What sets successful dealers apart can be summarized in how they start, as the customer enters the dealership property.

“Welcome to APB Motors. My job is to help you select a vehicle and get you a price.”

Sales people who discuss the product and learn about wants, needs, likes and dislikes, are helping the customer select the exact vehicle that is right for them.

Such salespersons involve the customer and work toward providing a quality selection, not toward closing a sale. With this approach, price — the primary roadblock to closing — becomes a distant consideration.

Consider two dealers. Dealer A spends more time on the product presentation, on helping the customer select a vehicle. This dealer understands that once the customer falls in love with the car, price becomes a secondary consideration.

Dealer B, however, spends less time on the product and moves quickly to negotiations, price, selling a car.

Given the right product presentations. customers will select a car within the first 45 to 60 minutes. A salesperson's job is to help customers select cars through product presentations. It is not to sell cars.

Unfortunately, without consistent training on customer-centric selling nearly all salespeople revert to the standard: “Hi, can I help you?”

This enables customers to pre-qualify themselves before learning about any cars. “No, I'm just looking, thanks.” This forces the salesperson to make a judgment about the customer's true intent, without getting to know them. (“They are window shopping and not really buyers.”)

“Do you want to drive it?” “Do you want to buy it?” Customers are bombarded with questions seeking yes-no answers and intending to get them to buy any car, now, rather than driving and purchasing a car that has been carefully selected to meet their needs, a car they can fall in love with.

Dealerships often are organized primarily around selling products rather than creating customers.

They talk about customer value instead of customized value. They fail to understand the difference between the two. Customer value is about delivering value to a general customer. Customized value is about selecting and delivering a solution for each customer.

Customers tell us that they are looking for the “best price” on a car. In APB's experience, what customers really want is trust and confidence in the salesperson and dealership. Price alone does not sell the car, sales people do. Building trust requires a genuine interest in customers.

Training sales people to help customers select an ideal car helps build that trust and confidence, recognizing that the customer's perception must rank high in any successful and enduring sales approach.

Learn customer wants and needs, then discuss product features and benefits relative to those. By the time price negotiations come, the customer is ready to buy.

These five tips can get you started:

  1. Courtesy and friendliness aren't enough. Customers want real help and a genuine interest in their needs.
  2. Select the right car for each individual buyer. When a customer has picked the color and is hugging the bumper, they're ready to buy.
  3. Ask questions that are direct, but non-confrontational or pushy and deliver specific information that builds on moving the process forward.
  4. Ask about the type of car, potential uses, the style and feeling the customer is seeking. Find out practical needs and impractical desires for a vehicle.
  5. Offer to show the customer how the unique features of the vehicle selected for them work — do offer a demo drive. Then let them experience the car for themselves.

Dealerships that leverage APB's systems and training are dedicated to delivering the “Red Carpet Treatment” to every customer. It all starts with: “Welcome to APB Motors. My job is to help you select a vehicle and get you a price.”

Richard F. Libin is president of Automotive Profit Builders Inc., a training firm with 40 years experience in sales, service, satisfaction and profits. He is at rlibin@apb.cc or 508-626-9200.