One thing we know about gravity is it’s dependable. When you spill coffee on your desk, droplets don’t start floating listlessly through the air. When you trip on the showroom floor, you don’t go sailing off into the stratosphere like a balloon. 

As a fundamental law of nature, gravity does what it does all day, every day. No exceptions. That’s a good thing. What would happen if gravity took a day off? Suffice it to say, there would be chaos and mass confusion.

There are three laws of customer interactions that, if followed, consistently create high levels of customer satisfaction and profits. If those laws were to take a day off, the effect would be a focus on selling customers rather than helping them make good decisions. Just like gravity, following these laws of customer interactions is paramount for success.

"Most customers come to us with a resistant attitude toward the intangible products we offer. Our challenge is to provide a fact-filled, interactive process that will change our customers’ minds and help them see their need for the coverage we are discussing."

Law No. 1: Every Customer Must Learn Something
If your next customer doesn’t learn something he did not know before his interaction with you, he will do what he has always done. If he has always bought a service contract before, he will buy one from you. Conversely, if he feels that coverage has no value to him, he will not buy from you — unless he learns something he did not know.

Most customers come to us with a resistant attitude toward the intangible products we offer. Our challenge is to provide a fact-filled, interactive process that will change our customers’ minds and help them see their need for the coverage we are discussing. What are some things they might learn from you?

If your gas gauge fails, we don’t replace it. We replace the entire instrument cluster. Vehicles today are comprised of component parts or groupings, and when any one part fails, you must replace the entire set. This makes a minor repair a major expense. In one recent example, the forward range radar module, which controls the adaptive cruise control and can fit in the palm of your hand — cost a customer $889.84.

The paint on a vehicle today is a waterborne, thermoset enamel. The application process utilizes computer-controlled robots which allow for a more even application utilizing less paint. This makes the paint on vehicles today more susceptible to damage from the elements.

Providing customers with information that helps them understand how vehicles have changed moves them to consider buying products they may have declined on previous vehicles. When the selling environment turns into a learning one, you distinguish yourself from others they have encountered when purchasing a vehicle. Remember, if you’re not different, you’re just like everyone else.

Law No. 2: Every Customer Must Feel Something
Emotions drive most, if not all, of our buying decisions. When we help customers understand what it would feel like to need a product and not have it, we create an emotional connection. Remember, we aren’t selling products in F&I; we are selling a feeling and need fulfillment.

One of the most effective ways to help the customer experience the emotional link to a product is to paint a picture with words and then put him or her in that picture. In other words, we must enable customers to see themselves needing and using the product.

F&I manager: John, you told me earlier that you’ll be making numerous trips for business in this car, correct?
Customer: Yeah.
F&I manager: So, if you’re on your way home late at night and a red light on the dash comes on, your car loses power, and you’re stuck on the side of the road, that is not good, right?
Customer: Of course not.
F&I manager: The last place you want to be late at night is on the side of the interstate. With one toll-free phone call, someone is dispatched to stay with you, a wrecker is sent to tow you to the nearest dealer, and substitute transportation is provided while your car is being repaired. And you would have no out-of-pocket expense since you have a zero deductible. That’s a great feeling to know you’re covered no matter where you go or what may happen. That unexpected interruption doesn’t turn into an unexpected expense, right?
Customer: Absolutely.

An effort to enable the customer to feel the possible impact of an issue with his or her vehicle should focus on how the product being offered would turn a negative situation into a positive experience. The products we offer are solutions to problems. If we can enable the customer to feel the pain, as well as the cost in time or money of the problem, the solution becomes more desirable.

Law No. 3: Every Customer Must Be Motivated to Act
Most customers still need a gentle nudge to make the decision to buy a product, even though they have learned new information and become emotionally tied to a product. This is a major purchase. They don’t want to make a mistake.

"Now, when using math to illustrate your point, get your customers involved by handing them the calculator and having them do the math for you. That makes the numbers their numbers, not yours. It’s also a good idea to hand them the failed car part when explaining the cost associated with replacing it."

There are two efforts that enable customers to feel assured they are making a good decision to buy a product. First, we need to discuss the cost of a repair. I recommend making the effort interactive, so put an actual repair order in their hands to validate what you are saying.

Now, when using math to illustrate your point, get your customers involved by handing them the calculator and having them do the math for you. That makes the numbers their numbers, not yours. It’s also a good idea to hand them the failed car part when explaining the cost associated with replacing it. When you place something other than a pen in their hands, it gets their attention and can motivate them to act.

The second effort is asking a question that will get a “Yes.” This gives customers positive reinforcement to buy the product. For example, to motivate them to act on GAP protection, ask, “In the unfortunate event your car was totaled in an accident, wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t even have to pay the deductible?” To motivate them to act on a vehicle service contract, you might say the following while they are still holding the repair order you handed them: “If that was a repair order on your car, you would rather pay zero versus $1,683, am I right?”

If the law of gravity took a day off, it would cause chaos. If you allow the three laws of every customer interaction to take a day, week or month off, your world will not fall apart. However, your profits will, and your customers will have made decisions based on less than the best information available. Sounds like chaos to me.

Rick McCormick is the national account development manager for Reahard & Associates Inc., an F&I training company providing classes, workshops, in-dealership and online training. Email him at [email protected].

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