One of the biggest complaints customers have about purchasing a new vehicle is that it takes too long.

When it comes to time, the first question dealerships should ask is, “How much time does it take to lose a customer?”

Consider two real-life examples.

A woman and her husband had visited several dealerships looking for a new car for her. After making a decision, she returned to one of the dealerships, saying she would like to complete all the paperwork so she and her husband could come back that evening for her husband to sign the papers and pick up the car.

She spent three hours going through every detail, providing copies of insurance, license and other items required to complete the transaction.

When she and her husband returned, they were told that because the car would be in his name (a point she had told them earlier day), he would need to start completely over and redo all the paperwork.

If the salesperson had listened in the first place, the couple would have had a more pleasant experience and most likely would have come back for a future purchase.

Instead, the first thing this woman told her friends about the experience was about how the dealership wasted their time and that, even though she loved her car, they would never do business there again.

How long did it take to lose this customer? The time it would have taken the salesperson to listen so that the paperwork could have been done right the first time.

If the auto-retailing industry recognizes the importance of customer time, why did this take so long?

In the second example, a young couple looking for a family car that would accommodate their new baby safely found a vehicle and sat down to discuss pricing and options. This is where the process stalled.

The salesperson kept leaving them alone to get up to “talk to the manager.” After a bit of going back and forth, which felt like hours, the couple finally told the salesperson they had a babysitter who needed to get home and they were leaving. One of them said, “We should have talked to the manager, not you.”

How long did it take to lose these customers? When the salesperson repeatedly went back and forth, the couple felt abandoned. They had no idea what was going on. Even a few minutes waiting could seem long to customers who are left in the dark and have other things to do.

Dealerships need strategies in place to shorten the time it takes to close a deal.

Car salespeople should sell three things: the product, the dealership and themselves. If salespeople don’t understand this, no approach to selling will make a difference.

After that, salespeople are responsible for helping customers select the right vehicle. To do so, they must focus their time on: 

  • Being present and working with a single-minded focus for each customer. 
  • Asking probing questions to develop an understanding of the customers’ wants, needs and desires. It’s always about what the customer thinks.
  • Listening, learning and having empathy with the customers, understand problems from their point of view and learning even minor details to successfully guide the selection process.
  • Helping the customers “try it on.” Throughout the demo drive, the salesperson should guide customers as they experience features that will satisfy the wants, needs and desires communicated earlier. The salesperson should help customers fall in love with the product. 

Once customers fall in love with their choice, price becomes a secondary concern, which is why it should always be the last point of discussion.

The time it takes to buy a car is worth it to customers if they perceive it as valuable and enjoyable. When they feel that way, they come back for more.

Richard F. Libin is the author of the book, “Who Stopped the Sale?” ( and president of consulting firm APB-Automotive Profit Builders. He can be reached at or 508-626-9200 or