Preparing For The Customer: The Key To Sales Success

July 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Michael Rees - Also by this author

Dealers are allocating more time and money this year on training salespeople and managers to make sure they know the steps to a sale and how to handle that all-important asset—the customer. How much time is spent on training dealership personnel to PREPARE for that customer? Allow me to take you through a few steps to make sure your customer does more than just drive through your lot, or worse yet retreat at the first sign of a “salesperson.”

When should you start to prepare for a customer?
Let’s start at the beginning, but just where, or when, is the beginning? When should you start your preparation to meet and greet the first customer of the day? When you wake up and get your “game face” on? Start yesterday! All customer-facing team members need to start preparations the night before. You can’t possibly be at your best first thing in the morning to greet the early bird customer if you’ve been out on the town until the wee hours, drinking and partying your hard-earned commissions away.

You need to be able to give ALL you have to offer to a potential customer to convert that customer into a buying customer. So, we all need to get a good night’s sleep in order to wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day. Most people need seven-to-eight hours of good sleep to recharge their batteries. How much sleep are you getting?

Think and feel like a customer
Now consider adding empathy to your toolbox. Empathy is simply putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. If you were the customer driving on to your lot, how would you act (or react)? You would act according to your senses, so let’s consider what the customer will see, hear and smell at your dealership. If these senses are triggered positively, they will probably be encouraged to continue shopping at your dealership.

Take away the pressure
Customers experience “peer pressure” when visiting a dealership, especially for the first time. They don’t know how they are supposed to act as a customer. Do they come in and ask for help? Will a salesperson come out to them? What should they expect? We need to be able to feel what that customer is going through with their senses, so we can relieve the pressure.

Don’t be a dope
Does the customer see a “dope ring” (a bunch of dopes huddled together at the front door)? You’ve seen them—normally the smokers, coffee drinkers and ‘nay-sayers’ standing outside the front door talking about the person who ordered all the white cars. Customers might feel intimidated, leery or otherwise wary to walk through that to get to the showroom.

Look in the mirror
When the customer sees you, is it a good visual experience? Make sure you do everything possible to present yourself at your visual best. You need to dress for success. If your dealership does not have a dress code (I recommend having one), dress how you would like a person to be dressed if you were investing tens of thousands of hard earned dollars in that person. The customer has to buy you as well as the dealership and the vehicle.

Remember how you prepared for your first real date. You went to great lengths to make sure you looked your absolute best to impress your date. You should do the same every day in sales. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and the customer will definitely judge you.

Manage your sound environment.
Consider what the customer hears when you talk to them. Make sure the customer hears enthusiasm and excitement in your voice. Make sure they ‘hear’ the smile on your face. Customers don’t want to spend time with grumpy people, no matter how sweet the deal may be. 

Watch your tongue at all times. Eliminate offensive language from your vocabulary.
Negative comments from anyone in the dealership within earshot of the customer can influence their perception of you and your dealership. Just because you are not with a customer right this minute doesn’t mean that a co-worker isn’t with one that can hear your conversation.

Make sure your customers can hear you over the phone.  If the dealership has too much background sound like an overly loud public address system, it can make talking to your customer difficult.  If you have to put your customer on hold, which you should always avoid, make sure the on hold music is not too loud or playing a radio station with one of your competitors’ ads on air.

Pass the smell test.
If you smoke, then do so where customers can’t see you. Go around the back of the building, have a proper smoke break and then walk back outside so the fresh air can dispel as much of the smoke as possible. Never be tempted to light up with a smoking customer; concentrate on the task at hand. I have nothing against smokers, but some customers do. They will decide immediately if they want to do business with you or not depending on how you smell.

I know some smokers who disguise the fact very well. They carry breath mints, body spray and hand lotion so no one can detect any foul odors. These are professional salespeople who take their profession seriously.

Speaking of breath mints, how’s your breath even if you’re not a smoker? You need to look after it so you don’t have another hurdle to jump with your customer. You will have enough to jump as it is.

To succeed: Prepare, prepare, prepare.
It’s vital to your success to make sure you spend enough time preparing for the day and your customers. You will find that your earnings will be commensurate to the amount of effort you put in to preparation.

Vol 4, Issue 5

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