When I worked on the sales floor one of my goals was getting as many potential customers as possible “to paper.”

I'd do everything: from a proper introduction, qualifying questions, a vehicle presentation and demonstration, I would sell the customer on all the benefits of our dealership. I'd bring them to my office and ask for the order. Then I'd put them on paper by using a worksheet.

The worksheet was one of my best closing tools. The more people I put on a worksheet, the more people I sold. I could forecast my monthly sales by how many people I could put on paper.

Now, before getting into how to “work the worksheet,” bear in mind that every dealership has its own version. Understand that it is only a worksheet. It is not a bill of sale or some kind of high-pressured tactic to get the customer to buy.

In the 1970's and even early 1980's, dealerships would use bills of sale to pressure customers into buying. In today's market, this technique doesn't work well. If done properly the worksheet can be, and is, one of your best closing techniques.

Which of the following is the most effective worksheet? Bill of sale, photocopied bill of sale, customized worksheet, blank paper or a bar napkin?

Let's break down each one.

Bill of sale

This is the oldest high-pressure tactic in the industry. It worked great in the past. The idea is to leave a stack of supposed “bills of sale” on your desk so that when the customer comes into your office they will see them. This means business is great.

Photo copied bill of sale

Again high-pressure. This is the same as a real bill of sale but it is just more cost-effective for the dealership. Not a lot of thought has been put into this system.

Customized worksheet

This worksheet has some thought into it. In a lot of cases, too much thought. Too many dealerships put too much information on these, and it gets too complicated. This type of worksheet is a step in the right direction. Keep it simple and clean, without too much small print on it.

Blank paper

This sounds crazy, but some of the best sales people do not use anything special to work from. They just start with a blank piece of paper. This is a casual and friendly way to fine-tune a potential deal. It makes you look like you are still working with the customer. And you are. This also gives the impression that you are not trying to hammer them into a purchase.

Bar napkin

This is a tad informal, of course. But like a blank piece of paper, a napkin has no pressure to it at all. Just friends having a cocktail or coffee and discussing a possible new-car purchase. Before you know it, they have agreed on the sale.

So which system works the best? As you can guess, I vote for the worksheet.

But there's a definite strategy on how to fill out a worksheet. Use it as a closing tool. If there's a trade-in, fill it out first, ask for the keys, ownership, exact miles etc.

The worksheet is important to finalizing the customer's commitment to purchase the vehicle and to re-confirm the features, mileage, pricing and such.

Remember you are always directing the customer to the purchase. If you view something as an objection the customer will also view it as an objection. Most customers know what a worksheet is and are apprehensive about it, so slowly lead them through it step by step. Do not try to rush through the process, or the customer will feel pressured. In the customer's eyes, it must be seen that you are working for them and with them. You do not need a signature on the worksheet until the final transaction has been completed.

Darin B. George runs the Automotive Sales College that trains new and experienced dealership sales people. He also conducts sales seminars for dealerships and manufacturers. The college is also looking for trainers and facilitators in every state. He's at 1-888-681-7355 and ascanada@sprint.ca and booth 5710 at NADA's 2002 convention.

8 steps to a “customized worksheet” presentation

Step 1:

Fill in the vehicle they want on the worksheet.

Tell the customer:

“Mr. & Mrs. Customer, I am going to pull out a worksheet and fill out the information on the vehicle you are interested in. OK?”

Step 2:

Fill in the equipment list. It builds value in the vehicle. Do not put it in short form. Put as much as you can on the list, in detail.

Step 3:

Always put in the asking price (MSRP) in the space provided. Do not put the sale or discounted price. If you do, they will want to start to negotiate from that price. If the customer says that they are not paying the asking price, just tell them not to worry, you are going to see what you can do about the price. Do not negotiate at this point.

Step 4:

Fill in the information on your stock number, customer telephone numbers, address, driver's license, how they heard of the dealership, etc.

Step 5:

Ask whose name the vehicle will be put in. This is great in establishing mental ownership.

Ask them:

“Mr. & Mrs. Customer, whose name would the vehicle be registered under, providing everything works out?”

(Fill in that person's name or company name.)

Step 6:

Ask them:

“And providing everything works out, when would you like to get the vehicle?”

If they say next week, do not put that date down, because if we end up with a deal they will want the vehicle ASAP. No matter what date or time they say always ask them if ASAP would be OK. Remember that the business manager sets up the exact delivery date and time.

Step 7:

Write a personalized note on your worksheet. Read it to them but do not ask them to initial it, yet.

“Mr. & Mrs. George will get the 2002 (vehicle), today, if all the figures are agreeable.” ___________ (initials only please)

Do not ask the customer to initial the note until you turn the work sheet around to the customer and review everything on it. Then the very last thing you will do is ask them to initial your personalized note.

This personalized note should be repeated until your customer fully understands it. The note states that the deal is good “only if” everything is agreeable with the customer and the dealership. If they refuse to initial it, there could be something you have overlooked. Re-clarify everything with them.

Step 8:

Once the note has been initialed, start your negotiations. (Refer to May and June '01 articles on negotiating in Ward's Dealer Business. If you no longer have the magazines, go the www.WardsDealer.com's monthly archives.) Show the customer your savings and negotiate. You will have only two options at this point, a sales or no sale, it's up to you.

After every worksheet has been completed and you have agreed on a number with your customer, a proper and complete bill of sale must be done.

Darin's wrap up:

Remember the importance of relationship building — the number one reason people will buy from you, is you! And the worksheet is one of your best closing tools if you use it effectively.

If you would like a copy of the Automotive Sales College's customized worksheet, call 1-888-681-7355 and we'll fax one over to your dealership.