In a November column, I cited three often-asked, well-intentioned questions that create difficulties for sales people. Many dealers and managers subsequently asked what other questions their staffers should avoid.
Most sales people understand you should not ask, “May I help you?” because it is most often answered, “No, I'm just looking.” Instead, most sales staffers are taught to say, “How may I help you?” to create an open-ended question that invites a more detailed response.
However, because retail sales people in every other industry also ask, “How may I help you?” customers are conditioned to hear it and normally give a knee-jerk, “I'm just looking” anyway.
Three things happen when customers says this. First it gives them an easy excuse to exit from your dealership. Second, it creates negativity in the salesperson's mind. And third, it creates one more objection to overcome.
Instead of “How may I help you?” you say, “What exactly brings you into our dealership today?” Because the question is different you get fewer knee-jerk responses.
Another question to avoid is any variation of “If I can make the price right, will you buy today?” Do you really want to sound like everyone else or do you want to be professionally different?
Customers consistently say that price question makes them uncomfortable and adds to the tension. Asking a question that focuses on price and an immediate decision is unnecessary.
If you do your job correctly and enthusiastically customers will buy and buy today. We don't have to prod them to prematurely commit to buying because that will scare off more of them than we can afford.
Just concentrate on determining if the vehicle is right, create excitement and build as much value as you can. Everything else will fall into place.
So how do we do that? Here are a couple of alternatives that you can use as trial closing questions. The first is: “Under the right circumstances, is this a car that you would like to own?”
Here is another: “If we can work out all of the details, can you see yourself driving this car for the next several years?”
Either of these trial-closing questions will determine if you are on the right track without putting too much emphasis on money as the only important factor in the buying decision.
The next question to avoid is, “How much would you take for your trade?”
This invites unrealistic figures and creates a large negotiating gap from the start.
It involves the customer's ego and makes it less likely they will back off an inflated figure. They may even see it as a trick question and give you a higher figure than normal.
The alternative is to use your numbers, not theirs. It is an easy way to pick up $100 to $400 of additional gross profit with most sales.
If you hear an objection to your figures, you can build credibility by saying, “Gosh, that's a little surprising to hear because we never miss an appraisal by much. If we are going to give management an offer, let's at least make it one they might consider. What realistic figure did you have in mind? More like $______?”
When you reinforce the credibility of your original offer and non-confrontationally interact with the customer for the very best initial counter offer you can get, your desk manager will love you and your customer will end up happier. It will take less time to close a deal and your paycheck will be bigger.
Sure beats saying, “How much would you take for your trade?” and have the customer take control and never feel that anything you do is good enough.
David Martin is president of the Mar-Kee Group. He can be reached at [email protected]