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Jonathan Dawson

Jonathan Dawson Virtual Sales Training | Dealer Consulting | Speaker | Dealership Training

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Don’t Sit Down! 6 Reasons to Change How You Do Your Investigation

9d9e58bab306b55617e63606d5f5deac.png?t=1When you meet a new customer on the lot, where do you start your investigation process? I believe there is one best place to do it. But before I share what it is and why it’s the best, look at these typical places and pick the one where you usually start your investigation process:

a. Out on the lot
b. At your desk
c. On the show floor
d. Near the new car the customer’s considering
e. Near the customer’s car

Let’s consider the pros and cons of each one of these starting places.

Out on the lot
If you tend to investigate on the lot, I think you may like to ask questions in an environment that doesn't feel too constrained. You may also think it’s less intimidating for the customer to do it there. I’m going to challenge you, though, because I don’t think that this is the best place to start.

At your desk
I can see why you would choose to do it at your desk. If you were taught to "get control" as quickly as possible, the most controlling environment for the sale is at your desk. It’s also convenient because you can take notes there or access information. I understand why you’d want to be at your desk, but I’m going to show you that there is a better place to do your investigation.

On the show floor
If you investigate on the show floor, you probably do it for the same reason I used to do it there. I liked it because of the casualness of a conversation that happens on the show floor.  However, I’m going to suggest that it’s not the best place to start.

Near the new car the customer's considering
You’re probably trying to be as efficient as possible. By going to the new car and asking questions there, your hope is that the customer will share a lot of information because they’re standing next to something they’re interested in. However, I think there is even a better place to find out what the customer is looking for.

Near the customer’s current car
If this is where you usually do it, congratulations! Most salespeople would never pick the customer’s car to begin their investigation unless they were specifically taught to do it. Let me share why this is the best place to start.

6 REASONS to Start the Investigation at the Customer’s Vehicle

Going to the customer’s car at the beginning of the investigation process will give you a unique advantage in the sale. Here are the 6 reasons why I believe it’s the best place to start.

1. Their current car is the customer’s physical comfort zone. Because they spend so much time there, it is a place where they physically feel comfortable. Any place where we spend a lot of time feels very comfortable to us. If you’ve been employed at the same company for several years, it feels very familiar. Also, your home is your kingdom. This is the place for you to relax and spend time with your loved ones. Similarly, your car is a physical comfort zone because you spend so much time there. In your car you can sing out loud, listen to your music and do what you want. Going to a dealership is stressful for many customers, so when you invite them to one of their physical comfort zones (their car), they can physically relax. You will see their body language shift and become more open. They will become less tense and can talk to you casually like they talk with their colleagues or their family members.

2. The 2nd reason to invite the customer to their current vehicle is that it’s a conversational comfort zone for them. A conversational comfort zone is something they feel comfortable talking about. It’s easy for us to talk about things we’re very familiar with. When you ask questions about the customer’s car, it’s a natural way to have a conversation. You can ask questions like, “How long have you had it?” or “Has it been a good car for you?” or “What do you like most about it?” As you spend time talking about their car, the customer will begin to open up to you.

3. Reason #3 for starting your investigation near the customer’s car is because it will give you patterns of the customer’s current equipment and current situation. By looking at what they’re driving now, you’ll become familiar with what they are familiar with. For example, you’ll see if they have Bluetooth technology or if they have integrated stereo mounted controls. Their current level of equipment will tell you what you should emphasize in the next vehicle or what you don’t need to emphasize because they’re already very familiar with it.

4. The 4th reason to be at the customer’s car in the beginning of the investigation process is to find social and rapport building clues: bumper stickers, car seats, dog toys, tennis rackets, school stickers, or license plate brackets. All of these things will tell you a little bit more about your customer. Seeing these items will help you start a conversation and build rapport faster. Just think about - at your desk you’d have to ask someone if they have kids, but if you stand next to their car, you can tell by the Cheerios in the seats that they have small kids.

5. The 5th reason why you should go to the customer’s car first is because it will help you understand their financial situation. You can see what kind of car they have now and get an idea on their financial situation. You’ll also understand things like the condition of the car and how well they’ve maintained it. Asking financial questions is much easier if you’re standing next to their car. You can ask casually, “What sort of payment are you making on a car like this?” or “Did you put some money down in order to get that low of a payment?” Asking these questions while standing next to the customer’s car makes sense and will not be perceived as pushy.

6. The 6th reason is because it is their escape pod. Quite frankly, you want to go to your desk because it gives you "control." When we go to the customer’s car, we give them control. And when you give a customer control, you gain their trust. I believe the best position for a sales professional to be in is when the customer is in "control" but the sales person is leading the process.


I hope you’ll consider these tips and start your next investigation by your customer’s current vehicle. It will allow you to start the conversation naturally and casually in order to help the customer relax. It will also allow you to be efficient by learning about your customer’s needs and wants much faster.

Chris Pyle
Great Article! We have a 5 step process in place now and the customers trade is #2 right after the meet and greet. Everything you need to know is right there and yet too often we fail to gather this information when it could be helpful. Thanks for posting!
Jonathan Dawson
Chris, you and I think alike! A customer's current vehicle has lots of valuable information. But just to clarify, my process is not the same as a trade-in valuation. Even if a customer is not trading their vehicle, I still encourage sales people to start the conversation at their current car for the reasons I outlined.
Steve Richards
Well done.
Lance MacMillan
Man...that is genius. Is there anything it DOESN'T do?? You can even refer back to it at the closing..."And that's great, because for only two dollars more a day, you can get rid of that cramped up Chevy and finally have enough room for the kids". (Applause!)
Lance MacMillan I the only one who thinks the pic on the front page scroll for this article looks like Flo from the Progressive ads?? /too much ad watching

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