I am sure many of you are familiar with the 1992 movie “Glengarry Glen Ross,” starring a young Alec Baldwin. For those who aren’t, the movie depicts the lives of four real estate salesmen who become desperate when they find out that, in one week, all except the top two salesmen will be fired.

Alec Baldwin’s character is sent to the real estate company to “motivate” the salesmen. In one of the more famous scenes, Alec calls a meeting and is immediately sidetracked by someone pouring a cup of coffee.

“Put that coffee down!” he yells. “Coffee is for closers!” Later in his torrent, Alec introduces his sales philosophy: the “ABCs of sales,” as in “Always Be Closing.”

This scene is a stereotypical example of a sales meeting that promotes closing the deal above all else. It also represents some people’s belief that this is how most dealerships operate, especially in the finance department. Are they right? Do the ABCs still have a place in the automotive industry today?

Subject to Interpretation
The answer is a definite “Maybe,” as it depends on your definition of the ABCs. Some finance managers interpret the ABCs as getting the deal closed by any means necessary, whether it’s doing whatever it takes (regardless of accuracy) to get the customer to say “OK,” or keeping the customer in the business office until they finally say “Yes.” By following these beliefs and executing them with a no-holds-barred attitude, we perpetuate the negative stereotype the public has about buying a vehicle.

However, the ABCs have good qualities and traits that are still relevant and needed. An example is always asking for the sale with confidence and a sense of urgency. You should never be afraid to ask for the business now, as you can be persistent with a customer without being aggressive.

See, the ABCs are really about being confident and skilled enough to get past the first “No, thank you” by consulting the customer through the process. Today’s customer wants a quick but valuable and informative buying experience.

However, there are roadblocks to be aware of when utilizing the ABCs. Remember that we are living in the Information Age. That means customers can fact-check information on their smartphones in the business office. Social media also offers real-time consumer reviews that instantly affect the dealership’s reputation. And let’s not forget that our industry is subject to unparalleled regulatory oversight.

The best way to overcome those roadblocks is to consult the customer with confidence and urgency. Considering all of the above, repurposing the ABCs to have more of a consultative approach just makes sense for today’s industry and customer. Here are three ways to successfully repurpose the ABCs in the business office:

1. Update Your Sales and Compliance Training: Any business manager who has not been to F&I school in a while should attend a class that is aligned with his or her dealership’s sales philosophy. Remember, continuing education keeps the skills sharp, allows for exposure to current techniques and new technologies, and refreshes traditional processes that speak to the modern customer.

And with regulatory oversight at an all-time high, it is imperative to have a firm understanding of how the regulations affect daily operations. Compliance certification shows customers that your team members are professionals with a comprehensive knowledge of all aspects of the dealership. Seeing these certificates in the business office reassures customers that they are doing business with a dealer who believes doing things the right way is important.

2. Know the Details of the Deal: Before discussing any optional coverages with customers, you need to know some facts about them and their situation. Of course, knowing what vehicle they are buying, who will drive it, how it will be primarily used, trim levels, driving habits, and length of ownership is great information to have. I would also encourage you to dig deeper to find out why they are buying the vehicle, as asking “Why” will open a new level of conversation that will lead to critical information.

3. Personalize Your Presentation: I think we can all agree that a seasoned business manager can look at a deal jacket and make some safe assumptions regarding the deal based on his or her previous experiences. That business manager may then discuss various options with the customer based on those assumptions. Just be cautious when taking a generic approach like this. Most customers do not necessarily care what “most people” do or what the “last customer” did. Customers only care about how the discussed options benefit them.

Perfecting the ABC approach can be an art. The business manager needs to master how to present products with urgency and confidence, but with a consultative approach vs. a hard sell. Considering this and all the change currently taking place in the industry, perhaps it is more appropriate that the ABC selling philosophy stands for “Always Be Consulting!”

Dwayne Wiggins is a trainer at American Financial & Automotive Services’ F&I University. Contact him at [email protected].