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Save the Sale Before It Starts

Are your salespeople sabotaging themselves before the sale starts? Dealership expert offers four ways to set them up for a win before the opening gun goes off.

April 2018, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by Jason Forrest

Imagine for a moment you’re out with friends and someone catches your eye. You approach them and make the following introduction: “Hi there. I drink too much, smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, and eat more than I should. I don’t work out, and I never remember birthdays or anniversaries. I won’t be friends with your friends, but I expect you to be friends with mine. Oh, and one more thing: You’ll have to cook every meal.”

Some pitch, right?

This is an extreme example of early self-sabotage, but you’d be surprised by how often this happens on the showroom floor. It starts with a salesperson tossing out cold financial numbers before warming up the potential buyer with life-giving intangibles. It’s far too easy to scare away a sale by beating ourselves before we even begin, and we do this by overstressing a prospect by uttering things like credit scores and minimum down payments right off the bat.

Bottom line: A little sugar upfront will make the medicine go down much easier once you get to the financials. This can take a number of forms over the course of the sale. Let’s take a look at four ways to maximize your introduction and set yourself up for a win before the opening gun even goes off.

1. Pregame is everything: In 1977, just after the release of the blockbuster hit “Annie Hall,” American film director Woody Allen was asked how he came up with his breakthrough movie. The typically self-deprecating Allen didn’t think twice and said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

There are dozens of contestants every year on reality shows like “The Voice.” Their pristine voices are barely distinguishable in quality. In fact, it’s not the voice that wins out week to week, so to speak, it’s how well the contestants’ voices fit the songs they pick.

I’m often shocked by how many sales professionals don’t show up both physically and mentally for a sale. They simply expect everything to fall into place. So they don’t wipe fingerprints off car windows, vacuum after test-drives, or plan follow-up calls once the prospect leaves. The more you think about and begin executing a combat strategy before the day begins, the more likely you’ll take decisive action once the lights turn on.

2. The customer’s vision is just the starting point: Every customer goes into a sale with a vision, and it’s often incredibly detailed. The internet is to blame for that, as it allows today’s buyers to research every inch of the car — from the exterior down to the material of the floor mats.

There’s nothing wrong with customers having these visions, so long as you keep in mind that they’re just the starting point. I know of a dealership that recently lost a sale before it began because they rigidly clung to their customer’s original vision and refused to encourage him to think outside his original box. There are no unicorns nor any perfect products, and our stewardship of our prospect’s vision needs to reflect that.

3. Deliver the Disneyland experience: A Disneyland tour guide and a lot salesperson have more in common than you might imagine. The entire point of a Disney tour guide is to meticulously give you the best possible angle of the park and its amenities. That means planning both a literal path through the park and giving you the ultimate experience on rides, in shops, and with the various attractions. What if you approached your own lot the same way?

The path can be everything from strolling past the newly polished vehicles as opposed to the recent trade-ins to unveiling amenities at choreographed times to maximize their impact — just like that Disney tour guide.

4. Pick the right song: There are dozens of contestants every year on reality shows like “The Voice.” Their pristine voices are barely distinguishable in quality. In fact, it’s not the voice that wins out week to week, so to speak, it’s how well the contestants’ voices fit the songs they pick. This same issue can derail a sales professional or set him or her up for success from the jump.

How many times have you seen a showroom salesperson attempting to diagnose the customer’s needs upfront without understanding what they truly are? You can’t adequately provide solutions by making suggestions before you’ve truly listened.

In other words, if you allow yourself to pick the right song, you’ll avoid a nasty fall at the opening whistle.

The article is based on an adapted excerpt from “40-Day Sales Dare for Auto Sales” by Jason Forrest, CEO and chief culture officer at Forrest Performance Group and an expert at creating high-performance, high-profit, “Best Place to Work” cultures. Email him at

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