Do you remember when recorded music involved browsing through vinyl at the record store, being careful not to scratch the LP when putting down the needle, or turning the radio dial to find a clear AM or FM station?
How about always carrying a dime for the pay phone or spending an evening answering letters or only seeing the latest movie at a theater? Did you ever spend hours researching in the library or looking through the family encyclopedia to find information?
Today, music, movies and even TV are delivered via the computer or mobile devices. Cell phones, email and social networks have become ubiquitous means of communication. The Internet is now the place for research and information.
Yet the basics remain the same: We still listen to music, watch movies, research and communicate with others.
The automotive business is no different. The ways we reach, interact and communicate with customers have changed. The art of selling has not. Ultimately, customers still go to the dealership to test-drive a vehicle and buy from a salesperson. Let's look at two things that affect that.
What's Your Attitude?
Everyone knows business today is down, but are your salespeople down, too? At APB, increasingly we see one of two things happening.
One, sales people and managers push so hard, customers are intimidated into non-action and can't make a decision. Two, customers aren't given the option of becoming a be-back; it is buy now or nothing.
In essence, the sales staff has abandoned the basics and adopted a negative attitude that's a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Most dealerships look solely at units sold to reward star performers. This is one of the fastest ways to de-motivate and create negative attitudes.
Worse, it confirms management's perception that sales people are to blame for poor results, and confirms sales people's beliefs that people have no money to spend and don't really want to buy.
Words that kill deals before they start — no, don't, won't, or can't — have crept into the team's vocabulary.
Today, the only two things customers can't do unless they go to the dealership are drive it and buy it, regardless of how much research is done online.
It's crucial for dealerships to make use of every opportunity and tool to reach prospects and get the information they need to spark interest. But the real goal is to bring traffic to the dealership.
What's Your Job?
A sales manager's job remains the same: to help sales people sell and customers buy. It's not simply to sell cars. There is nothing in a dealership more important than taking care of customers and closing the business that is standing in front of you.
A sales person's job is to be a selection specialist who helps customers choose the car that fits their needs. Here's how:
- Ask specific questions that are direct but aren't pushy. Draw out information that builds on the salesperson's ability to move the process forward.
- Learn what the customer's true preferences are and what they like and dislike about their current car.
- Listen to the responses.
- Find the right car, the one that meshes with the customer's preferences.
- Move to an introduction: hood, trunk, demo drive.
If you try to sell customers something they don't like or want, you end up with nothing. The key is proper selection.
When sales people remember that their job is to help buyers find the right car, “now” becomes irrelevant. Whether a buyer completes a deal today or next week doesn't matter; what matters is that they buy, and buy from your dealership.
Relying on the basic art of selling — the one constant in our business — will enable dealerships to capture market share from competitors who only focus on closing the deal now. Always remember: A salesperson's job is not to sell cars, but to help customers buy them.
Richard F. Libin is president of APB-Automotive Profit Builders Inc. He is at [email protected] and 508-626-9200.
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