The following is adapted from Frictionless.
Every person who walks onto the lot is different, and that’s exactly why car salespeople have to treat them all the same. We can’t prequalify who can handle shortcuts in the sales process and who needs special handling—you simply can’t tell by looking at someone.
The only assumptions you can reliably make about a customer at first glance are that they have some intention to buy a car and they have a similar pathway toward trust. It’s your job as the salesperson to guide them through that process.
Let’s explore what that path to trust looks like from the point of view of a car-dealership customer so you can use the process to gain the confidence of any customer and move them toward a sale.
Getting to Know Your Customer
As I mentioned, you can’t know by looking at a new customer what they need or want from the sales process. You can’t tell whether they’ve done a lot of research for their pain point (they need a new car) or are there spontaneously for a pleasure point (they want a new car). Even if we could, it wouldn’t get us out of any of our selling responsibilities.
The first selling responsibility you need to fulfill is to learn about your customer. Most buyers today show up armed with information about the product already, so instead of rattling off specs about a car, you need to prioritize learning about them. What is their buying style?
The purchasing process happens differently for everyone, but the steps you take to figure it out can be the same for each customer. For example, some people are completely emotional in their research, like my wife. She’ll talk to friends who drive the vehicle that interests her to see if they like it. She’ll make her choice based on what looks good to her, and that’s all it takes.
Other people do their research from a completely logical standpoint. They think about their commute and decide an electric or hybrid version might be a good fit, so they learn all there is to know about hybrid cars.
Remember, buyers know more than we do these days. They don’t need us to overwhelm them with more information than they already have—they need us to validate their emotional instincts and help them seal the deal.
Sometimes, the best way to understand your customer is to remember the last time you were a customer yourself. Did you enjoy anything about the process? Were you surprised at all, or did they deliver exactly what you expected? Did you wind up becoming a buyer? The next time you’re on the lot with an up, put yourself in their shoes. How would you want to be treated?
Ask your customers questions about where they’re coming from, what research they’ve already done, and what they want from a deal to get to know their emotional and logical position, which will help direct your next steps.
Every Customer Is Nervous About Spending Money
The customer’s burden is that they come to the dealership with every intention to spend the money, but they’re nervous about spending the money. It’s like having buyer’s remorse in advance.
If you figure out your customer’s emotional stance in the first step, you can gauge when to ask questions and when to back off. For example, when my wife shopped for a car, the salesperson showed her too many choices, which shut down all the excitement and curiosity she had while amplifying her stress and anxiety.
Buyers are there because they want to buy, but it’s your job to validate their excitement and show them how perfect that vehicle is for them. Use what you’ve learned about them to convince them that they made the right choice to show up to your lot that day. Show them you care about their concerns and are willing to work with them to find a deal that serves you both.
Customers Are More Alike Than Different
At the end of the day, it’s key to remember that while all customers are different, their similarities are, perhaps, more important.
Every buyer is going to be compelled by something different. Every buyer will have their own level of research and inspiration. Every buyer will have their doubts about whether they’re making the right decision, and a whole lot of concerns about how difficult the process is going to be. But they’re also all nervous about spending their money, they are there with the intention of buying a car, and they all want to trust their salesperson.
By treating all your customers with the same high level of interest, care, and consideration, you’ll earn the trust they crave and ease their fears so you can work together to reach a win/win deal.
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.