It's Not Now or Never

A serious misconception in the automotive sales world is that business must be transacted immediately NOW. As a result, sales professionals many of whom really know better repel customers by peppering them with buy-now questions. We've all heard those at dealerships throughout the nation: Would you buy NOW if the price/payment is right? Would you buy NOW if I had a car for you to drive off the lot?

A serious misconception in the automotive sales world is that business must be transacted immediately — NOW.

As a result, sales professionals — many of whom really know better — repel customers by peppering them with buy-now questions.

We've all heard those at dealerships throughout the nation:

  • Would you buy NOW if the price/payment is right?
  • Would you buy NOW if I had a car for you to drive off the lot?
  • Would you buy the car NOW if I added an alarm at no cost?
  • What would it take to buy the car NOW?

No matter how hard the push is to buy NOW, the result is the same: if it is not the right car for that particular customer, nothing will make him or her buy NOW, not even price.

Customers may tell you they will do business NOW, but this leads to long drawn-out negotiations that usually end with them leaving to “think it over” or “get a friend's opinion” or “price shop with other dealers.”

NOW never happens if the salesperson is pushing the wrong vehicle or if the customer is not really ready.

In the automotive-sales world, there are three kinds of NOW:

  • The customer NOW. This is when the customer is ready to buy and take delivery; it is the only true NOW.
  • The salesperson NOW. If a salesperson tries to get a price on a vehicle from the manager, the manager asks, “Is the customer doing business NOW?” Salespersons who say no, will not get a price. Those who say yes — the definition of the Sales NOW — will get the information.
  • The manager NOW: In this world, there is no NOW unless the customer is ready to do business — and that means NOW.

In reality, the only NOW that counts is the customer's.

Truly successful sales are made up of three elements: helping the customer select the right vehicle, the right dealership/salesperson and the right price.

In this combination, the frantic NOW has no place.

A customer is interested in an appropriate vehicle, the right color and features and an affordable price.

NOW, that forced sense of immediacy, has nothing to do with the sale. It has no place in the sales process. It is an impediment more than an aid.

The question becomes: Is the dealership looking to do business or simply looking to do business NOW?

When customers walk in, the dealership goal should be to develop, gain and then retain their business.

Whether they buy today (NOW), next week or next month doesn't matter. What matters is that they buy and buy from you. And buy again and again. Train teams — from managers to frontline sales personnel — to think about business that way, to develop long-term clientele, not just to close single sales.

While it is important to offer the best solution from inventory with a financial package that meets a customer's needs, it is equally important to extend the relationship beyond the showroom floor if a buying decision is delayed.

To do this, salespersons must gather critical lead information, establish a trusting relationship and cultivate customers who want to come back — and perhaps even refer their family and friends to a dealership that has their best interests in mind.

In a future column, I'll share ways that dealerships can foster that type of lasting customer relationship.

Richard F. Libin is president of Automotive Profit Builders, Inc., which works with dealerships on customer satisfaction and maximizing gross profits through personnel development and technology. He is at [email protected] and 508-626-9200.

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