, as needed, to make a better and more personal connection.

Customers still want to deal with people and seek an easy process with less friction. New studies have shown there are clues on every phone call and in every email to help salespeople recognize buying styles. It’s important that your team can understand and respond to these clues.

Master the questions to ask to uncover consumer needs and motivations, instead of spouting “deal facts”

Your team must know which questions to ask, as well as when and why to ask them. Technology may enable you to know more about your customers, of course, but asking the right questions helps you make a one-to-one connection with them. With the proper communication and listening skills, your team can learn why a prospect called about a specific vehicle or a particular service.

That said, great questions require great listening – the one attribute customers say causes them to value where they do business. In the words of Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” By forging a connection with a customer, you cement a lifetime value with that customer.

Industry-Voices-bug (002).jpg

Industry-Voices-bug (002)_85

Learn how to connect value and avoid those directionless conversations about features and benefits

It is essential to connect the value in the vehicle to “what” a customer truly cares about and desires. The old-school conversation about features and benefits lacks direction, especially since consumers can do their own vehicle research. Granted, OEMs have improved their video training on their products, and salespeople can use cheat sheets to pass required tests.

But your team’s memorized presentations are unlikely to connect with a sales prospect or a service drive customer. Put yourself in their shoes and ask why; ask, what is the value? Describing a product won’t create lifetime value with a customer but showing value to that customer can. The keyword is value.

Build “next steps” to help move prospects through your sales or service funnel

Although your business may do much of its lifting online, consumers still want to test drive a vehicle before buying. Under normal conditions, your sales agent may ride with the prospect or be present to answer questions during the demo drive and help close the deal. We are no longer doing business under normal conditions, however.

Service advisors face a similar challenge but make their pitch using old strategies. Today’s dealership team needs a new, frictionless way to transition customers from one stage to the next, to handle challenges and resistance. Frictionless selling is still closing and can just as easily turn a no into a yes.

Create personal relationships that transcend the data in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to create lifetime value

David O

David O'Brien_headshot

The lifeblood of a long, successful career in sales or service advisor roles is the capability to have customers come back and ask for them personally. In fact, that is the very definition of an established relationship. Such customers are more likely to be your advocate and promote your dealership to friends and family.

Although CRM is a much-needed database, it can’t create a personal connection between your team and your customers. A CRM may give you data points about your customers, but only your team can truly listen to and understand those customers. “Understanding” is what your customers crave most and what your team must learn to deliver.

David O’Brien (pictured above, left) is the president and CEO of Quantum5, a digital retail training company.

About the Author(s)

Subscribe to a WardsAuto newsletter today!
Get the latest automotive news delivered daily or weekly. With 5 newsletters to choose from, each curated by our Editors, you can decide what matters to you most.