This Month’s Selling Principle:
Desking Best Practices
This month I was asked to share with sales managers some of the common desking best practices I’ve encountered across the country. These are things that, when adopted, should help you help your sales people be more effective. I know that most of these things are already being done in your store but it’ll still be a useful review and you may even pick up one or two new ideas.
I won’t get into the write up process itself because that varies significantly from dealership to dealership. Of course, everyone in your store should be on the same page as far as write up procedures are concerned and that’s something that should be covered in your training meetings at least once a quarter if not more often. Having said that, here’s a few of the best desking ideas:
1) THE DEAL IS EVERYTHING. This means that when a salesperson comes to the desk (sales office) with a deal…EVERYTHING else takes a back seat. And I mean everything. The phone call gets cut short (yes, even if it’s the boss on the other line)(heck, especially if it’s the boss on the other line! Don’t you want your dealer to know you know what he’s hired you for?), all other superfluous conversations cease, the ad stops getting written, etc. All other distractions in the sales office need to be eliminated. We need to give our salesperson our undivided attention…period. After all, that is what our main job is, right? To help our sales staff sell more cars is job one, isn’t it?
Also, watch how quickly and dramatically the morale in your dealership improves when everyone realizes that making deals is the most important thing to you. I know you’re probably saying that it already is, but ask yourself right now, what have your actions lately been telling everyone? Believe me, it’s very discouraging to a salesperson to have to wait for their manager, their main ally in battle, to “finish something else” when they finally come to the desk for assistance. And there’s nothing more encouraging than seeing your manager put the rest of the world on temporary hold to help you make your deal!
2) STAY POSITIVE. Selling cars is hard. Most customers are defensive at first, some are down right rude, and many transactions start out somewhat confrontationally rather than collaboratively. Remember why most of us wanted off the floor in the first place?! So, our sales people don’t need someone else to fear. They don’t need “tough love”, they don’t need a kick in the ass! At least not at desking time. What they do need at this time is someone to encourage them, to lift them up, and to give them hope. What they need is someone who “sees the deal happening”, who’s continually thinking of ways to make the deal happen, and who is focused solely on helping them accomplish this.
We definitely don’t want our sales people to be reluctant to bring us a deal, any deal for that matter. There’s nothing more demoralizing than coming to work not knowing who’s going to hand you your head first, your customer or your manager. As a general manager, I was fond of telling my sales managers that I knew we’d make more deals if I just could replace their magic markers with cheerleader pom poms. I even toyed with the idea of buying them unifor…but that’s a story for another time.
So, when desking, we need to focus only on what’s gone right so far and we need to help build our salesperson’s confidence. There will be plenty of time later to reprimand, if need be. So, stay positive and upbeat!
3) DESKING IS NOT A TRAINING OPPORTUNITY. In front of a paying audience, in the middle of a major surgical procedure, or with two minutes left on the game clock, these are NOT the times to “practice”. Preparation is the key to success, that’s true. But when it’s crunch time, we need to focus on the job at hand. Either we are prepared for it or not.
The same holds true for desking deals. Even if our salesperson has botched the entire transaction, now is not the time to “fix” them. We already screwed up by not having them “game ready” beforehand. Let’s not compound our error by taking our eye off the ball! We need to focus on ways to make the deal happen. Our sales person needs us to focus on ways to make the deal happen. Our owner pays us at this critical time to focus on making the deal happen. We missed our opportunity to train them ahead of time, just don’t make the same mistake twice. Make a mental (or written) note of what to cover with that particular associate, and after the heat of battle, after emotions have subsided, debrief them. Then, schedule a time to train and train them.
Remember, the deal is made or lost, gross profit is built up or eroded, based on what we have done before the customer shows up!
4) HAVE A BOOK OF CLOSES.
Every sales office has a current invoice book, a current new vehicle inventory list, a current pre-owned vehicle list, and a current lender rate/program book. Some of us have it available digitally, some of us have it available to us in book form, but all of us have these at our fingertips. Why? Because this information is too massive, and way too critical, to simply rely on our memories in order to take advantage of the opportunities.
Isn’t closing just as important? Instead of hoping the customer comes back, let’s make sure we use everything at our disposal to help us earn their business right now. It’s important to note that no one is smart enough to remember everything they know. So, put together a book of closes. Use tabs and section it off for each specific objection and each specific closing scenario. And remember to update it as often as you update the other aforementioned books. You’ll close more deals with this resource.
5) HAVE A DOWN PAYMENT LIST.
How many of us have heard this one…cash down equals gross profit? Have you had enough of the “$0 down delivers” ads? I know I have. How about this idea, have a list of down payment options available to us. Now, I know that some of these ideas won’t work for some stores. So, you may want to touch base with your boss to make sure but here’s some ideas that others have used.
Some stores accept old computers, bikes, skiing equipment, boats, trailers, ATVs, racing equipment, musical instruments, jewelry, time share vacations, etc. At a workshop in Tennessee, I was told that dealerships there occasionally take in horses as down payments. Talk about horse trading! Basically, anything that can be resold could be used as a down payment IF you and your store are willing to go through the extra effort. Many stores also accept hold checks and pick up payments.
Ask your customer if they have available to them , stocks or bonds they could liquidate, relatives or friends they could borrow from, 401K programs they could borrow from, pay day loans they could use, or other lines of credit they could tap into (Use this last one cautiously as it could violate your dealer’s lender agreement.).
6) HAVE A PC WITH INTERNET ACCESS.
In the last few years, the lenders have taken “making deals happen” to a whole new level. We can load a deal and get answers in 10 seconds or less on deals, on secondary deals, not just the prime paper everyone knows is a deal. Examples of this are: Dealertrack (of course), HAFC superhighway, most all the captives such as GMAC, as well as many other credit unions. In fact, there is a company called credit connection that will make it so we can automatically transfer the information straight from Reynolds or ERA to the web by clicking one button.
Try this idea, while the we’re waiting for the sales person to come back with a “bump,” preload the deal into one or two of the lenders. Then, as soon as an offer comes back, adjust the down or the trade, and click the button. Bam! Instant feedback, which significantly reduces the need to resign a customer. And even if the lenders’ system turns the deal down, we can pick up the phone, and be first in line to negotiate. This way we don’t have to wait an hour for the application to be processed.
Did you know that many of the lenders have the faxed over data inputted in Mexico? Yep, that 800 number on the fax sends it over to where they can get the cheapest labor. Then the faxes are sorted into two piles, easy to read and “we’ll get around to it.” Once it is finally put in, with all the chances for human error, it is e-mailed back to your local branch.
Many times the deals sales managers have made have been late in the evening, when the lender is closed but their computer buys it for them, and they roll it. Often the lender’s system doesn’t have the prejudices the actual buyers do. Managers often see deals approved that a loan officer wouldn’t ever touch. Again, these systems are free and the lenders will train us on them. They think it cuts overhead, and this is to our advantage.
7) KEEP NOTES ON YOUR LENDERS.
Really! A friend of mine, Steve Hiatt, who owned Mountain Mitsubishi in Tacoma Washington, stole this one from the movie Boiler Room, where they used “rebuttal indexes” to overcome objections.
Do we know what our loan officers’ characteristics are? What makes the buyer tick and how we move them? Do we know who to go to when the down is big? When the debt to income needs to be ignored? When the credit file is thin or the credit wasn’t even reported to the bureau? Do we know what buyer has a propensity for particular types of deals? We need to keep an index book with each lender and each of the buyers in it. Write down who buys what, who has what authority and when to avoid the buyer. Steve said he used to beat his head against the wall, because the buyer would be agreeing with everything he said and then still not approve the deal. He would hear, “Great, but I still can’t buy it because my limit is $25K but I will go to my manager and ask them to approve it.”
ASK?! Did she just say she’d ask?! What do you think the fax came over with at 5:01 in the afternoon? Declined, of course! Steve had sold the wrong person and then depended on their skills to sell it to their manager. He told me he might as well have just hand selected his own firing squad. BANG!!
This tool will keep us from negotiating with a lender that doesn’t have the authority to buy the deal. Or maybe only a supervisor can overturn auto declines. Many lenders have caps on dollar amounts or internal scores that only senior buyers or credit managers can overturn.
We also need to get personal information on them. It is extremely helpful to note the buyers’ hobbies, interests, family, and background; building a little common ground is much easier that way. People, even buyers, don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. And, when the lender likes us, our deal’s approval odds go up. Way up.
I hope you will use these few desking ideas to your and your sales staff’s benefit. They’re really not all that difficult to put together and use. And even if they were, wouldn’t it still be worth it?
So, until next time, be well, and do good work!
Michael D. Hargrove
“There’s a wonderful truth about skills and knowledge: they don’t wear out with use. Quite the contrary. Knowledge takes on greater depth and meaning through hard use; skills become strong and tough through hard use.”
Objection of the Month: “We need to shop other cars first.”
These are just a few of the most common strategies shared at the workshops we’ve conducted all across North America and attended by thousands of the top sales people in our field. Please keep in mind that nothing works all the time, and no one thing will work for everybody. Each of these strategies, of course, need to be tailored to the individual user, to the specific customer, and the particular situation. Also, this is by no means the definitive work on overcoming this particular objection and it’s not intended to be.
a. “What other cars do you need to shop? (Let’s assume they tell us the Accord and the Maxima.) Have you pretty much narrowed it down to our car, the Accord, and the Maxima?” (Wait for their response, then say,) “Well, then, good news! (Pause) You can’t make a bad decision. All three of those cars will give you the __________ and the ____________that you’ve told me was important to you, and all three of them are hands down reliable. They all should give you many years of trouble free service, so you can’t mess up. Look, Ms. Customer, I know you weren’t expecting to do business with us today, and that’s okay, but c’mon in and let me give you a basic idea of the numbers. That way you can make an intelligent decision. That makes sense, doesn’t it?”
b. “So you’ve got other cars to compare ours with. Then may I ask you a question? What were you hoping to find in those other cars that you’re not getting from ours?”
c. “You’ve found the right car, in the right color, with all the right equipment, and at the premiere dealership in the city, and it’s in the general price range you were hoping for. Tell me, Mr. Customer, have you ever lost your keys?” (Or we can use “the remote” or simply the word “something”. We wait for their response, then ask,) “Remember what that was like? Searching frantically all around the house, under sofas, in drawers, under pillows, remember how that felt?” (Wait for their response, and continue,) “THEN…you finally find them. Whew! Remember how that felt? (Give a big sigh and act relieved. Wait for their response, then ask,) Let me ask you, after you find them, do you keep looking?” (They usually say “No”.) “Well, sir, what are you thinking about doing here? You know you like it, so why don’t you just go ahead and get it”.
d. “What other cars were you thinking about shopping? Great. Follow me, I’ve got some comparison guides inside that should prove very helpful to you.”
e. “What other cars were you thinking about shopping? Great. Follow me to the previously owned section of our dealership and let’s do some side by side comparisons.”
f. “What other cars were you thinking about shopping? Great. I’m very familiar with all three of those competitors, very worthy competitors too, I may add. Allow me to share with you some of our products strengths AND weaknesses compared to those you’ve just mentioned, it may save you some time.”
Next month’s objection will be: “How much discount can I get?” We need YOUR input! Please forward your ideas on this one, or your suggestions on which objection to cover next, to [email protected].
“Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.”
June 1, 1997
Inside every adult lurks a graduation speaker dying to get out, some world-weary pundit eager to pontificate on life to young people who’d rather be Rollerblading. Most of us, alas, will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns, but there’s no reason we can’t entertain ourselves by composing a Guide to Life for Graduates.
I encourage anyone over 26 to try this and thank you for indulging my attempt.
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97:
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.
Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing every day that scares you.
Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.
Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.
Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.
Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.
Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.
Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.
Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.
Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.
Respect your elders.
Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.
Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.
Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.
But trust me on the sunscreen.
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“Love it Mike! Keep kicking ass. I’m looking forward to working with you this year. I’m also looking forward to the next years of training. You now have a pupil for life. Thank you for all your hard work and providing all this information.”
Victor Bravo, Client Adviser – Lithia Subaru
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