Closing time – converting prospects into customers

In the changing face of car sales, the traditional closing tactics are now being replaced by more modern less intimidating techniques, such as spending an awful lot more time with customers and making such a strong connection the customer is often compelled to reward the salesperson for their attention and diligence. Sales people in some cases now openly give their personal mobile numbers to customers and we often hear tales of deals being thrashed out between salesman and customer on Sunday afternoons in the pub, though clearly the figures would need confirming during working hours.

There are three key customer scenarios today’s sales exec might encounter;

1. A customer who makes contact with them via an advert or as a result of a car seen on the dealer website.
2. A customer who does no research but just decides to visit the showroom to see what is on offer and to maybe get a valuation on their current car.
3. A customer, who already knows what they want, has gone through the qualification and test drive – maybe at many different dealers – and just wants the best deal.

These all present unique challenges to salespeople; for example if a prospective buyer has an idea what car they already want – having identified one or more options from their own research – the salesman really has to go through the sales process in order to end up with a satisfactory conclusion which is usually financial agreement. The second scenario is more difficult because all parties are starting with a blank canvass; therefore qualification becomes more important for all parties, as we don’t want a customer with 3 small children to drive off in a 3 door hatchback, or a petrol head in a 1.6 estate car!
Not that this would happen much these days but you take the point. The other issue surrounding this type of engagement is that most salespeople are trained not to just blindly offer a valuation on a part-exchange without having established the wants and needs of a customer first, on the other hand a customer may not know what his budget is until he has been given a value for his existing car, therefore creating a stalemate.

The third scenario is perhaps the hardest, the customer may have already obtained a deal elsewhere which he is just looking to better by creating a “Dutch auction”, the dealer may not want to get involved in this form of process as he relinquishes control but if he doesn’t engage with this type of customer and sticks rigidly to his own agenda he may lose the sale anyway.

The ideal situation for all parties is that the sales person can appoint his customer, take them thoroughly through all the options, the plus and minus points of each car he demonstrates and perform a comprehensive process which the customer is happy to be part of and an endgame which means the customer must buy the car from him. At the end of the day this is all everybody wants; happy customer, happy salesman, happy management and happy owner/manufacturer.

Over the past few years what used to be a simple sales process which salespeople would stick to and involved all aspects of a customer’s needs has become somewhat more complicated and therefore a modern salesperson, in order to close the deal needs a lot of a patience, a degree of skill, but most importantly the ability to engage with his/her customers and make them feel special enough to want to see the job through to the end. In other words lots of things may change, customers may have more knowledge, salespeople may become more skilful but people will always buy people and any sales environment will surely always be a numbers game.

As my first Sales boss used to say to me, keep it simple lad; the more people you speak to, the more appointments you make and the more test drives you take means the more chances you have of selling more cars! Very simple in theory, but customers don’t always want to do it your way, some have had a bad experience elsewhere or just dislike salespeople in particular and want to ‘win’ in their dealings with you, thus making it more vital that you try and find some common ground in order that you can find a position where business can be achieved.

If at the end of the day you have covered all the bases i.e. the budget, the part-exchange price, the test drive/demonstration, the finance deal, the price of the new car, the changeover figure etc the process usually only ever ends after one form of disagreement; the price. If everything else is acceptable because all the bases have been covered – with two people wanting the same thing – this can always be overcome or the customer has been looking at the wrong car in the first place. Either that or the salesperson has been too weak to inform them that their target price may be unreachable on the car in question.
I will list my own sales process for buyer and salespeople to argue over and debate and I may leave some things out or put them in at the wrong time but rest assured if this process is adhered to there will be more sales agreed than not.

1. Meet and greet (obvious)
2. Qualification (information gathering, wants needs, contact details etc)
3. Test drive (demonstrate car, create desire)
4. Part-exchange Appraisal
5. Introduction to business manager
6. Negotiate, discuss figures
7. Management participation
8. Re-cap, trial close
9. Offer 2nd test drive (offers confidence)
10. Gain agreement and close

The good news is that this can all be done with smiles and confidence and if the customer is happy with the process gaining the sale can always be achieved.

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One Response to Closing time – converting prospects into customers

  1. Ian Chralton February 9, 2009 at 10:12 pm #

    It’s the K.I.S.S. principle “keep it simple stupid”. Works every time, no need to complicate things. Good article, thanks.

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