I can’t tell you how many times in my 38-year career in the car business I’ve heard people talk about how everything is changing. Yet, so many things remain the same.

Take these customer responses: “Is that your best price?” “I need to think about it,” or “The other dealer offered me a better deal.” They can strike fear in a sales professional, making his or her knees shake and heart palpitate. But guess what? Customers have been saying those things for hundreds of years.

But do you want to know what’s really amazing? Well, no matter how long customers have uttered such responses, every new crop of salespeople and managers has fallen for them. See, instead treating them as a customer’s defense mechanism, they treat them like valid objections.

Look, nobody needs to think about it, especially not in today’s information-rich environment. Truthfully, your customer has probably been thinking about it for six weeks of escalating research and inquiry. By the time they finally call, contact or show up in person, there’s very little left for them to think about. So when a consumer says he or she needs to think about it, that’s actually an “escape excuse” indicating that something else is keeping them from pulling the trigger.

So why do they say they need to think about it? Well, I chalk it up to buyer’s anxiety. For instance, have you ever noticed that the closer shoppers get to a buying decision, the more they fight it and try to run from it? Truthfully, what so many salespeople miss is these customers simply need you to help them make the decision they really want to make. In other words, it’s OK to ask them to buy the car.

Keep in mind there may be a good reason your customer needs to think about it. Here are some possibilities:

1. Is it me? People don’t buy cars because they like you, but they’ll never buy a car if they dislike you. Sometimes you just don’t have the chemistry another salesperson or a manager might have with them.

2. Is it the car? We all know one of the main reasons deals are blown is because buyers are on the wrong car. Oftentimes, the dealership doesn’t have the right car in inventory, so they stuff the customer into whatever they have or need to sell.

3. Is it the dealership? Don’t rule out the possibility that your customer heard or read something about your store. Maybe they had a bad experience in the past.

4. Is it the money? This is not the main reason for “escape excuses,” although most salespeople and many managers mistakenly assume money is the issue.

5. Is it their credit? Do they have credit problems or could there be something else they haven’t revealed that you’ll soon discover? All too often, consumers try to hide the bad stuff even though they know it will come out sooner or later. That’s why it makes sense to discover this stuff early, because the last thing you want is for your customer to be embarrassed.

6. Is there another decision-maker in the background? Sometimes the person you’re dealing with won’t make a decision without another person’s approval. It could be a parent or a spouse who isn’t present. Remember, a married person can make most purchase decisions without his or her spouse, but very few can go it alone on major purchases like buying a car. Just be careful not to insult your customer. What I do is ask if there’s anyone else involved in the financing, or if anyone else’s name will be appearing on the title.

Remember, when a customer says they need to think about it — whether over the phone, via chat, through an email or in person — they are simply indicating the existence of another issue you have yet to discover. The good news is you have a customer who is ready buy; the bad news is your customer probably won’t be back and will buy somewhere else if he or she leaves.

That doesn’t mean I’m advocating high-pressure sales tactics; I’m simply advocating that you pay attention and apply persuasion and finesse with a touch of logic to help them understand that they are about to make a great decision. Hey, asking the right questions in a professional manner will help you avoid making the same “green pea” mistake salespeople have been making for decades.

Jim Ziegler is the president of Ziegler SuperSystems Inc. E-mail him at [email protected].

About the author
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.

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