Car dealers train their sales staff to stay in control of a customer’s buying process at all times. There is a well established sequence of events that begins when customers first step onto the sales lot, and ends when they drive away in their new car. Dealers know that if sales staff does not follow these “steps to the sale,” chances are the customer not only won't buy today, but probably will make their purchase elsewhere.
When I was Internet Manager for a major car dealer, I was considered one of the nice guys. In fact, management and my peers used to refer to me as “Mr. Softsell.” I earned the designation because I used a different approach than some of my co-workers. Instead of pounding on my customers to buy today, I focused on their actual needs, and supported them in making a rational decision that was in their best interest. It’s something I teach those selling their cars privately in my book, HELP! I Gotta Sell My Car NOW! New Rules for Selling Your Vehicle Online (available at Amazon.com).
Was my soft sell approach the reason I was one of the top sales staff at this major dealership? It certainly played a part. After all, think back to when you made a major purchase. Did the fact that you felt you could or could not trust your sales person play a part in your decision to buy? Having a rapport with the person you’re dealing with goes a long way towards being more relaxed and reassured in an inherently stressful situation.
However, there were two other reasons I made so many sales:
1) I had a “map” of the sales process in my head. I knew where I was at every step of the way. And I had enough experience to allow my customers as much flexibility as they needed and still stayed on track.
2) I always (without fail, every time, no exceptions, every customer, every day, every opportunity, and at multiple, key steps throughout the sales process) asked my customers if they wanted to buy now. I didn’t ask in an aggressive manner, “beat them up,” or ask in a way that wasn’t attuned to exactly where they were at. But I asked nonetheless.
Buying a car is one of the most stressful things you’ll do this year. It’s natural to want to go slow and double check every decision you make. After all, a mistake can cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars more than necessary.
The reason I always asked my customers if they wanted to buy is because there is a natural reluctance to making a final decision on such a big purchase. By asking them if they wanted to buy now, I was helping them discover if their reluctance was ungrounded fear, or if there was a rational reason for holding off. Exploring their answer with genuine concern helped clarify their actual situation and what was in their best interest. Sometimes this led to a sale, at other times not. But this overall soft sell approach resulted in my being one of the top salespeople at a very competitive dealership.
The Problem Is…
Problems arise when salespeople lose sight of what is in the best interest of their customer. More on that subject tomorrow.