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Auto Dealers - Quality Products Deserve Quality Sales Methods

By Ron Coxsom

An article published by MSN money 11.14.02 revealed shocking stories of customers shopping at Auto Dealerships. The article gave several examples; one customer mentioned that they were “held hostage from “7:30 p.m. until 1:30 A.m.” saying that “the dealer refused to give them their keys back,” another customer (pregnant,) described her ordeal as being held hostage. She felt that she could not leave because the dealership offered valet parking, and took her car keys.” The pregnant woman said, “I was so mad I picked up a phone on the desk and screamed – I was going to call 911 if someone didn’t get my car keys.”

Years ago, sales people and Sales Managers executed certain tricks or tactics to control their customers. I started selling automobiles in 1984, and even thought I personally had never experienced anything similar to such abuse. I truly thought that I had heard it all, but became emotionally challenged to discover that such tactics still exist. I realize that stories can get stretch out of proportion, and probably would not believe the article had I heard it from someone else, but I saw the article.

I had heard that managers still use certain tactics such as throwing keys on top of the roof, disabling starters on customer’s cars, anything to manipulate the customer into remaining at the dealership. Using, these manipulative antics not only strengthens the negative opinion customers have of the Automobile Business, but it also increases the challenge for the professional sales consultant that cares. With such a manipulative focus, one forces the customer to focus on why they do not want the vehicle; the salesperson has become conditioned to sell the price instead of the emotion. All because there is no relationship with the customer, no profile, no emotional reason for the customer to notice the value of the vehicle. At this point of the sale, overcoming objections is at the very least a challenge, and it creates a hill to climb when proving to your customer of today that such controlling behavior is not your style. Not to mention asking for referrals, or accenting to the utopia level of establishing repeat business.

We must continue to recondition the consumer and provide superior service, but in order to provide superior service; you must seek the ingredients of SellingwithC.A.R.E. (Commitment, Accountability, Responsibility, Effort). Maybe you have never stooped that low, which is great - let me remind you that it only takes one bad apple . . . especially if the apple remains in the same environment. Psychologists have proven that we are a product of our environment. Especially, if we do not know how to flip the switch. Tony Robbins the focus guru says, “The things you focus on will determine how you feel.”

Nevertheless, today our focus in on creating Professional Excellence by establishing and motivating Sales Professional, Sales Managers, and Dealers to become leaders within their profession – I should mention that you cannot be a leader in you professional life without becoming a leader in you personal life, and vice versa.

Selling is creating feelings within the consumer, and people buy based on feelings. Pushing the customer’s passion button creates a pleasant feeling for the customer, enabling you to ignite a favorable behavior from your customer. My question is why does a manager stoop to such tactics? Because of instant gratification (microwave mentality), and their action is based on what they were taught (Product of Environment). Let me remind you what Alvin Toffler the author of Future Shock says – “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that can not read or write, but instead those that refuse to learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

We all understand the challenge of dealing with people; certainly, some individuals are simply unapproachable, and unappreciative regardless of your level of Professional Excellence. “To whom much is given much is required.” It is our responsibility to learn to communicate with all types of individuals. When a sales person chooses to manipulate a customer through the sales process. They will spend more time on the negotiation instead of building a relationship with their customer, and they will develop a certain closing style. The consequences of not seeking professional sales training will condition the sales person to relate to a certain type of customer. The salesperson will normally sell a certain profile of customer . . . the one that is emotionally unattached. Who created this emotional separation? The person that focuses solely on the sell of a vehicle (results), instead of the process of the sale.

What are they really attempting to do? No, I have not forgotten the times when I have been so disappointed in a customer because they misled me or delayed the process of the sale, because of their lack of trust. Yes, of course, you become frustrated, and we know that frustration is synonymous with depression ultimately convincing you to give up. In addition, when I have become disappointed to the point of diminishing my level of commitment, I reacquaint myself with a quote by Joseph Addison “A misery is not to be measured from the nature of the evil, but from the temper of the sufferer”. –Joseph Addison, essayist and poet (1672-1719).

Maybe, they have sabotaged the sales-process because of a lack of knowledge or growth. On the other hand, maybe such tactics have previously worked, and the individual ignores the fact that they need professional development in the area of communication.

Success is predicated upon – effort. You must become persistent in order to be consistent. By pushing your passion button, you will know what motivates you. That internal motivation will provide you with the proper ingredients to influence yourself, your customer and others. What do they hope to accomplish? Quite simply . . . they want to sell a vehicle, or run the customer from the dealership coupled with possibly destroying a sales person’s opportunity to grow and excel in the Automobile Business. On the other hand, perhaps they believe that if they control the customer or have control they will capture their interest.

Today’s customers are educated, informed, and demanding. They expect more from a Professional Sales Consultant as they should. They expect a knowledgeable Sales Professional, a hassle-free sales process, and a quality product. The Professional Sales Consultant seeks the same result; by not exclusively focusing on the sell of the vehicle, you choose to communicate with the customer with positive energy and constructive communications. Positive words produce positive results, and when you remain in the process, you will reap enormous benefits, namely repeat business. I realize I am talking to the choir, however, have you ever wondered what separates The Ritz Carlton from other hotels.

• Why The Ritz Carlton remains as one of the premier organizations in its field?

Most of us think the difference between a high-priced five-star hotel and an affordable unrated hotel is price and décor. However, when you are on the premises of The Ritz Carlton you become overwhelmed with Superior Customer Service. I was in New Orleans and visited The Ritz – the process reminded me of when I was on a Cruise ship every employee that I saw seem as though they were on vacation instead of at they place of employment – smiles galore.

• The answer is simple but remains difficult for most businesses – they have the right people.

In fact The Ritz Carlton spends (300) hours per employee reinforcing positive reinforcement to focus on the customers needs. They have full authority to handle and make well calculated decisions for the customer. They believe as a Professional Sales Consultant does: that it is the employee responsibility to understand the customer’s wants and needs, and for the Customer’s wants and needs to be simple understood. That is not innovation, creative, new, nor is it puzzling; that is ole-school caring. That is what separates them, and confirms the fact that the right people make the difference in success.

Professional Sales Development is the answer to building your business for repeat business.

Professionals seek and understand how to obtain the same results, instead of selling a vehicle, we choose to earn their business, and instead of manipulating the customer we choose to communicate with the customer with what is commonly know as positive-word tracks. We want to reap the benefits of Training and Development and strengthen our weaknesses. In order to become successful in the Automobile Business you must become persistent in your pursuit of self-improvement in order to become consistent in repeat business, and maximize your potential. Otherwise, we will suffer the consequences because of that which we lack or at worst neglect to improve upon. Those consequences are, your business will be inconsistent, or should I say, you would experience your sales going up and down, and at worst seasonal. The consequences are the result of your work ethics.

Joe Girard’s Guinness Book of World Record of achievement is he averaged six new retail sales a day. Most retail sales on one-day (18). Most retail sales in one – month (174). Most sales in one year (1,425). Most retail sales in fifteen years (13,001). Only five percent of dealerships in the U.S. sold 1,000 cars a year.” You just have to want to know – how he did that! His work ethic is his clue of Success. “Girard would mail nearly 13,000 greeting cards a month to his customer database.” He understood the advantage of remaining focused and remaining linked to the process. What are your daily activities? How do you spend your (idle) time? There is always a cause and an effect. Even though, some sales people are convinced that the car business is seasonal - it does not have to be that way. You will suffer the consequences of seasonal business by not considering the fact of your work ethics. Consequences are not defined as the end, and they should not convince you to quit nor question your ability, but instead they are a side effect which high lights your work ethics – it is just information. Remember this: Success leaves Clues, and fortunately so does . . . failure. Failure only means the end, if you completely stop trying. We are always one person from the person that we need to meet. One call from the person that needs your service. At least continue to try. It is never over until we stop trying. In the movie a beautiful Mind, the Professor said, “The odds of my Success increase by each attempt”.

Kinny Landrum a Sales Professional for Gary Force Toyota in Bowling Green, KY shared a sales story that validates positive expectations and work ethics. “I was watching the sales lot and noticed a Toyota Celica being towed towards the service lot. I waved to the people in the tow truck really just being friendly. Then about 10 minutes later a person emerges from the service department, looking for a taxi; I noticed that it was the same person in the tow truck. I asked him where he was going and offered him a ride, Kinny replied.” “Kinny says that the customer turn him down because he had already called a cab.”

Positive-Energy and persistence will build unseasonable business.

Let’s move on” - as Bernie Mac would put it. Even though the customer turned Kinny down for his generosity – Kinny continued by saying, “I informed him that in this afternoon traffic a cab ride might cost him as much as $20.00 bucks and I could drop him off for free. Kinny felt obligated because the customer was using their service department to have his vehicle repaired and it was the least I could do.” “As my customer and I got on our way he begin to inquire about the vehicle we were driving.” He showed so much interest, we turned around with his consent and went back to the dealership, and traded his 1991 Toyota Celica for a 2000 Toyota 4Runner!” Kinny described this process by saying . . . A random act of kindness turned into a sale!” When Kinny Landrum shared this incredible story with me, I had to tell him that his attempt is deeper than just earning the customer’s business. I am convinced that when we make a statement like, I am not going to do that; it is does statements that really voids our success; not statements such as - I can't. For instance, suppose Kinny would have said to himself . . . I’m not going to help this customer. Often times we mentally make statements such as, - I am not going to come in early, because I am not paid to do that! We catch an attitude of not increasing our service or helping others at a sincere time of need; the results are we just maintain the status quo instead of excelling beyond our comfort zone. Our mind in an undeveloped area of potential, and it is our thoughts that we have complete control over. “As you think, you travel, and as you love, you attract. You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” –James Lane Allen

Consider viewing consequences as positive clues to keep you in the process of self-improvement, and situations that will reveal to you what area may be a weakness. Selling is like Golf, during the process you will see the character of those that are involved, especially when obstacles get in the way.

Coaching the customer through the process of the sale allows one to guide the customer . . . not manipulate. If you are serious, about making the Automobile Business your career then become serious about your growth and enhance your chances to become successful in a business that needs your passion and your professional contribution. The worst thing about believing you will not succeed is in the believing.

You not only want to sell a vehicle we want to earn their business while creating a professional environment with powerful words that create predictable feelings. Asking questions a certain way while knowing the expected answers creates positive feelings within your customer, and selling is about creating positive feelings. Encourage your self to guide the customer through the process of the sale. Your mission should be to create a positive impact upon your customer, making the process so enjoyable that they think about you every time they pass your dealership. With this type of focus, you create repeat business, and condition your customer for their next purchase.

Those days of would you give _______ if I could - are history. If you have this type of vocabulary . . . what are you thinking? Those negative questions are asinine because your professional image decreases, and upon reflection you will notice that your deserved profit decreases as well. Regardless of the manufacture that your dealership represent to the public; research has proven that certain color skims motivate certain moods in human beings, and so does words.

Consider these questions. • Has the Automobile Business really changed? • What have you done to change the environment and the image of the Automobile Business? • Do you think it needs changing? • Have you ever considered what separates the good from the best? • Do you expect it to change by it self? • Does your position create your standards? • Is your Sales Business Seasonal?

In a recent study by J.D. Power said that “Overall, 16 percent of vehicles are rejected due at least in part to the shopper’s perception that the dealership staff was unprofessional or treated them badly.” It is time to change, and it starts with everyone on an individual bases, stop wishing it would change, instead make it change. John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

This is an area that you have control over; in fact, you will receive an increase in sales, repeat business, create a positive atmosphere with less turn over. Most importantly, you will make a positive impact on others, ultimately your community.

For more information:Ron Coxsom  or email him
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Ron's Motto: "Never allow the newness to wear off"