Have you noticed a different type of customer in the business office? You know, the customers who don’t care what other people do, what the last person did, or what you think they should do? They are the ones who simply say, “No, thank you” after you present your F&I products.
If you have not had that type of customer yet, then you are one of the lucky ones. But you’ll see that customer sooner or later. And when you do, I have a one-word suggestion to better deal with them: “promposal.” That’s right, “prom”-posal.
Anyone who has children in high school or recently graduated themselves knows exactly what I am referring to. Over the last few years, asking someone to prom has become this huge phenomenon. It might be the newest Olympic sport. You can Google “promposal” to see how elaborate it has become.
This craze was first mentioned in the Dallas Morning News in 2001, and continues to grow in popularity and scale each year. In fact, MTV has even launched a series called — you guessed it — “Promposal.” It is no longer OK to simply ask the person you have been dating, “We’re going to prom, right?” Today, the asking must be highly personalized in order for them to say “Yes.”
So what does asking someone to prom have to do with selling F&I products? Well, nothing — unless you consider that these high school students are now your customers. Although the promposal is just a microcosm of society, it illustrates the need for people to feel special about making decisions, even though those decisions may seem very simple.
So ask yourself, is your menu presentation like a promposal? Is it personalized, or does it come across as a very generic presentation? Does it focus on the customer’s needs and not just on what you want to sell? If you answered “No” to any of these questions, then here are a few steps for making your presentation more personalized:
Step 1: Establish Common Ground and Build Credibility Early in the Process
People buy from people they like and have confidence in. The quickest way to put a customer at ease and establish those two things is to have common ground.
We often say “find” common ground. However, if you find common ground with the customer but do not share what you both have in common, then the conversation becomes one-sided and no credibility is established. If you never tell the customer what similar interests or experiences you have with each other, then you are defeating the point of this practice.
I prefer to say we “establish” common ground with the customer. This approach ensures both of you are aware of the common thread between you. It also establishes a connection that allows the customer to relax and know you have his or her best interest in mind.
Step 2: Put the Customer’s Needs First
Tailor your presentation and discuss products that are important to the customer and his or her ownership situation. We too often focus on the products we want to sell and not necessarily on the ones that particular customer should buy.
For example, you may only focus on a six-year, 100,000-mile vehicle service contract but then find that your sales begin to drop. If you look back at your lost sales from the previous month, I bet you will find that some of those customers would have been more receptive to, say, the five-year, 60,000-mile contract because of their ownership plan.
By failing to focus on our customers, we limit our sales opportunities and communicate that we do not treat them like individuals. To effectively put their needs first, your selling approach must include a needs-discovery process.
Step 3: Turn on the Discovery Channel
We tend to think of the discovery phase as the business manager discovering the customer’s needs. Just as often, it’s the customer discovering her own needs by discussing what’s most important to her. By referencing information you previously gathered from the customer, you are showing her that you listen. It also allows you to add that personal touch the customer really wants and appreciates.
Analyze the deal for information beyond the basics. What you’re looking for is next-level information. This will also require some deductive reasoning. For instance, business managers typically know the type of vehicle being purchased, but not necessarily the trim level. You need to know, among other things, what type of technology is included in the package, and the tire and rim size as well as composition.
Next, review the trade evaluation sheet (or screen) and photos to calculate the annual mileage, determine the trade-in unit’s condition, and find out whether there are two sets of keys. Also evaluate the credit bureau to establish a possible trade cycle. Finally, train the sales team on what information they can provide to you that will make a difference. For example:
- Who is the decisionmaker?
- What are their hot buttons?
- What are their favorite options on the vehicle they chose?
- Who is the vehicle for?
- How did they decide on that model?
- Why did they decide to purchase a new vehicle instead of used?
- How will they be using the vehicle?
Review the manufacturer’s limited warranty with the customer before presenting the menu. I recommend using a visual during this discussion. Whether it is a handwritten graph or a digital representation, using a visual will make it easier for the customer to follow along.
Customers will appreciate you taking the time to make sure they have a good understanding of what they will receive with their manufacturer’s limited warranty. This practice also helps illustrate how they would benefit from a service contract based on their typical ownership experience. It also adds even more of a personal touch to the process.
Utilize a feature/benefit presentation when discussing products, but also illustrate the impact points to the customer. Impact statements are the reason presentations come across as personalized. The magic happens when you are able to discuss the advantages of a product to a customer and how it specifically affects him or her based on the information you gathered during the discovery — features, benefits, and impacts.
Create a “promposal” for your customers by presenting a highly personalized presentation to them based on their own needs before asking for the sale. You do not have to go over the top for the customer (like a true promposal would be), but you should go out of your way to make them feel like you are putting their needs before the bottom line.
Dwayne Wiggins is a trainer at American Financial & Automotive Services’ F&I University. Contact him at [email protected].