Gone are the days of the stereotypical car salesman — seersucker suit, cigar in hand, focused on selling as fast as possible, regardless of the customers' needs.
Today, sales people come from all walks of life and are typically well-educated, well-informed and business-like.
Today's customer is well-informed, has access to unlimited resources and choices and is more than willing to walk away from a purchase if it's not the right fit or experience.
Quality is an expectation. Selling quality as a benefit is like a restaurant trying to attract patrons because it has food. Today, salespeople must help customer buy the right product, not sell them on it.
Even traditional competition has changed: dealership vs. dealership, manufacturer vs. manufacturer. Today, competition is everywhere.
Customers judge every transaction by their most recent “best” experience, whether clothes or groceries or a cell phone. Any institution that gives extraordinary service sets the standard for all other businesses — regardless of the product or service offered.
Yet, many in our business are in denial. Consider this: Is your job to sell cars or to serve customers and help them select a car to buy? At APB, our most successful clients are those that embrace the belief that they are in the business of helping customers select the right car to purchase.
Today's salesperson has a job profile that can be defined in four simple ideas. Good sales people help customers select the right car. They must:
- Be 100% present and work with a single-minded focus for each customer.
- Ask probing questions to develop an understanding of the customer's unique wants, needs, and desires.
- Listen, learn and empathize with the customer, understand problems from that person's point of view and discover minor details in order to guide the selection process and find an exact fit.
- Help the customer “try it on.” Throughout the introduction and including the demo, the salesperson should guide the customer as he or she experiences the features that will satisfy the wants, needs and desires communicated earlier. The salesperson should help the customer build an emotional bond and fall in love with car.
- Introduce customers to the rest of the “family,” giving them a tour of the dealership, introducing them to all the managers, and explaining that the dealership is there to provide for their total transportation needs.
- Once a customer falls in love with his or her vehicle choice, price becomes a secondary concern. That's why price should be the last point of discussion. Sales people should raise the topic of price only after the customer feels at home and has established an emotional bond with the car, the dealership and the salesperson. It is the salesperson's job to make sure the price fits the budget, that payments are acceptable, and that the customer feels the selected car is worth it. If the first step is mastered, price will rarely block a sale.
- Converting a customer to a client. The salesperson's job does not stop at the close of the sale. See the entire process through to delivery. Help the customer take ownership. Present them with a beautiful new car to drive home. Review features, adjustments and provide “quick start” tips so when the customer drives off the lot he or she is comfortable and secure in his or her decision.
- Once the customer leaves the dealership, the salesperson's job continues. In a few days, call to follow up, being sure to carefully ask the right questions. “Do you like the car?” doesn't start a conversation and may encourage the customer to find some negative trait which might otherwise have gone unmentioned. Make the follow up a continuation of the positive experience created during the sales process. Ask: “What did your neighbors think about the new car?” Start a conversation that allows the customer to get excited about the purchase all over again and can lead to a referral.
Richard F. Libin is president of APB-Automotive Profit Builders Inc. He is at [email protected] and 508-626-9200.
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