The Road To The Sale (Auto Dealerships)

by Michael Hargrove

Over the years, I have had dealerships represent their selling process to me as an eight-step, ten-step, or even a twelve-step process. All have their own slightly different take on what the road to the sale entails but all of them pretty much mirror each other. As my own definition of this process has evolved, I am sure that it has been influenced in some way by all of them.

Just like building a building, I believe building a relationship is done in stages and that is what I identify as the ten-steps to the sale. And just like constructing a high rise building, the first few steps are the most important and each subsequent step becomes progressively less important. Experience has taught me that when we start to think it’s the other way around (that the close, for instance, is more important the needs determination step) that we tend to shoot ourselves in the foot by alienating our prospect.

The first step, “Whistle On The Way To Work,” which we will get into in a second, I believe is the foundation of the relationship, so it is the most important — being prepared, personally confident, and enthusiastic. Each step becomes a building block on that foundation. If any of these steps are compromised, then the steps (or floors) that come after (or above) will be compromised also.

So, with that as a backdrop, here is a brief overview of the steps to the sale as I currently see them;


Step 1: Whistle On The Way To Work

Through daily use of the techniques and disciplines that will allow us to stay prepared, positive, and enthusiastic, happiness and success in our professional as well as our personal life will become a habit. Remember motivation gets us moving towards success, habit gets us there.


Step 2: Dress Professionally

We’re talking about the first impression here. We must always dress in a way that helps our customer have confidence in us and helps us to feel more confident. And it’s not just the way we dress. It’s also an air of confidence we wear when we are on top of our game and have a high willingness to be of service. Included in this step is also the dealership’s appearance and what the sales staff appears to be doing when our customer first arrives (i.e. no vulture circles). Remember we have heard it before, we don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.


Step 3: Professional Greeting

People establish several conclusions about us within the first few seconds of meeting us. The way in which we greet our customer is just as critical and requires just as much practice as any other step of the selling process.


Step 4: Determine Customer’s Needs

Two of the most basic of all human needs are to be valued and understood. We must take this time to build rapport and help our customer to relax and feel comfortable working with us. We must make sure that the questions we ask serve our customer as well as ourselves. Through skillfully constructed questioning, we can help them see that we are interested in them as people, as well as wanting to discover how we can best serve them. Remember this; they don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.


Step 5: Presentation

A “good deal” is when the value received is greater than or equal to the amount spent. We provide our customers a “good deal” when we present the features and the benefits and build value in those things that our customer places value in. Also keep in mind, that we as sales professionals need to add value to the buying and total ownership experience as well.


Step 6: Demonstration

Our customer continues to take mental ownership when they get behind the wheel. It is our job to make the demonstration ride as enjoyable as possible by driving the vehicle first and by using a preplanned route.


Step 7: Sell The Store

By sharing with our customer the background of our owner or owners, and the dealership, also, by introducing them to our associates in the other departments, we give our customers more opportunity to feel comfortable about doing business with us.


Step 8: The Write-Up

The purpose of this step is not to find out exactly what it is going to take to earn the customer’s business. Rather, it is designed to find out whether or not the business can be earned today.


Step 9: The Commitment

Here, we must determine, usually in writing, exactly what it is going to take to reach an agreement with our customer today. We must touch on all the applicable variables such as trade-in, initial investment, monthly investments and price, all the while casting doubt and keeping them flexible.


Step 10: The Close

The average customer must be asked five times before the decision to buy is made. Our job is to make it easy for our customer to say “yes” and hard to say “no.” We cannot be effective if all we know is “If I could…would you?”


Our customer’s game plan is to go from store to store, get the best price, and leave. They will sometimes tell us the most outrageous things to throw us off of our game plan, to convince us that they cannot possibly do business today, and to sell us on the “fact” that the only hope we have of ever getting their business is to give them our “rock bottom price.”

What they actually learn shopping this way is nothing more than a lesson in futility. There is no such thing as a “best price” because this is a business with negotiated prices, for most of us at least, and many variables enter into the pricing structure — things like availability, color, equipment, age, time of the month, the moods of everyone involved, and how the transaction was set up. These variables are dynamic — always changing.

What our customers are really looking for is someone they can trust. With product parity pretty much a reality, and with the easy access to, or the posting of, market driven prices, the only true advantage we have over the competition is our own enthusiasm, our ability to help our customers to feel comfortable by building rapport, and the level of service we provide. Remember this; Ford manufactures and sells cars; Honda manufactures and sells cars; General Motors manufactures and sells cars. We cannot and should not try to compete. What we manufacture and sell are relationships. We manufacture and sell our service.

That is why it is important for us to remember the three things we must sell:

∙ ourselves
∙ the vehicle
∙ and the dealership.

As a matter of fact, the first four steps of the sale are designed really just to sell us, although we sell our self throughout the entire transaction. Like I said before, customers are really looking for someone they can trust, and though it may seem otherwise, price is seldom the most important issue to them. We must be head and shoulders above the competition. We must always conduct ourselves in as professional a manner as possible. Even if we are the biggest dork around, if we just think, look, talk, and act like a professional, we cannot help but become a professional.

Of course, we need to sell the vehicle, and the fifth, sixth, and eighth step are really designed to do that. We must show how our vehicle will fulfill their wants and needs, and we have to demonstrate our vehicle’s superiority.

The third thing we sell is the dealership. The seventh step is designed specifically for this purpose, and just like us, our dealership must be unique also. We have to show and tell our customer the benefits of buying there.

Lastly, and most importantly, we must have a genuine concern for our customer’s satisfaction. As a matter of fact, this is a customer service basic requirement. If we do not have a genuine concern for our customer’s satisfaction, we might as well go flip burgers because we will probably make more money. Our customers will be able to tell if we are insincere. Zig Ziglar once said, “We will get everything in life we want if we help enough other people to get what they want.” The way I like to say it is, “He is best served who serves best.”

© Copyright 2013 by Michael D. Hargrove and Bottom Line Underwriters, Inc. All rights reserved. Michael D. Hargrove is the founder and president of Bottom Line Underwriters Inc.

e-mail Michael Hargrove

Sign in to Friend Michael


View Michael Hargrove's profile on LinkedIn