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4 essential sales skills for serving today’s vehicle buyers

An old-school sales approach won’t work with today’s well-informed customers.

Auto sales is nothing like it used to be. The days of pushing for appointments and controlling information are long gone. Today’s customers are more informed than ever before. More than one-third of car buyers visit just one dealership before buying due to robust online research tools. So, as a salesperson, how can you avoid common pitfalls and brush up on the skills needed to interact with today’s customers and continue to win sales? Focus efforts on the following.

1. Stop closing and start consulting.

Customers want to work with capable people that demonstrate a high level of knowledge and integrity. Your goal as a salesperson shouldn’t be to close the customer, but to consult with them. Digital customers need guidance and information; not salesy tactics designed to just get them into the store.

Many buyers say that they don’t trust salespeople because they don’t know enough about what they’re selling. Build more trust by improving your knowledge of the vehicles you sell so you can provide comprehensive and accurate information when customers need it. It’s ok not to know every answer – tell the customer you need to do more research to give the most accurate answer and then get back to them quickly.

2. People buy from people they like.

This old adage rings true; especially when you’re talking about purchasing big ticket items. Research shows that most people make a first impression of a person within seven seconds. If you want to lay the foundation for a great conversation, rapport building begins within the first few seconds of an interaction.

Begin by speaking with enthusiasm. It seems like common sense, but after you’ve answered the phone dozens of times and hit the send button on follow up emails all day, energy can dip without being aware of it. As you get further into the conversation, pay attention to how you’re mirroring the customer. Mirroring is the concept of adapting your sales and communication approach to your customer’s style. Mirroring the body language and tone of your customer builds agreement and rapport.

When communicating through nonverbal channels like email or text, Write in a casual, conversational tone to avoid your message sounding too scripted or like a template. You can also use the mirroring technique. For example, if a customer sends you an email that requires detailed answers, take the time to provide a thorough response. Even if your natural tendency is to be concise in your writing. Similarly, if your customer’s writing style is short and to the point, don’t overwhelm them with too many details and long-winded responses.

More: The link between emotional intelligence and selling cars

3. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason

Who hasn’t heard this one before? Yet, listening more and talking less isn’t always easy. Often this is due to enthusiasm. You’re excited to help the customer so you interrupt. But to the person getting interrupted it says, I’m not listening to you. When you give the customer your full attention and really listen, you’ll learn what they need out of a vehicle.

Listening also does the opposite of interrupting, it says this conversation is more about you than about me. Brush up on your listening skills by slowing down and letting the customer take the lead. Ask great questions to show you’re gathering information. Close your conversations by summarizing your next steps that naturally flowed from the conversation.

4. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

When a customer feels that you understand them and their needs they’ll be more comfortable and more likely to do business with you. This requires empathy. How do you develop it? You have to be genuinely interested in helping others get what they want before you get what you want. That means focusing on your customer’s needs before you think about simply hitting your numbers. Put a different way, it means helping customers buy a car versus just selling them one.

Take it a step further with an empathetic approach that validates the customer’s point of view. For example, if a customer has a concern about price, do you start rattling off what a great deal they’re getting or continuing to restate incentives and specials? Are you more focused on overcoming an objection as soon as you hear one? Or do you slow down and take the time to understand the reason for the customer’s objection? When you encounter obstacles from customers, instead of taking an “I need to overcome this obstacle” approach, consider a more empathetic strategy such as, “I’m going to understand and respond to this customer’s concerns.”

An old-school sales approach won’t work with today’s well-informed customers. Avoid common pitfalls and win more sales with these essential skills that put the buyers’ needs first. As a result, customers will want to do business with you.


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Tiffany Peeler
Tiffany Peeler
Tiffany Peeler is Vice President of Sales & Operations at Proactive Dealer Solutions, a leading provider of training, software, and BDC solutions for the automotive industry. 

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