Don’t Lose Sight of 3 Things That Won’t Change

Absolute Results

What habits are your team developing during the micro-chip shortage?

How many times have we heard a sales manager tell the sales team, “Don’t take shortcuts, because they’ll cost us deals and gross profit”? Usually, this statement is followed by a lesson about the importance of proper meet-and-greet techniques, product presentations, test drives, or the procedures to “write up” a deal correctly.

Good sales managers realize that they, too, are susceptible to taking shortcuts. When tasks pile up, they might cancel training sessions or let daily one-on-ones and team huddles slide. Heck, when were there ever enough hours in the day?

For many sales managers, this is today’s reality, especially at this time when inventory is scarce and so much time is spent finding vehicles for customers. The urgent screams louder than the important, and it’s far too easy for management to lose focus on both the sales process and customer experience.

In today’s market, if we are selling every vehicle we can get and selling them at full price, taking a few shortcuts may not seem to make a difference, but shortcuts are like bad habits—one day they’ll catch up with us.

I recently challenged a group of dealers to use this season of lower volume and high profits to double-down on training their sales team, with a specific focus on three core things that I believe are here to stay.

#1 The Importance of Guest Experience

Dealers would benefit from taking some pages out of the classic hospitality playbook by borrowing some classic guest-experience best practices and applying them to showroom interactions between their sales team and the customer.

This might mean re-scripting the customer meet-and-greet with a new approach by the sales professional, including a dealership tour and an introduction to the sales manager before even selecting or presenting a product.

It might also mean creating signature moments for each customer, by doing things like providing a bottle of water for the test drive or having the sales manager send each customer a personal welcome video before their appointment.

Dealers with sales teams focused on selling by appointments also have the advance opportunity to coach their sales teams’ preparation for each customer visit. When each sales team member is proactively personalizing each customer’s appointment experience, the thoughts and actions of the sales team will create a positive guest-experience atmosphere.

Let’s face it, as the market gets more and more competitive, customers aren’t going to buy increasingly expensive and complex vehicles from someone they don’t like or who isn’t prepared.

#2 The Need to Sell Value

When inventory is tight, it’s too easy for sales professionals to feel like heroes by having or being able to locate inventory. How many times a day, for example, do you hear a member of your sales team say something like, “Customer X is just lucky to get a vehicle” or “I laughed at the customer when they asked for a discount”?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with selling a vehicle at full price. As a matter of fact, there’s everything right with it!

Every OEM has designed and priced each of their models for a very competitive market. However, every time sales teams shortcut the product experience because they think their  customers have no choice but to buy and every time they adopt the attitude that customers are just lucky to get a new vehicle, the value created by the OEM is eroded.

All customers, especially those paying the full price, should get the full purchase experience!

The time has come to remind your team members that their ability to sell at full price is greatly due to market conditions, and now it’s time for them to deliver the full MSRP experience. It’s time to revisit every aspect of the product experience with your team, whether it be selection, product presentation, or test drives. Drill in this approach for your sales team with walkaround competitions and quizzes on product knowledge and classic FAB (Feature, Advantage, Benefit) selling.

Remember, it’s called a showroom for a reason, and be sure to put on a quality show for every customer. Don’t forget that for the average customer, buying a new vehicle is a once in five-to-six-year experience!

#3 The Need to Ask for the Sale

Leading customers to purchase decisions takes skill and confidence.

The purchase decision is the natural outcome of the quality conversation about the customer’s needs, which provides the sales professional with the knowledge to make the correct product selection. Once the selection has been confirmed and the value of the new vehicle established, the only thing left to decide is when to take delivery, right?

More than just a logical decision, however, purchasing a vehicle is a personal and, at times, very emotional decision. Customers want to feel good about their purchase. A sales professional who personalizes the product experience, who truly earns the customer’s trust and builds rapport by asking questions about their needs, should be able to confidently recommend that the customer make a purchase decision.

Do negotiation skills still play an important role? Today, yes. Tomorrow, maybe. Yet, the fact remains that customers need to experience the value of both the dealership and the product through personalized presentations led by a confident professional. If they don’t, the option to “go home and think about it” might seem safest to some consumers.

All sales professionals should also be skilled at asking such classic closing questions as, “What one thing is keeping you from driving this vehicle home today?” They should be prepared to present the reasons they recommend that the customer buy today, and they should themselves believe that if a customer is inquiring about a vehicle today, it’s because they are no longer satisfied with their current vehicle and the time is right for them to purchase.

Sales Managers, these three things won’t change whether you are selling an ICE or EV powered vehicle. In fact, they will only become more important as prices increase, inventory levels go up, and the market becomes even more competitive.

The challenge isn’t our sales teams, it’s our leadership. As the adage states, “If you tolerate it, don’t complain about it.” The future is coming. Now is the time to get your sales team ready.

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