It amazes me why some sales people are not sure what the customer wants, who's involved, how the customer is possibly paying, whether a trade-in is involved, what the approximate monthly payment will be, if any money is being put down, who's the main driver, how many miles the person drives per month, etc.

Does it make any sense to know this information? Think of it like a doctor's examination. If the doctor does not ask you any questions or gives you any test, he or she will not be able to diagnose you. When you ask questions, you will always get more information back than what you originally asked for.

Immediately following a successful introduction — with no pause — start your contact (examination) questions. If you don't know what's wrong or needed, how can you fix it?

The initial questions you ask your potential customer set the tone and build rapport for the entire buying experience. Relax them and be friendly. It is up to you to assist the customers in the selection of their new vehicles. Who knows where and what every vehicle in your inventory is — you or the customer?

Before we launch into your contact questions you must determine where and when you will ask them. Most of the time you will ask them on the dealership lot or in your office. In a lot of cases you will blend these questions with your vehicle presentation. The contact questions have to be done immediately following your introduction and must be orderly. But don't sound like a robot.

Your contact questions are important because if you do not know this information, you can't properly assist your customers in their new vehicle purchases. The best sales people listen more than they talk. So listen to your customers.

Let's get started with your contact questions or should I say “the doctor's examination.”

  1. “Is this your first visit to the dealership?”

    Why Ask?

    This determines if the customer has been dealing with another sales representative, and how they heard about the dealership.

  2. “Did you know our dealership is …?”

    Why Ask?

    A point of interest about your dealership is always helpful in building credibility. Also, if you are having a special on a particular vehicle mention the special immediately, even if they are not interested.

  3. “What features are you looking for in your new vehicle?” (do not pause here)…

    …New or used? Two- or four-door? Car, truck, mini-van, 4×4, sports utility? Automatic or manual transmission? Four, six or eight cylinder engine? Air conditioning, AM/FM/cassette or CD player, power windows and locks, sunroof, cloth or leather interior, color preference?

    Why Ask?

    Obviously this determines what type of vehicle the customer is looking for and helps you narrow down inventory selection.

  4. “What do you have in your present vehicle that you would like to have in your new vehicle?”

    Why Ask?

    This determines if there is a trade involved. It also helps find the customers' “hot buttons” or features in the vehicle that are most important to them.

  5. “Is this vehicle for business, pleasure, or family use?

    Why Ask?

    This helps narrow the purpose of the vehicle. It will help you determine if leasing is going to be an option. If it is for the family, then size and safety are important.

  6. “How many miles do you drive per month?”

    Why Ask?

    This will help determine which needs are required depending on how much the car is driven. It also influences the leasing mileage restrictions.

  7. “Who will be the main driver of the vehicle?”

    Why Ask?

    If you are dealing with a husband/wife and the wife is the main driver you have to focus more of your attention on the wife. This will also determine if anyone else may be involved in the buying decision (spouse/co-worker/children). If the main driver does not want or like the vehicle, it will not be sold.

  8. “Will anyone else be involved in the decisions regarding your new vehicle, or will it just be yourself?”

    Why Ask?

    This is a direct way of making sure all the decision-makers are present. This question should be used with care. Some customers may take offense to it. But if you do not know the answer to this question, you might be unpleasantly surprised by the time you are ready to ask for the order.

  9. “Will you be selling us your present vehicle?”

    Why Ask?

    You must make sure if customers plan to trade in their vehicles. The reason you are saying “selling” instead of “trading” is because selling has more financial value to it. This information will determine how to handle the trade negotiation.

  10. “How will you be paying for your new vehicle — cash, financing or leasing?”

    Why Ask?

    This obviously determines what type of financing the buyer is contemplating, and gives some idea of his or her financial position.

  11. “What type of monthly budget are you looking at?”

    Why Ask?

    This will give you an idea of the selling price of the vehicle you should be looking for. There is one problem; the trade and cash down will affect the monthly payment. So if the customer wants a $50,000 vehicle and only wants to pay $400 a month, then think. It is important to try to increase customers' payment expectations, because their monthly budgets rarely are in sync with the vehicles they want.

Darin's wrap up

These are some of the best contact questions you can use. Combined with a proper introduction and vehicle presentation you will have an excellent start to a professional game plan.

Remember. Listen more than you talk.

Proper qualification questions lead to increased sales and profits.

And the more you practice something, the better you will get. There are no “tricks” to selling cars. So, practice, practice, practice.

Darin B. George runs the Automotive Sales College, which trains people for careers in selling cars. He also conducts sales seminars for dealerships and manufacturers. He's at 1-888-681-7355 and