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We are gathered here today to honor the life and mourn the passing of the infamous “4-square.” The 4-square was born at the dawn of the auto industry when vehicle margins were thick, consumers were uneducated and invoice data was guarded with upmost secrecy. In recent years, with transparency increasing, the four square has been on life support plagued with “old-schooler’s disease, but the time has come to bid farewell. Our beloved 4-square is survived by market based pricing, transparent information exchanges and multi choice menu styled write-ups. Unless you want to die of old school-ers disease too, I suggest you move on and find a new way of negotiating.
How do you negotiate?
Like many of you, my first sales manager was a master negotiator who indoctrinated me on “4-Square” negotiating. He would role-play tactics to avoid price and “hit, hit, commit” then move to the next square. After the customer had autographed the write-up I would head to the tower only to return with the “atomic” pencil, (numbers so extremely high to “adjust the guests thinking” and raise the expectation so could come in lower and make the deal.) The 4-square WAS the ultimate negotiation game. However, the days where 4-square negotiation was the best mode of operations are officially behind us. Today, “games” don’t get you car deals!
Market Based Pricing:
Successful negotiating should get off on the right foot with market based pricing. This means your inventory is priced according to real market value for all to see and advertised online. Your prices should be aggressive enough to put you in the top consideration of the customer. If you have thousands and thousands to drop from the price at the first pencil, its highly unlikely you are using market based pricing. Poor pricing will dramatically reduce your phone, email and lot traffic.
Then you must offer you customers a transparent transaction. If they ask for a price, give it to them. If they ask for payments, give it to them. Your customers CAN get the answers they are looking for; the question is will they get them answered from you or your competitors? By avoiding their questions and side stepping the information they want will only push them away. Yes, this breaks the rules of old negotiation; but being the best never was easy. If you want to be the best you may need to learn new ways of handling objections.
If you resurrect the “ol’ 4-square” and slap it on the desk in front of the guest you will immediately invoke old school buying emotions in them and they will start shutting you out. If you want to keep the process moving towards happy customers, you need a write up that is customer friendly yet still leaves them an element of control while helping them come to a decision. I recommend a menu of various choices, easily presented with 2-4 options that is an excellent closing tool. It makes life easy when you can present options 1,2 & 3 and say “which one works best?” If they don’t come back with quick close, you can, in a consultative yet influential way, walk them through the pros and cons of each option. Menus display information in a quick to read format and facilitate a customer centric negotiation process.
Time to move on:
Yes, the glory days of the 4-square have passed and its time to move on. Chances are if you still use a 4-square you disagree with what I have written and will argue that it still works well. My response is that there are simply better ways. I am not convinced there is only one way to perform a write up. However, I firmly believe the most successful practices will involve market based pricing, exchanging transparent information and giving choices to the customer in some form of a menu format. What works for you? If you agree back me up with examples from your experiences. If you disagree, I'd love to hear why.