Studies Show Key to Selling is Relationship over Product


The J.D. Power 2020 U.S. APEAL Study rank automakers based on how excited and emotionally connected people feel to their new cars. Of a possible 1000 points, the spread between first and last position is only 50 points. In the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study, fewer problems are reported in the first 90 days than previously. Other studies point to the same trend: vehicles today are achieving near parity.

Sales professionals in the current automotive climate, pandemic or not, are working with products that can hardly be considered superior to the competition. Rather, it often boils down to being a customer’s decision between brands due to preference and style, not because one is noticeably more reliable, more powerful, or of a higher manufacturing standard.

The parity between products makes selling cars a difficult proposition if it’s treated as a transaction. But when the customer builds a bond with the person at the dealership, it shifts the focus away from on the vehicle alone. And that’s where more deals can be closed rather than on product by itself. 

What is Relationship Selling?

According to a LinkedIn article, “Relationship selling refers to the sales technique that focuses on the interaction between the buyer and the salesperson, rather than the price or details of the product.” Some may argue that there’s more to selling than the relationship alone, and that’s true. Pricing – more accurately, affordability – and the product’s attributes are part of the equation. But instead of an equal balance across all three fronts, the rapport-building between the shopper and seller takes a leading role. relationship

How Relationship Selling Is Done Well

Unquestionably, word-of-mouth advertising through referrals is the most profitable way to increase car sales as well as traffic to all other dealership departments. Microsoft Dynamics 365 provides a framework for relationship selling to build trust that not only closes the sale but develops long-term clientele for you and your store. 

Preparation is Paramount

When you engage in any sales conversation with your shopper, you should be ready to inject positive communication techniques. Treat it like a non-business dialog at first – learning what’s important to them and finding common ground. This pre-sales conversation does two very crucial things: it shows the customer that you care, and it develops true caring in you.

This time of relationship building is good, but you need to know when to act and ask for the sale. That comes through practice. Role playing feels awkward to the best salesperson, but it’s a valuable tool to discover times in a relationship where there’s room for action. 

Collaboration Should be the Fruit

The sale is actually one of the least important parts of relationship selling because it’s a POI along a route, not the destination. A salesperson who does relationship selling well will understand that the sale is a place to take pictures and make memories along the journey but there’s more to come. And along the path, collaboration is a building block that can’t be missed.

For car sales, collaboration involves referrals. Asking for a referral from customers should not be a difficult or uncomfortable thing to do – even if they don’t buy from you right away. Once you’ve demonstrated that you care about how your customers are treated, they’re happy to share the experience with their family, friends, and coworkers. 

Check In Regularly

A friend who only calls when they need something from you isn’t a very good friend at all. The same applies for relationship-based sales. If you only call when the next sale is going on, you’ve failed. Routinely call customers every few months just to check in with no pressure to visit or buy anything. It’s an opportunity to discover if any circumstances have changed in their life and how mobility options factor in, but it should be more of a friendly touchpoint than a sales conversation.

With vehicles becoming more a matter of preference than reliability, the need to build a relationship is crucial. Build your people skills and relationship selling techniques by practicing in the showroom during slow times.

Did you enjoy this article from Jason Unrau? Read other articles from him here.

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