The moment when my trainees finally “get it” and everything becomes clear always amazes and amuses me. I guess helping others achieve that epiphany is probably why I do it. I’ve seen it thousands of times — or maybe hundreds of thousands of times — because that’s how many salespeople and managers have attended my seminars through the years. But I don’t say that to brag; I say it because even though the business has evolved over time, the foundation of sales fundamentals remains the same.

See, I often have to remind salespeople that the reason they were hired is because someone suspected they had a personality. Look, customers won’t buy a car simply because they like you, but you can be sure they’ll never buy a car from someone they don’t like. Yes, establishing a relationship is still important in the sales process, regardless of what some folks are teaching.

We’ve all encountered customers with defensive and even downright surly attitudes. It wasn’t anything we did; they just entered the dealership that way. So, how do you deal with it? Well, simple: Just be nice, no matter what they say or do.

See, being able to work with customers isn’t so much about techniques and memorized scripts as it is about conversation and the human relationship. We’ve all seen those training courses that teach salespeople to recite canned sales presentations, especially in F&I. It sounds contrived and insincere, and customers who catch on can become offended and defensive.

I’ve studied thousands of sales professionals, and I can’t tell you how many of them sell based on the lecture format. And if you watch them in action, you’ll notice their customers don’t do a lot of talking. Heck, it doesn’t even look like they’re paying attention. See, there are two extremely important things you must achieve during the sale:

- Customer Participation: The customer must be physically involved in helping the salesperson during the presentation and demonstration of the car.

- Two-Way Conversation: The sales professional must work to get the customer to verbalize that they agree that they like it, need it or want it. They must also agree that they understand the value of it or the point the salesperson is making. Bottom line, you need a “Yes” answer before you can move on to another point.

The most effective sales professionals I’ve met have charisma and interpersonal social skills. In other words, people relate to them and trust them. They always manage to find something they have in common with their customers. They then use that to drive the conversation. Four topics of conversation you can safely address to establish common ground with customers include: family, occupation, recreation and motivation.

I believe that you are only selling deals and not cars if you’re the type of salesperson who is too mechanical and too rooted in logic. The reason that doesn’t work is because you’re appealing to a customer’s emotions when selling a car. You’re helping them visualize an emotion they’ll have once they own that vehicle, and that translates into more deals closed at a reasonable profit.

That’s why I advise my trainees to always explain a car’s features and benefits in the first person, and to always get the customer to visualize how those features work. That’s why I also start my explanation of a vehicle’s features by saying, “Picture this.”

Here’s an example: “John, picture this: It’s a stormy day here in South Florida, and you’re out with your family. Without warning, you find yourself in a panic stop. Your new Ford Explorer’s computerized stability and ABS braking system allows you to safely steer out of danger without fishtailing or spinning out of control, even on icy or wet streets.”

Now that’s a powerful visual. But if you’re not convinced, let me just say that the strategy has been repeatedly proven to work in real situations by the best-performing sales pros in the business.

You can also get the customer to visualize by asking a question: “Where are you going to take your first date in your new Corvette?” Or try, “This new Lexus is a very ‘executive’ vehicle. Which client are you going to take to lunch first?” If this sounds new and uncomfortable to you, that’s good. Once you adopt this conversational strategy, you’ll begin to understand why all of those robotic and memorized tracks and buzz words are simply ineffective. Let’s get humanized as opposed to memorized.


Jim Ziegler
Jim Ziegler

President and CEO of Ziegler SuperSystems

Jim Ziegler ranks among the industry's most recognized and honored trainers, consultants, authors, speakers, and forecasters.

View Bio

Jim Ziegler ranks among the industry's most recognized and honored trainers, consultants, authors, speakers, and forecasters.

View Bio