The following is adapted from Frictionless.
As car salespeople, we all dread hearing the words, “Sorry, I ended up buying from someone else.” That one sentence from a lost customer means your negotiations failed.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic dust to sprinkle over your negotiation table that will make your techniques work every time. But there are bad habits you might be doing that are hurting your success rate and costing you sales. You might not even be aware you’re making these mistakes.
Let’s take a look at five of the most common bad negotiation habits and what you should be doing instead to improve your car sales performance.
#1: Being Afraid to Negotiate
Many, many salespeople suffer from being afraid to negotiate. Maybe you don’t have the skills yet, or you don’t know how to overcome objections. Maybe you’re more afraid of losing the deal than you are inspired to make it. This is the first bad habit and it affects almost all of us at one time or another.
The truth is if you’re too scared to close or negotiate, you’re not going to be in the car sales business long. As a salesperson, your first role should be negotiator. If you aren’t negotiating, all you’re doing is presenting offers to customers—customers who will walk away feeling like they didn’t get a good deal because you wouldn’t play ball.
People want to negotiate because when there’s back and forth, they get to feel like they’ve worked for the price they get. If they get a great price without fighting for it a little, they might wonder if they left money on the table.
#2: Not Having a Commitment
If you never lowered the customer’s guard during the sales process, never created mental ownership, and didn’t get a commitment from the customer, negotiation becomes difficult or impossible. Working out the numbers without getting a commitment happens sometimes, but it should be the exception, not the rule.
Aim to get even the smallest commitment, like sitting down to talk or choosing between tea and coffee. Once you get the seed of commitment planted, you can build trust and grow the relationship from there.
When you do finally get a strong commitment from the customer and they’re demonstrating confidence and even trust, the clock is ticking. You need to respect their time, be prepared, and move them closer to sealing the deal.
#3: Taking Too Long
Time is our customers’ number one commodity. Showing up disorganized, unprepared, and taking forever will kill the experience and maybe even the deal.
Today, time is everyone’s most valuable commodity. One of the common complaints that customers offer in surveys is that it took too long to buy their car. There are plenty of reasons people dislike buying cars, but time turns up over and over again. No one wants to take all day to buy a car—and there’s no reason that they should.
By showing up prepared and ready to meet your customers’ needs and address their concerns, you should be able to fit the entire sales process into a little over an hour.
#4: Relying on the Worksheet
It’s nice to have a good worksheet that looks pretty, but a bunch of numbers on a paper or a tablet isn’t negotiating. It’s offer-presenting.
If customers just wanted a number-cruncher, they would buy a car online. They’re coming to the lot to deal with a human, so use your humanity to your advantage. Learn about your customer and encourage their emotional buy-in by showing them how a particular car is perfect for their life.
Sales happen when a customer feels your enthusiasm and emotionally buys into the process—it’s up to you to lead them to that point.
#5: Working the Manager Harder Than the Customer
You’re not the buyer’s agent—you don’t represent them to the manager. Remember: sympathy is hopping down into the hole with someone who’s stuck and trying to make them feel better while they’re down there; empathy is getting a ladder to help them out of the hole.
Sometimes, car salespeople become customer advocates—closer to being sales-prevention people than actually trying to make deals happen. They didn’t want to “close” them and didn’t want to pressure people, so they were bringing half-hearted commitments into the negotiation, hoping that the right number would make it work.
If you start advocating for the customer more than yourself, you’ll lose whether you close the sale or not. You want to reach an outcome where you both win, no less.
When the economy is thriving, it’s easy to pick up bad habits because people are more willing to buy in general. But when a recession hits, watch out! You won’t be able to afford to make the mistakes described above. Fix your bad habits now, and you’ll be prepared to close deals and succeed in the car sales world no matter what condition the market is in.
For more advice on succeeding in car sales, you can find Frictionless on Amazon.
Tim Kintz is the president of The Kintz Group, the automotive industry’s premier sales and management training company. Tim started The Kintz Group after re-entering the retail side of the business as a general manager and seeing the need for up-to-date training. A graduate of the NADA Dealer Academy, Tim has worked in just about every position in the dealership and can still be found on the showroom floor working deals alongside salespeople and managers. Tim has delivered hands-on coaching, workshops, and presentations in large cities and rural communities alike. His strategies are relevant and proven to work everywhere cars are sold.