Contrarian Selling Philosophy

by Mark Tewart

How different is the sales process at your dealership than it was 10 years ago? Although the marketplace has changed dramatically along with the customers that buy vehicles today, the selling process is close to the same as it always has been at most dealerships. This traditional sales process must change and become more employee and customer driven for it to work in the future.

Let’s walk through a few of the steps on the traditional road to a sale. Recently, I was waiting to speak to a General Manager in a dealership and I observed a veteran salesperson greet a customer with, “What can I sell you today?” Later that day at another dealership, I observed a salesperson say, “Can I help you”, in their greeting. I watched the customers in both instances cringe and begin to feel the pressure of the environment and the “system.” Proxemics , is the relationship of physical distance among people. An arms length distance of your customer is called the personal zone. Traditionally, salespeople are entering the personal zone immediately in the greeting and scaring the customer and putting them in an uncomfortable position. After putting their customers in this uncomfortable position, salespeople generally use a greeting comparable to the ones mentioned earlier, and now the salesperson is already having to dig themselves out of an awkward beginning.

Next, the salespeople generally begins to qualify the customer, which really means, seeing if they can find a reason why the customer can’t or won’t buy. Are you looking to buy today? How much do you want to pay per month? How much do you want to put down? How much do you want for your trade in? What do you owe on your trade? These all are examples of, “Deal Killer Questions”, that are traditionally being asked that are killing the gross profit and potential sales at your dealership. Notice that most of these questions concern financial data rather than wants, needs or previous buying patterns.

After disqualifying a large number of potential customers, a salesperson typically begins to show the new vehicle to the customers that they think “qualifies.” This begins what is known as the “Spray and Pray Method of Selling.” A salesperson begins to spray out their product knowledge and do a walk around presentation of the vehicle. The problem with this is, the salesperson still does not yet know what the customers keywords are, and therefore has to pray that their presentation matches the customers interests. Keywords are usually one to three words that a customer repeats in their dialogue with a salesperson that they consciously and subconsciously communicate to the salesperson what is important to them. If a customer is profiled instead of qualified to find out keywords, patterns, wants, needs, communication and personality styles, the salesperson can eliminate talking about things that the customer doesn’t want to hear about. This will also eliminate the feeling of being subjected to the “superiority of knowledge” approach that alienates customers.

W-I-I-F-M (What’s in it for me?), that’s what a customer wants to know. Let’s look at some of the steps that can enhance the sales process at your dealership. Doing a trade evaluation before showing the new vehicle is important: 83% of customers trade their vehicles in to the dealership. The salesperson can ask the customer, “What kind of vehicle are you driving currently” and walk over the the customer’s vehicle to begin their profiling questions. The profiling questions should center on their current vehicle, such as, “When you first saw this vehicle what was the first thing that made you want to own it?” These open-ended questions allow the customer to articulate what is important to them and allows them to share with the salesperson rather than feeling pressured.

In discussions with dealers and general managers, I many times hear, “We are already doing those things.” Are you really? Don’t let your ego get in the way with reality. What you want to happen and what is really happening are not always the same thing. Many dealers tell me their worst fear is wondering what their salespeople are saying to the customers on a daily basis. I have mystery shopped many dealers on the lot and the phone across the country and have found incredibly bad results. Results that the dealer is appalled at when they hear them. I have found that for all the changes that are going on in our industry, the antiquated traditional sales process is occurring everyday at many dealerships across the country. John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach once said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all, that counts.”


© Copyright 1999 Tewart Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Mark Tewart is the President of Tewart Enterprises Inc., a training and consulting company and is also a partner and National Marketing Director for Symeron LLC, an automotive computer company. Mark is a keynote speaker and has had top ranked programs on ASTN (Automotive Satellite Training Network) and is a featured article writer for Dealer Magazine, Wards Dealer Magazine and JustSell.Com as well as being a contributing author to a book titled, GenderSell – Selling To The Opposite Sex. Mark also provides sales and management seminars internationally.

You can contact Mark at:
Mark Tewart, President
Tewart Enterprises Inc.
1999 Kirby Rd. #100
Lebanon, OH. 45036
[email protected]


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