When Price Is Secondary

Car salespeople get a bad rap, one that perpetuates itself year after year, regardless of technology, education or appearance. Why? It's all about ego. Car salespeople are fixated on closing deals. On selling cars, now! On being No.1 In doing so, most salespeople bring price into the conversation immediately How much are you looking to spend? Then customers are bombarded with salesman talk about the

Car salespeople get a bad rap, one that perpetuates itself year after year, regardless of technology, education or appearance.

Why? It's all about ego. Car salespeople are fixated on closing deals. On selling cars, now! On being No.1

In doing so, most salespeople bring price into the conversation immediately — “How much are you looking to spend?”

Then customers are bombarded with salesman talk about the latest model, best fuel efficiency, child seats, sunroof, keyless entry, GPS system and your choice of colors.

While customers might have an immediate need for a new vehicle, many get put off by the pitch. Sales people should skip the price and the pitch and instead start with what is most important to the customer. Put the egos on the shelf.

What is my job? Before selling anything, sales people must clearly understand their job. It's not to sell cars, it's to help customers buy the right vehicle that fits their unique needs. Car sales people must view themselves as selection specialists. The selection process must come first. Only then will the customer be ready to talk about price and purchase. Price is secondary to selecting the right vehicle.

Think of how you purchase shoes. You look for shoes that fit your feet and needs, try them on, then look at the price, and finally, you buy. Rarely do people buy shoes without trying them on. It's the same with cars. The selection specialist helps each client find the right fit; a two-seater won't fit a family of six.

What do customers need? Don't assume you know. Listen and learn their needs, wants and desires. Building relationships require an investment of time and energy but can result in a loyal customer base that purchases repeatedly and that provides referrals to others.

Ask the right questions. “Hi. How are you doing today? Can I help you?” We already know the answer to that: “No. I'm just looking.” It's an automatic response and the same every time. What about this, “Welcome, I'm Joe Smith and my job today is to help you select a car and get you a price. Is that okay with you?” Nine times out of ten the answer is, “Yes.”

This allows Joe Smith to use his well-honed techniques to steer the conversation through browsing, into a demo drive, then price and ultimately a sale, whether today, tomorrow or even next week. When selection specialists ask the right questions they'll get the answers needed to help customer select the right car. The easiest way to attract more customers and increase sales is to stop talking (sales) and start asking intelligent questions (selection).

Close the sale, but not necessarily NOW! APB's studies show only 12% to 15% of sales close on the first visit. Clarity about whom a salesperson is serving and their needs prepares selection specialists to hear and accept “no” or “not yet.”

A selection specialist may not always have the exact fit for each customer and customers may not always be ready to buy immediately. By letting go of the need to close the sale now, selection specialists understand that customers are taking care of themselves.

When this happens, the selection specialist should consider how he or she can help find the right fit, even if it's not at the dealership. What else can be done so that when the customers are ready, they come back and buy from him or her?

The sales process should be a conversation in which the dealership representative is an advocate for those customers who want and can benefit from what they have to offer.

Only then can selection specialists help customers pick the exact model that fits their needs. By putting the customers' needs first, helping them select a car that is a perfect fit and giving them reasons to do business with the dealership, price becomes a secondary consideration.

Richard F. Libin is president of APB-Automotive Profit Builders Inc. He is at [email protected] and 508-626-9200.

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