Some dealers and manufacturers may disagree with this month's sales meeting, but it's for those of you who are concerned about your sales people giving out discounted numbers prematurely. That, as we all know, leads to “potential” customers taking our price and having it beat down the street.

One of my sales management positions was at a Chrysler dealership that had a one-price policy. Isn't this what a lot of car buyers want? My uncle is a professor at Michigan State University, and we argue about this topic on a regular basis. Just give him one price and he will buy, he says.

I ask him does he get quotes from other dealers and of course he says, “Of course!” Ironically, when we give out our best price, in 90% of the cases the customer still disbelieves us. And down the street they go. Needless to say that Chrysler dealership I managed is no longer a one-price store.

Giving out numbers too soon costs sales and gross

Most potential customers want to get a price, payment or a trade appraisal from the salesperson.

If we give these numbers too soon in the selling process, they will thank us, say we're nice, and drive to the next dealership to get another number from another salesperson.

This new number they get is better than your number. Now you're not so nice. Interesting concept, one minute you're the nicest salesperson alive and soon after you and your dealership have become rip-off artists.

These people will not be back to your dealership. Your goal is to hold on until both you and the customer are ready. This has to do with self-control. Never let the potential customer leave with your numbers. Because most of the time they will shop it and get a better deal from another sales person.

You're better off being the last person to give a price, not the first, second or third. What I'm telling you will not work with every customer, but try to hold out for as long as you can and you will see an increase in your sales and gross profit.

During my early days on the sales floor I remember giving customers a great discount off of our selling price, thinking I was doing them a favor and of course I thought I would get the sale.

It took me some time in the business to realize I wasn't doing anyone a favor, especially the customer and definitely not me. I thought, as many of you might, that if you give the customers a great discounted price at the beginning of the selling steps, then they'll buy from you. Right? Wrong! Be professional, have self-control, give more than just price, and when the time is right and the customer is ready, give them the world.

Practice this 3-step plan

Step 1

This happens while the customer is at your dealership and wants to take your numbers so they can make a decision at home. Think about what you would want as a car buyer. Numbers to shop around with, of course. If you can not close the sale now, tell the customer:

“Mr. Customer I'll be more than glad to work out some great numbers for you. It will take me some time to do this so can I get your home or office number and I will call you later today, Ok?”

Always advise your manager what you are doing and ask your manager for any advice they can offer. Remember: “No customer leaves the dealership until you have talked with your manager.”

Step 2

Now that you have the telephone number and the vehicle or vehicles he or she is interested in, call back the same day. This is done for three reasons:

  • It shows the customer you are working for them;

  • It gives you the opportunity to set up another meeting;

  • It gives you an opportunity to see where they are in the buying process.

Call the customer:

“Hello! It's Darin calling from ASC Motors. I would like to know if you would be interested in another color? (refer to any options, even if you know the answer)

“Great, I also have some numbers for you but I'll have to call you right back to confirm that everything is OK? By the way would you be able to come back to the dealership today if we can agree on a number?”

If the answer is yes, set an appointment and get the vehicle ready for them. When they show up to the dealership present the car again, do a demo drive again, etc., ask for the order and close the sale.

Step 3

If the customer says that they do not want to come back to your dealership, never ask them why, just ask for the order over the phone. Providing you have selected a vehicle they want. (Refer to the column in the September, 2001 Ward's Dealer Business)

If you can not make an appointment ask them:

“Mr. Customer, No problem I can work the numbers for you right over the phone but I have to clarify a couple of things with you first. Have you ever purchased a vehicle over the telephone before? So, you like the vehicle you drove? Do you have any other questions about the car? How about our dealership (service etc.)?” (Clarification is critical at this point.)

If they are interested in purchasing over the phone, ask them:

“Ok then do you have a credit card? (If they do not, work the appointment again. If they have a major credit card, carry on.) Great! So if we can agree on a number over the phone, can you give me your credit card number, to hold the car?”

If they're agreeable to that, start your negotiations as if they were sitting right in front of you. Get the card number and expiration date before you start your negotiations.

If they do not want to give you their card number go directly to their home. Do the sale in their kitchen and call your manager to approve all numbers.

If the customer just wants your numbers, call the customer back when you have talked with your manager about how to proceed. Work every transaction as a team.

If you give out your numbers too early you have given the control to the customer. If we do not give them numbers, other than your selling price, we are still in control of the situation.

The customer needs these numbers to shop around, but it has absolutely no benefit to a salesperson. Do not let the customer have the upper hand in telling you what they are going to do. Have self-control and when everything has been done professionally, give the customer the world.

Remember the number one reason a customer will buy a vehicle from you, is you.

Darin's wrap-up

Customers hate it when we do not give them our numbers or best price to shop with, I don't like it either, but we have to be patient. Know when to give them your numbers. Remember that there is always a way to do something without looking like the bad guy. Relax, think, slow down and swing. It's all in the timing.

Darin B. George is founder of the Automotive Sales College which trains people for careers in selling cars. Call 1-888-681-7355 for a faxed copy of dealership services and upcoming courses.