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Jared Hamilton
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Gary May

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Let's take a moment to ignore the store front, avoid the showroom, shed technology and just get back to being human. Do you know how to talk and carry a conversation? Well, if you judge that by much of the email and phone communication going on at automotive retail, you'd be left with more questions than answers.

Face it, we have a lot of room to grow when it comes to 'inviting' the public to car dealerships. Oh sure, they'll continue to come when they have to buy. They will find somewhere and someone to buy from. But the fact that most of you had an easier time asking your first date out, shows we still have issues when it comes to how to engage a person that wants to buy!

Many people shrug off their verbal and written skills when they can deliver a fair amount of cars each month. When lean times come, they'll blame everything but the water cooler (maybe some will actually blame the Sparkletts man) rather than look at their own communication.

So here's a 4-step recovery program that should help you (who needs 12 steps anyway?):

1. Know what you want to say before you touch the phone or start typing

At least with an email you can proof it before sending but most salespeople aren't in the habit of doing that. The biggest hint that a salesperson isn't ready for the call? Uh, um, er, ah, eh, well, gee, ayyyyyyye (the long 'I' as they reach for something to say) and other stalling tactics tell the customer on the other end of the phone clearly that there might be a more professional person in the building.

2. It's about the customer, silly

I did this. I did that. I'll talk with my manager, I usually tell people that ask me that. I, I, I, I, I. Stop it! It's about them, always has been, always will be. Go to a nice restaurant for dinner, the waiter or waitress doesn't say "I have some specials tonight" they?!?!?! No!! What you'll usually hear is something like "would you like to hear what your choices are for specials tonight?" or "Would you like to start with a drink or appetizer?". Go to fast food and they say "can I take your order?". Are you selling a hamburger value meal or a choice steak? (or Gorgonzola salad for our vegetarian readers!). Change your focus to the customer and you'll be amazed at how different your interaction goes.

3. Questions are like water. Go without and you die.

You've get them qualified. You walk them. You drive them. You sit them down. You pencil them. You close them. If you stop asking questions, you likely lose somewhere along the process. When the questions end, the conversation ends. Sure, they can pick it up again. Our job? Keep them talking. About the car, themselves, their family, their likes, anything. Stop asking, you're on your own because you've lost control. Questions (as well as answering theirs) are the lifeline of communication along with emotion and everything else the expensive consultants and sales coaches tell you is important (that you already knew).

4. Validation and excitement. Oh, and courtesy!

Who can be excited about calling you back if your message sounds like it was made in a monotone machine? Ten messages down and ready for call 11? Get pumped up again! Nobody wants to call a boring sales person back about what is exciting for then. And how about validation? Can you relate to your customers, even the ones with challenged credit? Don't kid yourself because people can see through fake. And remember, especially in today's social age (sorry, had to go there for a moment), their experience with the 'less than exciting, not quite interested in me buying a car from him/her' now translates to dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, more people who may not shop at your store now.

And with regard to courtesy, if you're not asking if the person you are calling is available for you in a way that doesn't completely let them off the hook from talking with you (because they must, must, must buy the perfect car for them from you), you don't deserve to be selling cars. Don't ask, don't tell. If you don't ask if they're available, they'll likely never tell you they're buying from you.

In today's age with complete transparency on the web, don't kid yourself into doing a less than a complete, exciting job with your customers will work. We're not saying to be something your not, but if you're in automotive sales and expect to do well, just do it. It may not be fair that a book is still judged by its cover but don't treat anyone trying to do business with your store any differently than what you expect when you go into someone else's.

Welcome back to the business about people. You can now return to your technology-laden existence.

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

You can read more IM@CS posts her eon or on our blog

Mike Sheehy
Great post! I especially liked the rule on keeping the conversation about the customer instead of myself. The restaurant example worked well. Not only can you use that tip for selling cars, but it’s also a great idea to keep any conversation interesting. -Mike J&L Marketing, Inc.!/pages/Louisville-KY/JL-Marketing-Inc/31166092696?ajaxpipe=1&__a=5
Bart Wilson
Great analogy on waiter versus drivethrough order taker. On another note I think we really need to balance the fine line between canned scripts/email templates and personal content. I'm not talking about inbound phone scripts, I mean outbound follow up calls and emails. You make a great case for calls/emails that let your personality come through. You can't automate everything!
Stacy Mueller
Although you didn't want to go there Gary...I'm glad you did. The pure power of word of mouth is strong. Add the element of social media and it's WOM on steroids. It's truly amazing just how quickly a negative experience can be related to one's friends, family, coworkers and now strangers online. Good stuff overall. Thanks! Missy

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