Are You Turning Buyers Into Shoppers?

 Richard Libin
  12th-Apr-2008

Are You Turning Buyers Into Shoppers?

By Richard F. Libin, President, Automotive Profit Builders, Inc.

True or False: A salesperson’s job is to sell cars.

False! A sales person’s job is to help a customer buy a car, not simply to sell a car.

Automobile dealerships spend millions on advertising, incentives, and promotions simply to draw buyers into their stores. Yet, salespeople who focus on selling cars, meeting quotas, and landing the immediate sale, often succeed at only one thing: turning buyers into shoppers. As a result, management believes they have teams who don’t perform, frustrated salespeople blame the lack of incentives, poor market, or their management, and a negative attitude begins to permeate the entire store. Consider these typical conversations:

#1: Asking the wrong questions can kill a sale before it starts

Salesperson: “Hi, can I help you?” Buyer: “No thanks, I am just looking.” Salesperson: “Ok, Let me know if you need help.” Shopper: “Ok.”

The definition of insanity, according to Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

#2: No. Don’t. Won’t. Can’t. Negative attitudes and words tend to bring negative results.

Buyer: “I like the model, but I want a silver car.” Salesperson: “Silver is on back order right now and I can’t get it for a month. You really don’t want to wait, do you? Let me show you the gold. It’s metallic and has the same rich look as the silver.” Shopper: “Hmmm, I really wanted silver…let me think about it and I’ll ‘be-back’.”

How many times have you heard that one before? Why not build the car on paper before you try to switch the customer on color?

#3: Trying to land the immediate sale can drive buyers out the door.

Buyer: “I am looking for a full size SUV with 4-wheel drive. I have six kids!” Salesperson: “No, but we do have crossovers which are similar and provide virtually every feature you can find on an SUV. Let me show you one of these, it’s a bit smaller, but it should work.” Shopper: “Thanks anyway, I think I’ll look around a bit.”

In each case, the salesperson was more interested in selling cars than in helping the buyer select the right vehicle for them and get into the vehicle they wanted. As a result, buyers often become confused or frustrated. They tell the salesperson they will be back, and leave without ever having any intention of returning. These shoppers then turn to alternative stores or the Internet, shopping until they find exactly what they want to buy or find a salesperson with whom they want to do business.

Turning buyers into loyal clientele by focusing on helping them buy the car they want requires simple changes in behavior beginning with top management.

Ask the right questions and listen to the customer’s answers.

First, train and educate every employee at the dealership to really listen – yes, listen – to the customer and to ask questions that are direct, but non-confrontational or pushy and that draw out specific information that builds on the salesperson’s ability to move the process forward. If a salesperson greets buyers by saying, “Welcome to APB Motors, I’m Joe Smith and my job today is to help you select a vehicle, and get you a price.” nine times out of ten the response will be “Yes.” This simple change in approach opens the door and allows salespeople to use well-honed sales techniques to steer the conversation through browsing, into a demo drive, and ultimately a sale – today, tomorrow or even next week. Asking specific questions allows the salesperson to learn about the type of car a customer is looking for, how they will use it (business or pleasure, etc.); the customer’s preferences for style, comfort, color, etc., and what they like and dislike about their current car. Only then can the salesperson find the right car and move to an evaluation drive.

This approach only works if a salesperson truly listens to the customer’s responses. For example, Salesperson: “Other than the price, is this the right vehicle for you?” Buyer: “Well, actually, I don’t like this color.” The attentive salesperson will understand from this response that the customer has not truly selected a final vehicle. Until this happens, no price, no matter how good, will ever truly satisfy the buyer and ultimately the buyer will become a shopper. If the shoe doesn’t fit and the price is right, will you get the sale? No!

Positive attitudes lead to positive results

Maintaining a positive attitude is the first step in keeping buyers and converting them to long-term customers and/or clientele. Again, a positive attitude starts at the top and is nurtured by management. While there are many ways to do this, performance metrics and sales incentives, which are clearly linked, have the most impact and highest potential to motivate.

Management teams that measure performance solely based on units sold can quickly de-motivate sales teams and shift attitudes negatively at every level. Basing performance on an accurate traffic count allows management to create a level playing field and measure performance based on improvement in closing ratios, the number of cars sold vs. buyers the salesperson worked with. For example, if Lisa sells 20 cars after working with 150 ups/opportunities in one month and Kyle sells 8 cars after working with 40 ups/opportunities, who really did a better job? Kyle, who closed 20% of his buyers (vs. Lisa’s 13%), performed better even though he sold fewer cars. Using traffic counts to measure performance gives every salesperson the opportunity to improve and take advantage of incentives and contests that reward performance. Unfortunately, most dealerships look at the units sold and would consider Lisa a great salesperson. In reality, Lisa causes the dealership to lose money, while Kyle is the one really making money.

From Buy! Buy! Buy! to Bye! Bye! Bye!

When management uses units sold as their primary metric for bonuses and rewards, it can often lead salespeople to focus on closing the sale now. As a result, many buyers feel pressured to close the deal and feel uncomfortable with the salesperson, and by default, with the dealership, and they leave. The buyers become shoppers and the dealer loses opportunities to convert buyers to long-term clients who will return time and again for their total transportation needs. The question then becomes, is the dealership looking to do business or simply to do business now?

When salespeople understand that their job is to help buyers find the right car, now becomes irrelevant and they become a selection specialist. Whether a buyer completes a deal today or next week doesn’t matter; what matters is that they buy and buy from your dealership. Given that, if buyers want to consider their purchase, it is imperative that the salesperson gain enough information before the buyer leaves to maintain contact, especially in the first 72-hours after the visit. Minimally, the salesperson should collect and record standard, detailed data; present the best possible deal on the car the buyer wants before they leave the store; develop and execute a follow up plan designed to bring the buyer back to close the deal, and extend sales opportunities and relationship building with existing customers. Not only does this approach enable the salesperson to get the deal, but it positions him or her to generate additional revenue and referral sales.

A few simple changes like these, especially in attitude, will bring rewards in terms of performance and can make a significant difference in a dealership’s bottom line. With the right attitude, the ability to ask questions and truly listen to customers’ answers, and by focusing on selecting a vehicle and building long-term clientele, buyers will never leave your dealership as shoppers, but as buyers. Think of it this way: A salesperson’s job is not to sell a car, but to help customers buy them.

Views: 2675
Domain: Electronics
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