Assuming The Sale – My Favorite Close

July 1, 2011
It is easy to make our lives difficult. When we get a customer, we take them through the sales process like every other customer, whatever steps that might include. We have years of experience doing this, so we know what kind of pitfalls we could run into in almost every situation. The pitfall we run into most is the one that brings up all those pitfalls we are trying to avoid.
Here are a couple of examples of what I mean.
Pitfall 1: “Phone call 5-liner”
We take an incoming sales call. The customer tells us they saw a car online that they are interested in and wants to know if you still have it. We tell them that we have that one plus a few more just like it. So far, so good. Then some salepeople ask them if it is OK if we get them pre-approved on it using a little basic info and we go for a “5-liner” over the phone. Credit was not an issue until it was brought up over the phone by the sales person. It is more difficult to get to the next step unless you simply take that next step.   Set the appointment. You’ll have plenty of time to find out if they qualify when they are at the store.
Pitfall 2: “Trade-in Value”
OK, so we have our customer in front of us. They have selected a vehicle that will work for them. We know, from our experience that the customer is not going to be happy with the offer we are going to give them on their trade-in. So, before going to the desk, we ask them what they want for their trade. They respond with “$150,000.” We just stepped into the pitfall. Does it really matter what the customer was hoping for? The value is the value. Get the appraisal, present the numbers and move forward with the process until the customer stops you.
I still remember as a rookie salesperson, presenting numbers on a new 1991 Isuzu Rodeo at full MSRP minus the trade (with $500 room from the used car manager) plus tax, title, license, etc. and waiting for the customer’s response to the price. I stared at the customer. He stared at me. Remembering that my manager told me “The first one to open their mouth loses.” I didn’t say a word. The minute that passed felt like 10 minutes before the customer finally said, “OK?” He was waiting for me to complete the order. I was waiting for him to negotiate. That is the day I learned to assume the sale and complete the order.
Each step to the sale can have pitfalls. It is important for us to address the objections our customers present to us. It is even more important that we NOT raise objections that don’t exist with our customers simply because we have seen them come up with other customers. Always assume things are ok and move forward with your process until the customer stops you. When they do, address their concerns and keep moving. Don’t talk yourself out of a deal.

I Need More Leads!

October 18, 2010

In my travels helping dealerships with their internet sales efforts, I hear this question a lot.

“How can I get more leads?”

 While it is helpful to get more leads to sell more cars, it usually means the budget has to increase in order for more leads to come in to your store.  And, yes, there are more leads to be had out there, but before we go signing up for another lead provider and spend more money, let’s take a look at what you have already.

One of the big things I am finding is the same explanations about why we are not closing more of the leads we are already receiving. 

“Well, I have to deal with these people who are not serious, under age, can’t buy a car, etc, etc.”

People who are not serious about buying a car are just not serious right now.  We still have to give them a fair shake.  They are only telling you they are not serious right now to relieve pressure on themselves.  We still need to put them through the process with the hopes that they will become serious for you.  Eventually, they will come around and you want to be the one they remember when that time comes.

What about the kids out there?  Well many of them have parents.  Many of these parents will help their kids get a car.  Think about it.  You rely on your car to get you to work.  You’ve been running your kids around in your car for 16 years.  Aren’t you tired of this?  I know I will probably help my kids get a car when they are old enough to drive.  Don’t disregard these people.  They might not be the buyer, but they will bring the buyer with them when they come in.

I love this one.  “These people can’t buy a car.  I am going to have to get a 5 liner and find out what we can do before I waste my time with them.”  OK, so you get the 5 liner and you find a “booker” on your lot and your F&I guy/gal tells you he/she can get it done.  Now you call the customer and tell them the great news.  Now they will feel like they can get a car anywhere and start going from lot to lot looking for their dream car.  You just wasted more time than if they were in front of you.  Get them in and treat them like a human being.  Isn’t that what you would want?  And if you don’t have enough leads right now, then what else are you doing right now?  I like people.  I would rather see them in person than never at all.

Not a lot has changed in the internet sales world.  People still send a lead to 5 different dealerships in hopes to eliminate 2 or 3 of them.  They don’t want to go to 5 dealerships and spend 2 to 3 hours at each one.  They want to narrow it down to 2 or 3.  Many of these nice folks have already been out to a couple of dealerships before they sent out the lead.  They were subjected to the traditional sales process and have had their trade insulted by the “devalue the trade” step.  They are looking for a hero.

Phone skills are your friend when it comes to the internet customer.  Yes we want to answer the questions their lead presents.  “Do you have this?” and “How much is it?”  We want answer these questions and include in our email response a similar vehicle with similar equipment that’s less expensive.  We also want to remind them of all the other vehicles that are similar to their request tha are on our lot right now.  We want to do this in a timely manner and then get on that phone and attempt a contact.

When we get them on the phone, we don’t want to talk price on the phone.  You already answered these questions in your email.  Our job now is to put the customer in the sales seat and put yourself in the customer seat.  Ask them about the car they driving now.  As you gather more information about it, start escalating your interest in their vehicle.  After all, you NEED that car on your lot.  When they start to see that you are their best chance at getting a good value for their trade, they will want to come in and see you.  Remember, they have already been beat down on their trade elsewhere.

Use these initial steps and you will get a higher number of your current leads to show up to the dealership.  You will start to see your closing ratio increase as you get better at this process.

As Kenny Blankenship from the TV show Maximum Extreme Elimination would say, “DON’T GET ELIMINATED!”

Then we’ll talk about how to get more leads.

Happy selling my friends.


What Makes A Good Dealer Consultant/Trainer Today?

March 26, 2010

I was on a webinar yesterday called “Battle of the Trainers.”  On it, was a dealership looking for a consultant/trainer to take them to the next level with their BDC/Internet efforts.  The premise was to have the dealer bulk interview trainers to see if they could find the right one for them.  It was a very interesting webinar.  I enjoyed listening to the other trainers talk about their philosophies on training and consulting. 

Around 100 other dealers were on the call to listen in.   I could count 5 or 6 consultants that actually spoke.  All were excellent and would move the needle at any dealership if hired.  I heard Joe Webb, Ralph Paglia, Philip Zelinger, and a couple others whose names escape me right now.  (sorry to you)

A question was asked, “As a trainer/consultant, what sets you apart from the others?”

I would like to answer that question here.

As a new car salesman in 1988, I was lucky enough to work for a sales manager who really cared about our success.  His name is Ken Cooper from the Round Lake area in Illinois.  He took the time to put us though a good training course on selling cars.  I had a lot of respect for him and worked hard for him.

A few years later in 1993, at a different store , I was put through another training course.  I remember asking, “Why?”  I had already been selling for 5 years.  What could they teach me?  This was a trainer hired by the dealer group named John Quade.  I went with a negative attitude but listened anyway.  His energy and positive selling process quickly turned me around. 

These are the two people I remember who had the most impact on my career.  These are the two people who made it possible for me to see how to make a good living in the car business.  They didn’t just train, they showed that they cared about my success.  I remember them for that and still have respect for them.  I wonder what they are up to and wish them well.

What sets me apart from other trainers/consultants?  I feel that to get the best results, you need to help your staff succeed.  Not simply train them.

I want to have a blog like this written about me some day.


Mad Lib Contact Form

March 16, 2010

There has been some talk about structuring your contact forms in a mad-lib style as opposed tot he typical form that simply has……

Name: *text box*
Phone: *text box*
etc, etc

This is intriguing.  I have two dealers that are going to try this out.  We are going to check their conversion rate before and then after using it for a couple of months.

Here is an example that was posted in a blog a while ago by LukeW Ideation + Design. 

Vast contact dealer form

It seems to me that it would be more confortable for the customer to fill out this kiond of form versus the old fashioned kind. 

I will keep you posted on the results.


Get ‘Em In Today

March 9, 2010

First it was Johnnie Liddi.  Then it was Grant Cardone.  While Grant’s message was delivered MUCH better and gave the viewing audience a way out of “sucking” by giving them a clue as to how to fix their problems, the message was still the same.  We need to do what we need to do.

Now, I am not suggesting that we go into our sales meetings and tell everyone how horrible they are (Johnnie Liddi), but there is one area of concern that has been eating at me for a while.  And since we are all “telling it like it is” these days, let’s explore what’s been on my mind, if you’ll indulge me.

Somewhere along the line, it became acceptable to pre-qualify our customers.  These days I am constantly hearing salespeople try to get a “5 liner” credit app before they help the customer select the right car.  I even hear them trying to get it over the phone.  What happened to selling the car and not the financing?  Doesn’t the finance department have a better time selling their products to a customer that is excited about their purchase and not trying to hold on to a payment?  As a former F&I Director, I know I was able to help the customer better when my salespeople sold the car and not a payment. 

When is the right time to get a customer to fill out a credit application?  Over the phone?  Before a test drive? In my humble opinion, NO!

We must remember the steps to the sale. 

1. Meet and Greet
2. Interview
3. Vehicle Selection (lot walk)
4. Selective Walk-around (based on interview)
5. Test Drive (We always go with the customer, all right turns)
6. Trial Close
7. Trade Evaluation (when applicable) and negotiation
8. Close
9. F&I
10. Delivery

This is how I remember selling 18-21 cars per month consistently.  Your process might be slightly different, but the same.  (And please don’t chastise me for not having step 11. Follow Up.  I haven’t forgotten about that, but that’s a whole other post)

“But, I don’t want to spend all day with a customer just to find out they have bad credit and can’t get a loan.”

A proper interview (step 2) with open-ended questions will reveal everything you need to know about the customer’s ability to buy.  This is also the time you start building your relationship with the customer.

If we get their credit up front without having them landed on a car, we do many things to kill the sale.

First, we start to decide for the customer what car they can have.  The customer has to make that decision, not the sales person.  A proper interview of the customer (step 2 again) will lead them to making the right decision.  We must help them based on that, not their credit report.

Second, we pit ourselves against the customer.  They don’t want to give us credit info until they see a car they like that will fit their needs.  Asking for credit info before the right time makes you look like you don’t care about them.

Third, we empower the marginal credit customer into thinking they can go anywhere to buy a car.  Now that you have seen their credit, you will be inclined to tell them you can help them.  If you don’t sell them a car, someone else will, whether they “get ’em done” or not.  You just gave them license to shop.

Let’s not lose the customer in hand, because we are worried about missing the next one.  Be a salesperson.  It is not up to you to decide what they can buy.  It is up to you to help them select the right vehicle.

I have thrown a few car clichés in this post like “5 liner” or “get ’em done.”  Here is one more I am sure you have heard over the years.  “No shortcuts.”  Get ’em in, sit ’em down, use the process and sell more cars.

If I have offended any of you with this post, there may be a good reason.  You might be that guy.


Displaying Your Cars Today

January 4, 2010

Well.  Here we are in 2010 already.  Happy New Year to all of you.  I can feel the positive energy now that the debacle year of 2009 is over.  Time to start fresh and show everyone what we are made of.

Today I am going to give away some of my secrets about how to display your vehicles online.  OK, maybe they’re not secrets, but I really want my dealers to shine when they list their cars on the internet.  This is some of my thought process.

When you were a child and your mom told you to pick out a book at the library, what kind of book caught your eye?  Did it have a lot of big colorful pictures?  If you answered “no” to that, then you have been a geek much longer then you think, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I was definitely more interested in the pictures than the words.  I didn’t really start getting into reading for fun until I was 43.  (by the way, I am 42)

We are no different now than we were then, when it comes to shopping.  Pictures are paramount to catching our attention.  I think you see where I am going with this.

Lets take a few minutes and shop our own website.  Better yet, let’s shop Auto Trader or Cars.com or…….[enter your preferred website here]

Customers see the pictures FIRST.  They may have some idea of what they are looking for and search for specific vehicles, or they may not have any idea and search for certain types of vehicles.  What will make you stand out in the crowd?  Your pictures.

Here are a few pointers for your vehicle photos.

When it comes to your website, consistency is important.  All your first pics or “main photos” should be the same.  A front quarter shot is what I recommend.  Some people like to start on the passenger side because the car points to the right, which is where the vehicle info is most of the time.  I like to start on the driver’s side because that is the first thing the driver sees when he/she walks up to his/her car.  Either way, you want the car look inviting.  Pull it out of its parking space and point it directly at the sun.  This way, this car is the focus of this picture.  It is OK to have other cars in the background.  You would be surprised how many people see another car in the background and go searching for it specifically.  Also, by pointing the car at the sun, you get even lighting down both sides of the car and prevent yourself from casting your shadow on it.  You can turn the wheel one rotation away from you for a little extra pizzazz.  Make sure your camera is at about the same distance from the ground as the side view mirror.  For proportion, if you have room, step back a bit and zoom in on the car.  This prevents that “fish eye” effect.  Make sure the car is centered in the frame from top to bottom and side to side.  Keep the camera level with the ground.  Don’t tilt it.  That effect is great for magazines photo shoots, but customer’s don’t like to have to tilt their heads to look at their computer screens.

 Not like this

 Like this!

From there you can be creative or do the same shots for every car with the exception of those couple shots reserved for “unique to that vehicle” equipment.  Keep in mind, being creative will cost you more time and can get sloppy if you are not disciplined with your camera.  The pressure of someone calling you away will have a definite impact on the quality of work you put out.  My advice?  Do the same pics for every car.  You will get into a rhythm after a few cars and the work will go much faster.

Here are  links to a couple of cars we have done for a dealer that I think are pretty good.  Are they perfect?  Probably not.  But are they better than their competitors?  I think so.
Lexus Coupe
Lexus Sedan

Feel free to “copy” the way we do pictures  for our dealers.  That goes for lot service companies as well as the dealership doing it themselves.  We can ALL benefit from doing it right.

If you would like more help to get this part of your process right, let me know.  I can help you.

Happy New Year!


Communication Today

December 3, 2009

We try to control the conversation with our customers.  We do things like answer questions with questions.  The kinds of questions we ask are designed to lead the customer down the process to a vehicle that is in stock.  (we hope)  After all, it doesn’t matter what the customer asks if we don’t have a car to meet their needs, right?

However, the way we communicate with our customers can create division between us and them.  If we are too blatant about trying to gain control of the customer, it comes across and trust is diminished.  The customer already mistrusts the salesperson.  The only way to get our customers to follow our process is to gain their trust, not lose more of it.  We must actually have our customers’ desires and interests at heart.  Ask yourself, do you wait for the customer to stop talking so you can talk, or do you really want to help them?

I was trained in proper communication for a consulting position when I was hired by HAC Group.  It changed my life, not just my professional life.  By learning proper communication, I am able to handle almost any situation by not just asking questions, but exploring what the other person is saying to be sure I fully understand what they are really saying.  Too often, we jump to conclusions about what someone means when they talk to us.  Many times, because the other person is having difficulty explaining themselves.  We answer back with something that has nothing to do with what they are thinking.  How many arguments have you had with someone only to find out later that you were both trying to say the same thing?  We have to acknowledge what they have said to us and then ask clarifying questions to be sure we understand what they are saying to us.    We have to discover their true needs.  Once we fully understand and clarify, only then should we respond with a solution to their request.

Effective communication is the KEY to a successful sales process.

Listen to your salespeople as they deal with your customers.  Are they communicating effectively?