I realized, again, at a family reunion how knowledgeable and wise my older relatives are, especially if you're under 50 and still considered one of the “kids.”

I mention this because I was having a discussion about some of the new things out in today's market and then my uncle flared up and asked if younger people think they invented everything.

He and other family members started listing things that I thought were new but aren't. The list had nothing to with computer stuff, mostly trends and patterns. It made me think about why some businesses and sales people do well and some fail.

There are many advantages to age and wisdom. My grandmother is 90, and makes people feel special by saying, “This is the best meal I have ever had,” “This has to the best party I've ever been to,” “You look like you've lost weight” and “That's a nice new shirt.” She says these things to everyone. She has a lot of friends and admirers.

When I first started selling cars I didn't know anything about the business, and had an excellent first two months in my new career. I did everything I was told by my management team. If a customer asked me what time it was I would excuse myself and find out.

If a customer asked me what the payments were going to be, I had no idea. If they asked me what the best price was, I really did not know. If I was asked what a car was worth, I really, really had no idea.

This might all sound like old school BS. But I was new and did what I was told by my elders. The problem I found after my first two month was I felt I needed to know more about everything, so that I could speed up the selling process for the customer.

If they wanted to know what their car was worth I would give them an approximate value. I would give my customers everything they want, quickly and with no BS. Of course this would get me more deals, right? Wrong.

Let's get started with this month's sales meeting.

Who does vehicle appraisals?

Your sales management team, not you, appraises used vehicles. Why? Because it's one part of their job description, not yours.

Here are examples of why you cannot tell the customer what you think his or her vehicle is worth. In this example the actual trade value of the customer's vehicle is $5,000.

Deliberate high ball

The sales person tells the customer the vehicle is worth around $8,000 as a trade-in. The customer will listen to you and follow you around the dealership because you're the first sales person to tell him what he wants to hear. They love you. For now. When it comes time to negotiate, the deliberate high baller will have a lot of explaining to do to salvage the deal.

Accidental low ball

The sales person tells the customer the prospective trade-in is worth around $3,000.

The customer thinks you are a rip-off artist. He'll not want to talk with you. When you do the accidental low ball you will not even get to a negotiation. In most cases the customer will leave the dealership quickly, ready to tell friends what a joke you and your dealership are.

Now that we understand why it's important not to tell the customer what we think their vehicle is worth, let's figure out how to handle certain situations.

Customers always feel their trade is worth more than the current market value. Everyone wants retail for their vehicles when trading in. I know I do.

The following are word tracks you can use or modify to your own style.

Scene 1

Customer: “Mr. Salesperson, can you tell me what my car is worth?”

Salesperson: “Yes I certainly can.”

Ask them what kind a vehicle it is and can they provide you with all the maintenance information. Whether it's a late model (1997) or older vehicle or has high mileage, tell the customer:

“It sounds like a good vehicle and I bet it's in good shape, although I don't know exactly how much it's worth right now. Would it be OK if you tell me what you are looking for in a new vehicle first and then I'll get our vehicle appraiser to do a professional appraisal on your vehicle?”

If this works continue with your selling steps.

Scene 2

Customer: “What will you give me for my car?”

Salesperson: “Mr. Customer, we have a vehicle appraiser who will be more than glad to appraise your vehicle, but first let's find a vehicle you're interested and then I'll get your vehicle appraised, ASAP, OK?”

Continue with your selling steps.

Scene 3

Don't argue if the customer is persistent and says “I want my car appraisal first before I look at any vehicles on your lot” or “I need to know what you are going to give me for my car before I can make a decision on what car I can afford.”

Your response: “OK, no problem! Can I have your car key? I'll also need your ownership papers, exact mileage, maintenance records and I need to know if the vehicle has ever been in an accident. Can you tell me where your car is parked please?”

Your next step is to go to your manager's office with all of this information, and explain what you are doing with the customer. The objective here is to get back to your customer ASAP and continue with the vehicle selection, demo drive, etc…

When you get back to your customer tell them:

“Ok Mr. Customer we are getting your vehicle appraised. It is going to take a few minutes. So while we wait, what features are you looking for in your new vehicle?”

This will give you the opportunity to find a vehicle for the customer and continue your selling steps. In most cases, the manager will not do the appraisal immediately.

But this is not why you brought the appraisal to the manager.

You brought the appraisal to your manager because that's what the customer wanted. We do not want to fight or argue with this type of customer. We want to help them. Work with them. When you have found a vehicle, work out the difference in numbers and close the sale.

Darin's wrap-up

The question is when do we tell customers what their vehicles are worth.

The answer is when they have picked a vehicle from your stock and want your vehicle rather than their present one.

This may sound like old school, but it works. Timing and patience are crucial.

We learn from experience.


If you would like more information, want to discuss this or other sales topics or learn more about upcoming seminars, courses and training, contact the Automotive Sales College at 1-888-681-7355.