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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Jared Hamilton

Jared Hamilton Founder - CEO

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Welcome friends and family of the deceased.RIP - Tombstone


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.

 

Transparency:


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.

 

Menu Presentations:


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.

Bart Wilson
Wow Jared! Tell us how you REALLY feel. I agree with you. Choices are easier than decisions. It is the best way to maintain control of a deal while allowing the customer the freedom and flexibility to get the information to make an intelligent decision. Emphasis on intelligent. 4 squares insult that intelligence. It may work on a small percentage of buyers, but that percentage is rapidly shrinking.
Thomas Ieracitano
Your comments really do 'Hit you in the Face" especially when you have been in the business long enough to experience what you are describing. I agree with multiple options and giving the consumer choices. This invokes interaction and dialogue with the consumer as long as they are not given too many choices, which may confuse or put too much information in front of the consumer at once. Information Overload! Usually 3- 4 options at a maximum.
Jon Groenig
I'm with you Jared, I've been around this industry for a little while and never really understood the "peel your customer off the ceiling" mentality, it never seemed constructive to me to upset the customer and put them on the defensive with your first pencil. Then again maybe that is why I have adapted so well to the internet side of the industry, it gives me the opportunity to do things the way I have always thought they should be done. Who knew that pricing your vehicles within market and treating the customer like they have a brain could produce sales and profits, and that you could do all this without causing a major headache on the sales side or consumer side?
David Book
Jared, you forgot about the paper-airplane-in-your-face pencil the desk gives throws at you. Or, the crumble-it-up and toss it in the trash nightmare. What a great post. I can't even imagine how many 4-squares I've penned, the memories are funny. I'm thinking of the GIANT marker that Joe desk guy just had to use, or the "perfect" writing to make it look "official." We can't forget about the desk freaking out when you couldn't get a bump and saying something about... "Of course you didn't get a bump, you didn't list all the options and accessories, all of them, line by line, with prices associated with each (inflated of course), you didn't add any aftermarket stuff, and, you didn't crush their trade. Go find a another non-weak-suck salesperson and ask him how to do a write-up, then get a damned bump already!" Laters... David
Ken Boswell
I agree 100%! However there are still many Dinosaurs in our industry who think the old way is the only way and they are still providing this type of training to the new people in most all of the volume products. Having been in the Luxury segment of the industry for many years, it's pretty much free of this old school insanity.

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