Category Archives: Sales

Don’t let Brand Loyalty Kill your Odds of Closing a Sale

Brand Recognition

family1920sSome would say, I come by may know-it-all nature, love of all things related to office stationary and appreciation for marketing and advertising quite honestly. Growing up, I was surrounded by award winning advertising and stacks of books and papers on marketing from the industry leaders of the 70s and 80s. They say that brand recognition begins as early as age 2… Well, I call shenanigans on this statistic. As young as 12-18 months, I have watched my siblings and my own children display preference for certain characters and branding. From the Teletubbies to Elmo and from certain bottles of shampoo to the forks and plates they like best.

Brand Loyalty

What makes both children and adults loyal to a certain brand? Some of the time, I believe it’s simply personal preference. We make a conscious decision based on our personal tastes, and what appeals to us, both as children and adults. This could be something like the body lines of a new model, vehicle specifications, trim and features or a signature color available from only one manufacture.

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Other times, and most often, our loyalties are influenced by those around us. Parents, siblings, family members we look up to, such as aunts, uncles and grandparent who influence a lot of our early preferences. Mostly by direct exposure to certain brands or their own tastes, but also by their behavior and philosophies. I guarantee, someone in your family has said “I will never buy a <Major Car Maker Here>.”

Think about the car makers which you have a poor opinion of personally. Now ask yourself why you feel that way. Was it because your Dad said he thought they were garbage when you were 9, and you have felt the same way ever since?

Brand Perception

Many moons ago, I decided I would never own a certain make of vehicle. The general consensus amongst my friends and family was that they were junk and unreliable. I have owned several vehicles from their competitors over the years. They were all adequate, but somehow lacking in one way or another practically. I once had a rental that was made by the manufacture, who I despised, and I realized… man, this is a really nice SUV. But still, I never bought a vehicle from them in the decade following the experience. I still believed that overall, this brand was not for me. And I have driven an SUV from their major competitor for the past 6 years now.

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As my family grew, we set out to find an SUV which would better accommodate all of the people (and Car Seats, *groan*) which I was now required to shuttle around from place to place. We looked at foreign and domestic, pick up trucks and SUVs, crossovers and (*groan*) mini vans. Nothing seemed to fit the bill.

Then, I saw an SUV driving down the road that I really liked… Low and behold, it was from the car maker I had written off decades before. Long story short-ish, we bought one. We even went a couple of model years older than my current 10-year-old SUV, and I am still extremely pleased with my new-to-me SUV.

Change Facilitates Change

Michigan_&_Griswold_circa_1920My entire perception of this Brand is changing. Because my Vehicle Needs changed and I was forced to explore outside of my comfort zone. As a sales person, you shouldn’t be afraid to present your prospects with an alternative solution to meet their needs. They may tell you they won’t consider a certain make or model, but if you ask what needs they are trying to fill with their new vehicle, instead of what they think they want to buy, you may be more successful at selling them.

It’s a widely known fact, that over 50% of car buyers leave the lot with a vehicle which was NOT the make and model they submitted in their initial lead as their vehicle of interest. And over 40% of internet lead submissions come from prospects who haven’t even settled whether they want a new or preowned vehicle, let alone the make and model.

Influence

oldcar3You have more influence over the type, make and model of vehicle that you sell, than you may think. Avoid pre-qualifying your customers based on what they say they want, and focus instead on what they actually need. Then match vehicles in your existing inventory to those needs. You may surprise yourself with how often your recommendations are heard. Instead of pigeon holing leads by provider, view each lead, as an opportunity to sell your prospective customer the “Right” vehicle, regardless of source.

P.S. What Brands are you most loyal to, and how did they earn that honor?

7 Characteristics of a Top Salesperson

In every dealership, there is a Top Dog, number one Salesperson. This is the person who everyone wants to be, in some way or another. There are usually some common factors which make this person as good as they are. Below we discuss some characteristics of that top salesperson, the new sales reps hope to be one day.

  • Organization
    Most Top Dogs have some level of organization. It may not make sense to you, but their follow up is done a certain way. Their desk has notes in order of importance. Their deliveries are set just right. Or, some have someone, an assistant, who makes sure all of these things are in place. Either way, they have organization at some level.
  • Schedule
    Most great salespeople have a schedule in place. It may not be strict but it is typically followed. Something like, most follow up calls are made between the hours of 11am-3pm or no calls between 5pm-7pm, etc. They also tend to schedule vehicle deliveries in specific time slots. Time slots based on when the finance department wouldn’t be busy with SPOT deliveries, or what works best for most client’s work schedules. Either way, having some sort of schedule in place will help you to do your job at a superior level to those around you.
  • Charisma
    Every person, who has ever Sold me anything, has had a special something about them. Something that made me like them. Something that made me feel good about buying a product from them. Usually, it is a great sense of humor with a great knowledge of the product that they are selling. It could just involve the way they spoke to me or the way they involved me in the purchase. It is different for everyone, but find out what your best quality is and improve upon it in any way you can. Take advantage of your natural talents.
  • Knowledge
    Who likes to buy a car from someone who knows nothing about the car? The answer – NO ONE! You may not need to know EVERY ASPECT of the vehicle, but know the basics. If you have an appointment with someone on a vehicle, go refresh yourself on that vehicle. Do so based on conversations you have had with the client to verify you are giving them information which is important to THEM!
    Example: I like good stereos and speed, don’t talk to me about coefficient of drag and airbags.
  • Attitude
    BE POSITIVE! No one likes to be around someone who is negative. If you don’t like the manager you are working with, keep it to yourself. If you hate the car that they love, shut your mouth! You are allowed to have your opinion but in some cases, it is best to keep it to yourself! Having a positive attitude will not only help you get along with co-workers and have a less miserable day that you would have had otherwise, but it will also help you sell more cars. Your customers can feel your mood and most would be put off buying from a crabby car salesperson. This is an exciting time for them, make it feel like you are genuinely happy for them.
  • Association
    Surround yourself with people who help you to become better at what you do! Don’t hang around the typical clusters by the “water-cooler.” I am not saying, don’t speak to your co-workers EVER. I am just saying, surround yourself with like minded people. “Birds of a feather, flock together” can be a positive thing. If you are around successful people, you are more likely to be successful. You tend to pick up their habits, in a good way. Instead of picking up habits like hiding in the breakroom or avoiding Ups that look challenging.
  • BE YOU!
    Not everyone is going to be the best, but be the the best you, that you can be. Everyone is unique. Every customer is unique. and every Salesperson is unique. It may turn out that the guy who just walked onto the lot likes the exact same pro-wrestler who you worshipped as a kid. Or maybe you both have a child who is around the same age and are struggling with similar challenges of that stage. Perhaps their dog is like your dog in that he’s always chewing up the WRONG items in your house. Take the time to be yourself, ask questions and get to know your customer. You may find that the 5 minute friend you make adds a few extra digits to your paycheck as well.

There are a million things that a Salesperson can do to be Top Dog. Find out what that means for you and get to work! It can only make things better for you! Have any tips of your own? Share them below in the comments section or let us know what you think about the tips above.

Salesmen vs. The Internet

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Let’s face it… The internet has affected the way consumers shop so greatly that we have had to come up with a totally different approach to selling and customer service in general. Now, not only do we have to educate our customers on the product, but sometimes we have to correct information they may have read online or reviews they may have read in forums and manufacturer websites. We expect that customers who walk onto our lots, casually on a Sunday afternoon, already have some idea of what they are looking to buy and that they are in fact there to buy after hours of online research.

Some customers are content to purchase a vehicle based on the information they have read alone. Or maybe they are just so in love with the vehicle’s styling, or the celebrity who appears in the commercial (Durango anyone?), that they don’t even want to take a test drive. In these cases your job is easy… You don’t even have to spend time walking the customer around the lot showing them their options, let alone detail the specs on each automobile on your lot.  It’s easy to do these things after a while. You become lazy and assume the customer knows what they are looking for and you start clerking deals instead of making sales.

Customer Service is King

Take the time to show each customer that there are other options available. Do your due diligence as a sales person to make certain that the vehicle they have chosen is in fact the one that will best suit their needs. Build rapport and trust by asking those questions we all know we should ask and qualify your customers. If your customer has children and is looking at a smaller cross over or SUV ask them if they have their car seats with them and let them try to fit them in the back seat. You can’t very well do that online… and nothing is more annoying that little feet kicking the back of your headrest. You may need to show that customer a vehicle with more interior space and for that, they will thank you.

Test Drive, Test Drive, Test Drive

No online review can let a customer FEEL what it’s like to take a hard left in that shiny new midlife crisis on wheels. Getting the customer into the vehicle and on the road is essential. If they love it… They will love you. And that is the gateway to referral business. True customer loyalty is a mixture of two things: How much they adore you and their satisfaction with the product you sold them. Miss on either of those two points and you probably shouldn’t bother to give them those 5 business cards when you send them on their way in their new car.

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The Warm and Fuzzies

Has your web browser ever asked you how you are feeling today? My guess is not. Online shoppers can’t really get that glow of satisfaction from shopping or buying online.  If they are in your store it’s because they want a PERSON to help them along their car buying journey. This is your chance to become a rock star. Five Minute friendships are probably one of my most favorite things about sales. You’re a person, act like one. Find commonalities between yourself and your customer. Do they have a pet or children or a hobby you can relate to? Break down that wall that the customer puts up the second they step foot on your asphalt and humanize yourself.

Don’t let the interweb dumb down your process. You can still make a difference and be a top notch sales person… It’s all about the thrill of the close. But there’s not much thrill if you are just taking orders and filling out paperwork. Treat every customer like a new challenge and set goals for yourself each day. You may not sell everyone you talk to but I promise you’ll feel a greater sense of accomplishment if you invest yourself in your work… and having someone come in asking for you is a pretty awesome reward.

CRM: How Technology changed the Dealership

So many changes have occurred in the car business in the past 20 or so years.  Take CRM for example, what did salespeople do 30 years ago?  20 years ago?  Maybe even 10 years ago?  I guess some things have changed for the better while many things have stayed the same.

I have been around the car business for approximately 20 years.  My uncle sold cars and managed at a couple of dealerships when I was younger.  I would go with my father when he went to buy a car and I would just be bored.  I was too old to play in the kids area and too young to test drive cars.  I would just observe everyone around me.  I would see the service department, it looked busy enough.  I would watch the salespeople in fascination.  I thought, it must be cool to be around all of these new cars.  Jump ahead a couple of years and I would stop by my uncle’s dealership (not his but the one he worked for) and see if there was anything I could do to help.  Occasionally, he would send me out to pick up a car, dealer trade or body shop.  Usually, I was just there to see if he ordered lunch and I could have some of it.

One of the last times I was there, I was trading in my piece of crap car for another clunker.  It was cold, I remember that much, and it wasn’t busy at all.  Most of the salespeople were sitting around desks having meaningless conversations.  There were a couple of salespeople playing cards, another one throwing a mini football around, and a couple more outside smoking.  It wasn’t at all what you see today.  I didn’t hear anyone telling these people to make calls or making them do any sales training.  As a matter of fact, I think my uncle and the salesperson working with us were the only two people doing much of anything.

Fast forward a few years and I am working for a “buy here pay here” company.  I am a cashier/collector.  This was my first experience with a CRM of sorts.  I used it as place to log our payment receipts.  The girls in the back would leave me a note when I logged into customer accounts.  Most would say something like, verify the next payment will be on time or call me when this person shows up.  When I started making collection calls, this was where I would note when I spoke to someone, what amount was agreed to and when it would be in, etc.  It was good to know it was in the system and not left on a piece of paper somewhere to be misplaced or tossed out later.

A few more years have gone by and I am in the thick of it all.  I am selling cars and using the CRM tool that my dealership uses, to the fullest.  I would put notes in for every customer about everything we ever discussed.  What message I left, what info I sent in an email, the numbers we discussed, the kids names, everything.  I was a little OCD when it came to this but I did this so there was no guessing at a later date.  I knew, on that slow day, I could go into any of my customer records to find a deal.  I could go to people that were in the store 4 months ago and see why they didn’t buy at that time.  I could see what I needed to do or say to make them consider buying now.  I also did this because of my managers.  I hated re-hashing deals.  I knew if I noted everything, I wouldn’t have to waste 45 minutes of my life on a Tuesday morning answering the same question over and over again.

All of this makes me wonder, what did car salespeople do before CRM?  I lived by the system, making notes, scheduling calls, sending emails.  Would sticky notes and legal pads have worked for me?  Would I have been successful in this business before all of this wonderful technology?  I am not sure about you but I am happy I don’t have to worry about it.

What Kind of Salesperson are You?

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In sales (as with most careers) you are a product of your environment. There are so many factors that go into a salesperson. Personality is an important factor. Are you likable? Not everyone is. People may like to speak to you but can you speak to them? Can you push their hot buttons? Can you make someone feel something about your product?

We all learn from our surroundings. We are a product of our environment. I owe a lot of my success in the car business to the people I have kept near me along the way. I surrounded myself with people that could teach me something. I wanted to learn, to grow, to thrive, and to make money. Not everyone in this business feels the same way.

However, I feel you learn by example and here are just a few sales personalities who I have run into along the way:

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The Top Dog –

First and foremost is the top dog, the big shot. Regardless of how he gets there, he never loses. He is the producer that everyone is gunning for. He has the top numbers every month. He speaks to no one. He works his own numbers, writes his own deals, and usually has more pull than any of the managers in the building. This is the one you can learn from, if he lets you. Most people in the dealership have nothing nice to say about him and he could care less. He is focused and it shows in his numbers.

Mr. Sunshine –

Then, there is that happy-go-lucky person. The one that seems to always have a rainbow shoved somewhere. You can never piss him off, no matter how hard you try. He is usually just average, not bad numbers but not great. He is likely stuck in the middle somewhere and perfectly content to be there. He will happily help you with anything you ask him to do. He won’t go out of his way but will help when asked. This also is the person that the top producer will lean on as he won’t screw him over.

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Old School Pro –

The next one is the former great. That one figure who has been with the dealership since before the rebuild. He has surpassed most of the managers in the store in time in with the dealership. He used to be the top dog but changes in the business have left those days in the past. He had the most sales with the happiest customers and the best gross averages. Time has gone by and he isn’t so great anymore but the place keeps him around because he has few to no issues and his customers are loyal and thrilled. This is the one that will sit and talk all day long about the past. You might learn something if you can stand to listen to him long enough.

Capt. Blamer –

What dealership doesn’t have that negative salesman? This person blames everyone else for his failures, lost leads, missed opps and never accepts blame personally for anything. He has a terrible attitude and usually sells very few cars. When asked about his sales, the reason they’re so poor is because the manager didn’t T/O him when asked. It could be that the numbers sucked or the customer was stupid or “not in the market”. Either way, it is never his fault. This person is usually good for a pathetic laugh every now and then. Mostly, you will just want to keep your distance.

The Probie –

Who doesn’t love the newbie, green pea? Of course, we all know there is a ton of turnover in the car business. There are usually a few of these people running around. Some may be good for helping dig a car out of the snow and others you just want to run over with that car. Most won’t be in the business long and will move on to other endeavors, usually chased away by the blamer. Beware, however, sometimes you will find they become the next top dog.

When entering the car business (or any business), the important thing to remember is you are a product of your environment. Who would you rather be? The top dog or the blamer. When in the dealership, surround yourself with the best. Guarantee yourself a spot at the top.

Can you think of an individual who fits each personality type above from your store? How have you navigated your place within your dealership to ensure your success?

How has the Internet changed the Auto Sales Game?

How much of your business can directly be traced back to the internet? 50% maybe? Or is it more like 10% or possibly as low as 3%?

If you exclude internet leads being sent directly to your store, and you add up all your phone-opportunities and fresh walk-ins (assuming you could correctly source every lead), how many do you think originate from the internet?

JD Powers mentioned in a recent article that the amount of pre-purchase in-store visits has declined to roughly 1.8 visits per day.  This means that probably over 90% of your customers went online to do some research before they came in to your store.  Whether the customer goes onto your website and submits a lead directly or they do preliminary vehicle research via search – customers these days go into the buying process with their guns loaded.

The Game has Changed!

I hear old-school vets say all the time “sales isn’t what it used to be!” or “times are tough, it’s not like it was when I started in this business.”

The overall consensus from them is that customers aren’t “shoppers” anymore, they’re “buyers.”  They go online, do their research, check prices and know what and when they’re going to buy.  Back in the day, customers had to walk into the store to get numbers and learn more about the inventory – sales professionals could close them then and there using numbers and pure persuasion.

For the most part, that game is dead.

However, I don’t think that makes sales professionals glorified receptionists. If that were the case, you would see more internet and BDC departments working customers cradle-to-grave. However, you don’t see this, because at the end of the day you still need to have the product knowledge and the people skills to close the deal.

It boils down to the fact that sales is still an interpersonal relationship based business. Even though technology might have changed the business model for some, there is still a tremendous value in having a customer like who they’re talking to and feel comfortable with the sales process.

What are your thoughts on the change in the car sales process now versus ten or fifteen years ago?  Has the internet helped or hurt your overall sales numbers?  How have you adapted your process to cater to Buyers?