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Ask Questions, Then Listen Up

Last month, we looked at the importance of turning shoppers into buyers not buyers into shoppers, by saying and doing the wrong thing.

Last month, we looked at the importance of turning shoppers into buyers — not buyers into shoppers, by saying and doing the wrong thing.

Let's keep with that theme, starting with the importance of truly listening after asking questions of customers. Consider this.

Salesperson: “Other than the price, is this the right vehicle for you?”

Buyer: “Well, actually, I don't like this color.”

The attentive salesperson will understand from this response that the customer has not truly selected a final vehicle. Until then, no price, no matter how good, will ever truly satisfy the buyer.

Maintaining a positive attitude is the first step in keeping buyers and converting them to long-term customers and clients.

A positive attitude is nurtured by management. While there are many ways to do this, clearly linked performance metrics and sales incentives have the most impact and highest potential to motivate.

Management teams that measure performance solely based on units sold can quickly de-motivate sales teams and create negative attitudes at every level.

Basing performance on an accurate traffic count allows management to create a level playing field and measure performance based on improvement in closing ratios.

For example, if Lisa sells 20 cars after working with 150 ups/opportunities in a month and Kyle sells eight cars after working with 40 ups/opportunities, who really did a better job?

Kyle, who closed 20% of his buyers (vs. Lisa's 13%), performed better even though he sold fewer cars. Using traffic counts to measure performance gives every salesperson the opportunity to improve and take advantage of incentives and contests that reward performance.

Unfortunately, most dealerships look at the units sold and would consider Lisa as the better salesperson. In reality, she loses money for the dealership, while Kyle is the one really making it.

When management uses units sold as their primary metric for bonuses and rewards, it can often lead sales people to focus on closing the sale now.

As a result, many customers feel pressured and uncomfortable with the salesperson and, by default, the dealership.

They leave and buyers become shoppers and the dealer loses opportunities to convert buyers to long-term clients who will return time and again. The question becomes: Is the dealership looking to do business or simply to do business now?

When sales people understand that their job is to help buyers find the right car, “now” becomes irrelevant and sales personnel become selection specialists.

Whether a buyer completes a deal today or next week doesn't really matter. What matters is that they buy and buy from your dealership.

Given that, if buyers want to consider their purchase, it is imperative that the salesperson first gain enough information from them in order to maintain contact, especially in the first 72 hours after the visit.

Minimally, the salesperson should collect and record standard and detailed data; present the best possible deal on the car the buyer wants before they leave the store; develop and execute a follow-up plan designed to bring the buyer back to close the deal; and extend sales opportunities and relationship building with existing customers.

Not only does this approach enable the salesperson to get the deal, it positions him or her to generate additional revenue and referral sales.

A few simple changes like these, especially in attitude, will bring performance rewards and significant improve to a dealership's bottom line.

Show the right attitude and the ability to ask questions and truly listen to customers' answers. When sales people focus on selecting a vehicle and building long-term clientele, buyers will never leave your dealership as shoppers, but as buyers.

Think of it this way: A salesperson's job is not to sell a car, but to help a customer buy one.

Richard F. Libin is president of Automotive Profit Builders Inc. that works with dealerships on customer satisfaction and maximizing sales and gross profits. He is at [email protected] or 508-626-9200.

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