Article

Exceeding Expectations: A Message for Frazzled Finance Managers

November 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Becky Chernek - Also by this author

Menu selling still works! Why? Because it forces a consistent pattern of behavior. Effectively using word tracks to overcome objections still works too, even in tough economic times and even when customers’ choices in the size and performance of vehicles are vastly changing. Menus are even more successfully, if used correctly. That “if” is critical. If you consistently offer 100 percent of your dealership’s products to 100 percent of your customers 100 percent of the time, and if you use well-rehearsed word tracks for every possible situation with every unique customer, it stands to reason you will increase sales and overall profits.

Here’s another “if,” though—one as important as always presenting the menu and using word tracks. If you simply run through a litany of memorized lingo that is meaningless to your customers, you will be talking to deaf ears and fail in your efforts. You must consider how each question and each piece of information you convey will best serve each customer’s stated needs.

Too often, managers assume they know the reasons customers reject particular products and fail to learn the rationale behind customers’ decisions. Because of this, they ultimately lose the sale. Don’t let this laissez-faire attitude influence your ability to successfully close sales. It is essential that you understand your customers’ needs; especially these days, when they have greater concerns about the economy, the energy crisis and how their choice of vehicle will affect their tighter budgets. You will only learn these concerns and needs if you listen and ask what they are!

What happens when your customers say they want to simply stick with the base payment? Is your selling over? Does an initial “no thanks” mean you should close the deal? No way. Never call it quits with the first voiced rejection. Your job has just begun! “No” may mean, “Tell me more.” It may mean, “I don’t really know what you’re talking about.” Or, “It probably costs too much.” Again, when you ask the right questions and when you listen carefully, you will learn what your customers need and are ready to buy. Armed with that knowledge, you can effectively use your word tracks while presenting the menu of products. Once you have heard a concrete reason behind every objection, you will know the correct solution to overcome it.

No matter how many years you have spent in the automobile industry, you may still feel uncomfortable when you hear your customers say, “I just want to stick with the base payment.” This is no time to hem and haw, and it is certainly not the time to simply give up and finalize the sale.

You say you’ve gone through your usual routine too many times and know that, with certain customers, it is futile to proceed with the menu presentation? The problem may not be your customers. The problem may be your attitude and your lack of knowledge about successful selling techniques. Fortunately, there are tools you can use to squelch your personal fears and reluctance and sell your hesitant customers on the value of certain products, and now is the time to discover them and own them.

The first (and most basic) tool is to recognize that your customers may simply be responding to a base payment option because they haven’t received enough information from you. They may not see the value of your product offerings or understand the consequences of not owning a product.

During your interview process, do you discuss their driving habits? Are they putting down less than 20 percent? Yes? Why? How long has it taken them to save enough cash for the down payment? Do they value their vehicles and maintain them properly? Do they drive them until the wheels fall off? The more information you gather during the initial interview (out at the sales desk and not in your office), the more easily you will be able to overcome objections because you will know exactly which products are best for each customer’s needs. When you meet your customers on their own terms, they will be less inclined to be defensive. They will buy from you because they don’t see you as a threat.

Maybe your customers who say no simply want more information. Without ample convincing facts and figures to support an immediate decision, they may feel the need to hold off on the purchase of a product. Be prepared. Many of your hesitant customers may be looking over a gap or antitheft policy, but feel too intimidated to mention their interest. They quietly mull it over while you continue to push another product, not selling to their needs or wants, but attempting to sell on fear. The result? Once your customers catch on, they will stiffen their resolve and become resistant to the purchase of any products. They feel they are dealing with a salesperson, not a finance officer.

Here’s another “if.” You still won’t make and close sales, if you haven’t learned the appropriate close to combat a specific objection. What do you do if your customers respond this way? “I have the manufacturer’s warranty.” Or, “I bought one of those service contracts before and it never covered anything.” Or, “I have never experienced any hardship with my other vehicles,” or “‘Consumer Reports’ says buying a service contract is foolish,” or “I simply can’t afford another dime at this time,” or “I have my own mechanic.” For every objection, you should be prepared to respond appropriately and without hesitation. Word tracks provide you with successful solutions.

The menu presentation works best when your customers believe that the purchase of any product is their choice and not yours; you cannot accomplish this without first knowing your customers’ needs and wants. Approximately 50 percent of car-buying customers will choose a product option and not stick to the base payment, if the presentation is performed effectively. This can only happen if a quality interview has taken place.

Role-playing and interacting with peers throughout the industry reap untold benefits. Well-trained managers learn to never ask a question without knowing the answer. They learn to be direct and honest. They learn to ask why. So can you.

Confidence comes with the acquisition of knowledge and practice, practice, practice. If you watched the Olympics, you witnessed how unremitting focus and years of practice produce the skills required to perform like a champion. Proper training on the use of menu selling and word tracks will provide you with the skills necessary to overcome any customer objections to the purchase of menu products. Closing the sale on more products increases profits, and increased profits are the gold medals you will earn for your dealership.

Vol 5, Issue 10

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