Car salespeople often hear, “I’m just looking,” “We just started shopping around,” and “We are just kicking tires.”

When I was a sales manager, I would watch how the salespeople would approach a customer on the lot. Some staffers were great at it, but others came back to the showroom looking confused.

I would ask them what happened, and they would say the person brushed them off with the “just-looking” line. Sometimes, I went out, introduced myself and asked a few contact questions. It never took long to start showing a few vehicles.

I don’t work on the sales floor anymore, but I’m in a dealership almost every day, and I’m still shocked when I hear salespeople are mishandling the most common objection in the business.

Remember, the customer is at the dealership for a reason, not because they are just looking but because they want to buy a vehicle.

Some common sales introductions are bad because they set up a negative response, something salespeople want to avoid. But you will get one if you say:

“Hello, can I help you?”

“Hi, do you need a salesperson?”

“Can I be of service to you today?”

“Is there anyone or anything you’re looking for?”

The best way to reduce the number of times you hear, “I’m just looking” is to start off with a proper introduction every time. “Welcome to ABC Motors, my name is Darin George and your name is?” Then immediately continue with your customer contact questions and selling process.

Many dealership customers are out of their element. There is a level of uncertainty from the start.

Consider this scenario: A married couple with two children arrive in their 9-year- old sedan. It is fairly obvious they need a replacement car.

A salesperson walks over and says, “Hi ! Do you need any help or could I get anyone for you?” The answer: “No thanks. We’re just looking.” So the staffer gives them his business card and says; “When you are done looking around, and if you need any help, ask for me.”

The family leaves. At a dealership down the road, they meet a professional who sells them a new minivan.

When shoppers say they are just looking, it’s a defense mechanism. Even salespeople say it when they shop.

Handle these objections with one of the following follow-up comments, or design your own track that accomplishes the same thing after hearing, “Just looking”:

  • “I certainly understand you’re shopping around. At our dealership we have a large selection of vehicles to choose from. If you give me an idea of what you’re looking for, I can point you in the right direction.
  • “So are you interested in a new or used car? What features are you interested in? Automatic or manual transmission? Two- or 4-door? Car, SUV or minivan?” Continue with the customer-contact questions.
  • “No problem! But just to let you know, we have more new vehicles coming in tonight and some great trade-ins coming in today and lots of vehicles out back. So, are you looking for a new or used vehicle, 2-or 4-door, 5-passenger or 7.” Continue with your contact questions.
  • “Great, did you know that we are having a sale today?” Mention an applicable product, even if it is a used vehicle or a special finance rate. There is always something on sale at a dealership. 
  • “So, what features are you looking for, new or used, automatic or manual transmission…?” Once you have overcome the objection carry on with your contact questions and the selling process.

If these approaches still don’t work, leave them alone. There is a chance they don’t want to talk to you. Don’t take it personal. But usually, how you start with a customer will determine where you end up.

Darin George heads the Automotive Sales College. He is at darin@visitasc.com .