Working in the car business is a unique experience. Outsiders just don’t understand the daily pressures we face, right? The reality is, for all the things that make our business special, selling a car is no different than selling copy machines or a bottle of Snapple. You’re just meeting with customers and helping them buy something they want, right? OK, not even I believe that. Not all of it, anyway.
See, the underlying goal might be the same, but there are several other duties that add to the complexity of selling cars. We must manage the customer while making sure they’re satisfied enough with the experience that they’ll return for their next vehicle. There also are closing techniques to perfect and paperwork to complete. How good you are at completing those tasks often will separate you from the rest.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some other key areas that divide the best from the rest. I call them the “7 Self-Sabotaging Behaviors to Avoid.” If you’ve successfully avoided them, you’re probably one of the superstars at your dealership. Here are the first five:
1. Failing to Adequately Prepare: I too came from the showroom, and I know there is time in the typical sales floor schedule to adequately prep yourself to serve your customers. Just remember that preparedness comes in many shapes and sizes, from product knowledge and knowing the ideal buyer for each model to memorizing the latest incentives, rebates and vehicle accolades.
Unfortunately, most salespeople feel like they can learn as they go. These are people who hate taking tests, being called on to answer questions or participating in role-playing exercises. The excuse I often hear from these individuals is, “I don’t do well with role playing. I need a live customer to show my stuff.” Listen, your skill needs to be instant and ready for an audience of one or one thousand. As the old saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.”
2. Being Phony: I know many of you have heard that salespeople are a lot like actors, but, frankly, I can’t imagine how someone could like, respect and trust you without some level of authenticity. To make the deal happen, you have to be who you are, not just what you think the customer wants you to be.
3. Misidentifying the Stage in the Prospect’s Decision-Making Process: I see this all the time. A commitment from the customer has yet to be established and the salesperson is already discounting the car by $2,000 and throwing in free oil changes. Remember, most customer decisions boil down to two things: deciding whether to change (buying a new car), and then deciding with whom to make that change (which dealership to buy from).
The question you need to answer is: Do you offer something the customer wants? If you don’t, then you still have a lot of work to do. Price will never prevail in a scenario when the first stage has not been properly handled.
4. Forcing the Close: Naturally, closing the sale is the name of the game. But pushing too hard can ruin your chances of success. Sometimes, just moving on to the next step in the process can get the customer to make a decision. So, instead of hitting them between the eyes with an “Are you buying today?” why not just start doing some paperwork? You’d be amazed at how many times customers will start to close themselves.
5. Neglecting the Long-Term Client: The true sales professional is always looking to expand his or her client base, especially in the “What have you done for me lately” environment in which we work. Unfortunately, that approach tends to narrow our focus on what is in front of us, so we forget about the long-term benefits of sending letters for birthdays and vehicle anniversaries, or reaching out to a sold customer who just had his or her vehicle serviced at the dealership.
I received a text the other day from a salesperson who told me about a $4,000 gross he secured on a Saturday deal. How’d he do it? He started chatting with a customer in the service drive, and made a strong case for the customer trading in his 2008 model for a 2011. This is an everyday story, but is it an everyday story for you?
Tune in next month for the second part of my take on the “7 Self-Sabotaging Behaviors to Avoid.”
Cory Mosley is principal of Mosley Training LLC, a nationally recognized training provider focused on new-school techniques, products and services. E-mail him at [email protected].