Move From Transactional to Relational Selling

January 2011, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Tony Troussov - Also by this author

According to the latest studies on trust, only 12 percent of the general public trust sales professionals. In comparison, 54 percent trust a stranger on the street. (“A Summary of Existing Research” by Jackie Wells and Mary Gostelow) Think about that for a moment. It comes as no surprise that the automotive industry suffers from a chronic lack of trust. There are multiple reasons for the sales profession to have a black eye; most of those reasons indicate the black eye was self-inflicted. Trust is a relational matter that is hard to come by in the transactional world. In most cases you cannot “create” trust. It is something that is granted by another person. In essence, trust is a currency of referrals and repeat business and a currency of meaningful relationships.

Ask yourself, “Do my salespeople build meaningful relationships with every customer, or do they treat each customer as a mere transaction?” Without generalizing salespeople, it is safe to assume that they are choosy with whom they will develop meaningful relationships. Survey after survey reveals one of the main reasons customers are unhappy with their experience at the dealership is a “lack of care” on the part of their salesperson/service advisor. If you care about your customers, at some point you must ask yourself, “How can I make my people care as much as I do?” While there may be multiple solutions to that riddle, from hiring the right people to improving processes and incentivizing great execution, one solution will produce greater and long-lasting results—customer experience training.

If someone asks you, “What are you training your salespeople and service advisors on?” what would be your answer? It might be something related to sales skills, phone skills, negotiating skills, product/menu presentation skills, and others. You may also say that you deliver process-related training on the write-up, dispatching and delivery processes. If that is the case, you are doing well in improving your sales force’s sales skills level.

To get your team beyond this level, you must ask another question. “Do I train them to get a better CSI and generate more repeat and referral business?” You might think that telling your people how to ask for a CSI survey or how to coach customers is the answer. Unfortunately, it is not. To refocus yourself, ask this: “If I was a customer at my store and had a mediocre experience, would I come back or refer my friends and family?” If you are honest with yourself, no matter how many cards, letters, phone calls or e-mails you received, you would not want to go back, let alone send your loved ones there. If telling your people how to ask for a CSI  survey and how to follow up does not produce results, what will? The answer still is customer experience training.

Some of the top-notch retail and hospitality organizations stopped sales training a long time ago. Places like Nordstrom and Ritz Carlton realized that customer experience and customer service training have a greater impact on their profitability than any amount of sales training. That shift set them apart from the rest of the competition. Realize this: you do not need to be high-end to be high-class. With this in mind, where do you begin?

First, identify where you are. Before you prescribe a treatment, you need a diagnosis. Spend some time on the showroom floor, in the service drive and at the parts counter. Observe and listen to what is going on. Conduct some secret shopping over the phone if needed. Really listen to your customer’s feedback. Read those negative surveys with an open mind.

Second, establish in your mind and on paper, what does a great customer service experience look, sound and feel like? Warning: This may require change in some of your practices and processes! Design your training based on that information. Share your vision with everyone. Use simple examples; utilize role playing and real-life situations to engage your people.

Thirdly, inspect what you expect. Monitor and observe results. Reward those who execute well. Assist those who struggle. Do the right thing by focusing on the customer yourself. Remember, everyone is watching you.

In most cases, transactional selling will produce short-term results. Focusing on relational selling will generate better customer experiences and produce long-term success. How well you generate the currency of trust is in direct proportion of how well you develop and grow your people in the area of customer experience. Finally, the question you want to ask yourself is not, “Can I do it?” but rather, “Do I really want to do it?” The only person who knows the answer is you!

Vol. 7, Issue 11


  1. 1. Chip King [ January 11, 2011 @ 11:01AM ]

    Don't usually comment----this is very insightful and a must read.


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