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Jonathan Dawson

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

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Online Guides vs. Appraised Value – The Art of Fighting Without Fighting!

d4f8084a187cd748a72f668b10c5a1d0.jpg?t=1There is a great scene in the classic martial arts movie Enter the Dragon. Bruce Lee is being transported to an island where the top martial artists are competing for recognition as the best of the best. While on the boat to the island, an impatient fighter tries to pick a fight with Bruce’s character and asks him, “What’s your style?” Bruce quickly responds, “My style is the art of fighting without fighting!” Confused and curious by his answer, the bully offers to fight Bruce right there on the boat. Bruce at first declines but then realizes that this guy is not going to just go away so he offers the eager fighter to take a small dingy boat to a nearby island to show him his style. Once the bully gets in the boat, Bruce releases the rope connecting it to the main ship and slowly lets the bully drift off into the water. Bruce reattaches the rope and rests for the remainder of the journey, with the bully in tow 50 feet behind the ship. This is the art of fighting without fighting!

I recently I posted a question on my Facebook page that generated a great deal of comments and interest. Here is the original question I posted:

Dealing with the objection, "The Online Guide is the Bible and you're a liar!" What are some of your strategies when a customer is quoting an online guide and not "buying" your trade value?

In this article I will summarize some of the comments I received and then describe one of my favorite ways to address the 3rd party guide objection to your appraised trade-in value: The Internet Guide Close.

It was clear in many of the comments to this post that salespeople feel that some customers are like that bully on the boat trying to pick a fight. And many salespeople feel like they have to fight back.

The collective wisdom generated a list of ineffective responses that are used by some salespeople to address a customer’s objection of an Internet guide value.

Here are the top 10 ineffective responses salespeople and managers are using:

10) “That is just a guide and guides don’t have to be accurate!”
9) “Nobody knows where they get those numbers from.”
8) “Those guides are for consumers, so they are always inflated.”
7) “If I give you trade-in value, are you going to let me sell you mine for retail value?”
6) “We don’t use those guides at our dealership.”
5) “You can’t trust what you find on the Internet.”
4) “If you were selling me a house, could I use a guide to tell you its value?”
3) “We only use them if we aren’t familiar with the vehicle.”
2) “You probably entered the information there wrong.”
1) “They can say whatever they want, are they going to write you a check?”

I want to offer a more effective response to the “Internet guide” objection. This technique is based on one of the core principles of Sellchology – Selling through psychology. The principle is called proactivity, which means you introduce the objection FIRST so you don’t have to overcome the objection.

The technique is called The Internet Guide Close and it involves these 5 steps:

  1. Pick a car, book a car
  2. Print off the disclaimers
  3. Be prepared
  4. Discover the discrepancy
  5. Help them see the truth


1. Pick a car, book a car – Once a week, book out a vehicle from your inventory using 3 online guides. For example, book out something like this: 2010 Ford F150 Supercab XLT 60,000 miles. Assuming you put in the same equipment, you’ll probably get 3 different values that could range up to $3,000. Print all 3 values and have these copies ready at your desk.

2. Print off the disclaimers – Every one of these guides has a disclaimer stating something like this: "We are just a guide, and we don't guarantee accuracy. Please visit a dealer for a real appraisal." This is in fine print so it may take some navigating to find it but it is there! Most disclaimers can be found under the “Visitor Agreement” tab at the bottom of the page. One site calls their values “opinions”, while another site basically says “we give NO assurance that any of our advice is ACCURATE.” Here is my favorite, “we assume NO RESPONSIBILITY for the accuracy of the information we provide.”

3. Be prepared – It’s time to be proactive! When you sit down with your customer and before you get an appraisal ask the customer this question: "Are you familiar with how we perform a fair market analysis to determine the actual market value of your vehicle?"

The customer may say, “I saw a guide that said my vehicle was worth $20,000.” Even if they don’t mention a guide, be proactive and share your 3 copies showing 3 different values on the same vehicle.

4. Discover the discrepancy – Let the customer look at the information and allow them to discover the discrepancy. You may say, “I want to show you how we do it here at ABC Motors because I know it can be confusing if you’ve looked at online guides and then dealership values, and you’re trying to figure out which one is fair."

Then hand them the copies of the vehicle you booked out this week and say,
"Take a look at this and tell me what you notice."

It’s important to let the customer discover the discrepancy!

5. Help the customer see the truth – Politely and professionally point out the fact that these sites are just guides, that most won’t write you a check, they don’t have to be accurate, and that these sites make their money from advertising, not accuracy. Once you’ve made your case, present your numbers and close the deal!

If the Internet doesn’t agree with itself, it’s reasonable that we may also have a different number, too.

Most customers presented with this information will agree that out of all of the opinions out there, the one writing the check has to be the one that matters the most.

Following all 5 steps of the Internet Guide Close allows the customer to be educated and better informed. And the sales consultant is now positioned as a resource that is more transparent than the online guides.

The point is, don’t argue with the Internet and instead let the Internet argue with itself. This is the art of fighting without fighting!

Tyler Larson
Great information!
Russ Chandler
Great topic and advice. Its interesting to see just how intertwined dealers have become with 3rd party brands today. Dealers have very little influence over what one of these brands will do and yet many are relying more on other brands than their own. I'm definitely not saying there isn't a value and place for 3rd party brands, just that it would would be wise to stay consider your own brand as well.
Jonathan Dawson
@Tyler, Thanks I hope you can implement it into your tool box! @Russ, couldn't agree more. Dealers need to OWN their OWN brand instead of simply investing millions into these other brands.
Chris Johnston
Jonathan, thanks for a great basics approach to one of the biggest hurdles to taking trades today. I can't believe how many seasoned veterans in this business come to the desk looking defeated because "NADA told them $XXXXXXX for their car. How close can we get?"

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