It’s called the “golden hour” in emergency medicine. Severely injured people’s survival chances are greatest if they receive emergency care at a medical facility within 60 minutes.   

In vehicle sales, the golden hour refers to the first 60 minutes in which salespeople develop and build a customer relationship. That in turn leads to higher levels of pay.

It is the critical period that salespeople spend with customers, listening to their wants, needs and desires, and helping them select the next vehicle they will own and drive. It’s the time when salespeople are sure that the vehicle selected is the right fit for customers.

It’s similar to a man shopping for a suit. Throughout the process, a salesperson helps him make the selection that perfectly fit his wants, needs and desires. The suits are displayed on mannequins and racks that the customer looks at and through until he finds a few suits that particularly appeal to him. 

He then feels the fabric, checks the color and style and ultimately tries something on. He looks in the mirror and works with the salesperson to see how custom tailoring can perfect the fit. Only after he’s selected the right suit does he concern himself with the price. 

Similarly, salespeople must help customers select a vehicle that fits. It should meet wants. Does it work with their body type?

It should fit their needs. Are they looking for a family, work or sports vehicle?

It should fit their desires. How does it make them feel? Can they see themselves in the car for the years of ownership? 

This all should take place during the golden hour. In this time, the manager should act like a maître d’ by introducing himself and making sure customers are taken care of.

Salespeople should never leave customers repeatedly to ask questions or get help from a manager. Nor should they ever discuss price or involve a manager in price negotiations until the end of the selection.

Commissioners are higher for salespeople that do all these things during the golden hour. Beyond that time period, sales processes reach a point of diminishing returns. Commissions start to decline.

The more time spent during the golden hour on the selection process, the more likely the customer will buy and drive that vehicle home.

When salespeople spend more time negotiating price, their earning potential essentially stops. With negotiations, the risk of customers walking away over price increases. 

When a third party is involved, the tempo is disrupted and the selection process comes to a halt before customers have had a chance to decide on the product, the dealership and the salesperson. The excitement wanes.

During the golden hour, salespeople must accomplish three simple things:

  • Help customers select the right vehicle. Remember we are helping the customer to buy.
  • Help them select the dealership.
  • Earn their trust by assuring them you are the right salesperson to work with. 

To do this, salespeople must demonstrate a sincere interest in each individual opportunity, gain information and help customers find the right product.  Salespeople must be 100% present and work with a single-minded focus for each customer in order to develop them into clients who return to purchase again and again. 

Ask questions, listen, learn and empathize. Understand problems from the customer point of view. Discover essential details in order to successfully guide the selection process and find an exact fit. 

Salespeople must demonstrate the product, show and tell customers all about the facility and welcome them as part of the dealership family.

Any discussion on price or negotiations around price should come last and take the least amount of time.

When this happens, price becomes secondary and salespeople earn high commissions. When time is spent on the selection process and customers fall in love with a product, price is rarely the reason a sale is lost. 

Not only does this approach help close more sales and create higher customer satisfaction at the time of the purchase, it also has lasting effects. Delighted customers rave about their experiences, refer friends and family and ultimately become clients. 

When salespeople sell price or pre-qualify customers based on budget, then price becomes the primary issue. 

It makes it easier for a customer to walk if a manager gets involved too quickly and the sales process moves into negotiations before a customer has selected the right vehicle and has decided to purchase from the dealership in general and the salesperson in particular.

Just as in emergency medicine, the golden hour is a critical time in sales. Help customers select the right vehicle in the first 60 minutes. Customers win because they go home with a vehicle they want and love. The salesperson wins because they’ve maximized their commission.  The dealership wins because they’ve delivered a vehicle.

Richard F. Libin is the author of the book, “Who Stopped the Sale?” (www.whostoppedthesale.com) and president of Automotive Profit Builders, a dealership training  firm with nearly 50 years of experience. He can be reached at rlibin@apb.cc or 508-626-9200 or www.apb.cc