Avoiding Awkward Beginnings in Car Sales

When you meet someone for the first time in your dealership, your goal is three-fold. You want to get them to:

1. Like you;

2. Trust you; and

3. Want to listen to you.

Those three elements are absolutely necessary in order for them to make a buying decision based on the information you share with them.

If they came in after calling and speaking with you, it’s likely you said the right things on the phone to get them to at least come in and see what you have available in both vehicles and terms. You’re starting out on the right foot here. They’ll be curious to learn more. That means they’ll be listening to you.

However, their curiosity will only take them so far. Once they’ve gotten the basic idea of what you have to offer, they’ll need to like and trust you enough to want to do business with you rather than taking their newfound knowledge to another dealership to see what might be different or better there.

To help people to like you, you must be likable. That’s pretty simple. Develop the traits you admire in someone you deem as being likable. These could include a having a relaxed manner. Understanding and using some of the more formal courtesies is also helpful. This includes introducing yourself with both you first and last name. Use the clients’ last names, ie. Mr. Smith, Ms. Jones, until you feel them warming up to you. Then, you will have earned the right to ask to use their first names. If they only give you their first names, that’s a sign they don’t you yet. Go ahead and use their first names a few times during your initial conversation. I recommend this for two reasons. First, it will make them feel important. Second, it will help you remember their names.

In this business, we meet a lot of new people on a regular basis. Learning simple strategies to remember names is important. I recommend repeating the clients’ names to yourself four times immediately after they give them. It’s a strategy I’ve used for over 30 years and it works. Bob and Sally Brown. Bob and Sally Brown.

Bob and Sally Brown. Bob and Sally Brown.

Another way to be likable is simply to smile. It may seem obvious, but if your mind is on a personal matter or if you’re worried about meeting your quota this month, it’ll show in your face. Your face muscles will tense up. You won’t be smiling and the prospective clients will likely see dollar signs in your eyes. To avoid that situation, really look at your clients (don’t stare them down) and smile with your whole face, you’ll be focused on them. Anything else that’s been on your mind will be forced away for the time being.

It’s human nature to like people who are like us or who we recognize as complementing our personality styles. People tend to like others who smile, make eye contact, are courteous, and are interested in them. These traits make those with whom you come in contact feel as though they are important to you.

To begin building trust, establish common ground. If you’re a fan of the same sports team, if you have children the same ages, or if you belong to the same community service organization, they’ll see how much you are like them. Seek areas of common ground by asking questions about the situation that has brought them in to see you. You need to determine their needs without coming across as if you’re interrogating them.

It happens plenty of times that a young couple will come in looking for a mini-van, but fall in love with an SUV. Someone else might come in seeking the same kind of vehicle they’ve driven for 15 years even though their driving needs have changed. You could easily help them see the advantages of a different type of vehicle…if you ask questions about their needs.

It won’t hurt, if in conversation, you are able to tell them about a situation with another client they may be familiar with (maybe a friend who referred them to you) or where you demonstrated dependability. Be careful not to sound like you’re bragging. Use the term “we” as in “we, the company” when relating information about other clients or situations. That way, if they’re even the least bit shaky on their opinion of you, they’ll build faith in the fact that the company stands behind their promises.

Look and listen for ideas of what’s important to this person beyond their interest or need for a vehicle. If you don’t see or hear anything that you would feel comfortable asking about, don’t become anxious. You don’t want to create an awkward situation by looking like you’re struggling to come up with a subject. Avoid the weather unless there’s some unusual weather phenomenon occurring. It’s just too trite.

Train yourself to keep in mind: like me, trust me, want to listen to me when approaching every prospective client and you’ll soon find yourself doing the things you need to do to win them over.

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