So You Want To Sell Me A Car
Written by Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, December 11, 2021
DISCLAIMER: I am not a car salesman, but I have been in sales for more than 33 years and as a customer, purchased a boat load of cars over my 77 years.
Went car shopping this week. Do I need a new car? No, but…I am getting older and with age, for a lot of people, your reflexes begin to slow down and I am definitely in that category. I always considered by self a decent athlete and played a great many sports. I am very much aware when my athletic ability and reflexes are slowing down.
The newer cars offer some pretty amazing safety features like automatic braking to avoid hitting something or even someone in your path. Devices to warn you that you may be veering out of your lane. More devices to warn you when there are vehicles on either side of your car that may be in your blind spot. There is even a device that can recognize when the driver (me) may not be paying proper attention to what I am supposed to be doing – safely driving the car. I felt that it was worth my time and money to purchase one of these highly technically advanced cars and that is what I did.
The car buying adventure is what brought me to writing this Nugget for the Noggin. I have said for decades that people in car sales could take some valuable lessons from real estate agents. I retired from being a real estate broker, manager, owner, and trainer of more than 33 years. I taught a lot of agents and wrote a lot of Nuggets, like this one, that involved training and/or book reviews on books on sales.
If you are involved in any type of sales, but especially sales that involve being paid on the volume or the number of sales you close; this Nugget is for you, so here we go. This is written from the viewpoint of a car buyer and my 33 plus years in real estate sales.
There are at least two types of people that would walk onto a car lot, new and/or used. The first person does in fact exist, they are really just lookers and they have some time to kill and they like cars so they want to see what is currently available and how much they might be selling for. These are lookers. In the real estate business, we call them “Lookie Lous.” If you don’t recognize them, they will such up your time with questions that might lead you to think you have a buyer on your hands when in fact you don’t. Warning! Even Lookie Lous buy cars. Maybe not today, but sometime.
Here is the first rule of sales. EVERY PERSON YOU MEET SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AS A PROBABLE BUYER OR THEY MAY KNOW A PROBABLE BUYER. This is a very important rule to follow that goes hand in hand with Gymbeaux’s Business 101 Commandant = NEVER PISS OFF A PROBABLE OR POTENTIAL BUYER (OR SELLER) – NEVER! It is like fighting with a pig. The pig loves it and you both get dirty. So DON’T GET DIRTY! Treat everyone as nicely as you can but learn that your time is valuable. If there are other customers that you can be serving, learn to politely disengage yourself to move onto more fertile ground. BUT…if you don’t have more urgent business to attend to, work with them, answer their questions. Use them to hone your sales skills. Use them as a training tool, try different approaches or scripts. Real estate agents for years have told me they don’t use scripts but if you ever listened to them work with a buyer or a seller, they definitely do have scripts, they say the same things over and over with different customers. They didn’t recognize them as scripts. Scripts, or the certain application of words, work! Practice them, make them seem like your natural conversation, not a canned speech.
Example. You: “Hi, can I help you?” How many times have I heard that in almost every business I have ever entered? Why not be creative? Another very good rule is to never ask a closed ended question where the person can either say Yes or No to which you will have learned nothing and the conversation may end itself. Example: “That’s a beauty (assuming they are actually looking at a car)!” Hope you don’t mind but I always ask customers if they have a primary car and a secondary car and if they do, do they use it for personal use or for business use or both. How do you use your car? For pleasure or for business or both?” This should get them talking but if they respond, “Oh, I’m just looking.” Again, how many times have you heard that? In the past, how did you respond to that statement? Here’s a suggestion. “That’s fine, what specifically are you looking for?” Again, it should elicit a response but like before, they may say something like, “I’m just looking, don’t really know.” Try something like this: “If you knew what you were looking for, what would it look like when you found it?” The objective is to get them talking instead of just providing out-of-the-can buyer responses.
An even better approach would be to ask them what kind of car they drive now? Why is that important? Do they need to sell it before they buy another car? Do they know how much their present car is worth? Are they going to trade it in? People like familiarity. They may be looking at Corvettes but they drive a Yugo (no one drives a Yugo). They may want to step up in quality or they may be looking to step down. They may want to go from a car to a truck or a truck to a car. If you don’t get THEM talking and YOU listening, nothing is going to happen. That brings me to a Zig Ziglar rule.
We have TWO ears and ONE mouth – do the math. We all should listen twice as much as we talk. We are not selling anything if we are doing all of the talking.
Back to me. I came onto the lot for only one reason, I wanted a car that would provide my wife and I with a much higher degree of safety than the one we currently drive. Our current car is a great car but when it comes to safety it has its limitations. If the salesperson “assumed” that I was on the lot because I liked the look of the cars being offered, the salesperson would be wrong. I had already done my homework and knew without a doubt that the car I was looking at already had all of the safety devices one could want in a car. With that wrong assumption, the salesperson may approach me from the wrong direction. If I had said, “Just looking,” what would have happened? Maybe I would have bought the car, maybe I wouldn’t have. Maybe the salesperson might have disengaged the approach taken and retreat. Remember the basic rule of selling, TREAT EVERYONE LIKE THEY ARE A PROBABLE BUYER, NO EXCEPTIONS.
On this day, I was extremely fortunate because I happened upon a salesperson who did not use the “pressure” tactics I have found at so many car dealers like, “Are you going to buy a car today?” If I would say no, they would find a way to disengage and I might add that it happens very quickly. The other tactic I have discovered occurs when the buyer starts to walk away and the salesperson suggests that I wait until they can meet with their manager to see if there is a better deal awaiting me. Today that did not happen. In fact, what happened was that we sat down and just talked about a lot of things including the car I was looking at. I was introduced to the owner of the dealership who happened to be from home town in Ohio and we were about the same age so we had a great deal in common. All of this would NOT have happened if the salesperson did not get me to talk and, more importantly, she listened. There is an extremely valuable lesson in this paragraph.
One thing I was not asked at this stage in the process was not critical but should be a crucial part of the process. As a salesperson, you want to know who is making the buying decision. Is it the person you are talking to? Is it the person’s spouse who may not be present? Is it a parent, an uncle, a sibling car buying expert in the family? So why not ask the question at some point in the conversation. “I’m curious, if we were to find you the car of your dreams at the right price and terms, is there anyone else that we need to be taking with? Notice I used the word “with” not “to.” You don’t talk TO people; you talk WITH people. In my case, I could make the decision but I prefer to include my wife in the decision-making process. I am concerned about the terms and I can assure you that she is even more concerned about the terms, meaning how much is this going to cost us and can we afford it?
At no time in today’s process did I feel pressured to make a decision. It was clear that my process in finding and then determining if the car was right for us was our decision to make and THAT decision was going to be made in the time necessary to make the decision. This is a good thing! Granted, there are people who can’t make up their minds about doing anything. Sometimes they need a nudge in lieu of a push.
I know my shortcomings, one being I don’t always remember the small details. I learned very quickly in the real estate business that if I don’t write down even the smallest of details, those details might get mentally lost over time or even immediately. There is very little as embarrassing than to ask a customer a question and they answer it and shortly afterwards, I ask them the same question again. If this were a baseball game, that would be strike one! There is so much going on in a real estate sale that there have been times when I would have buyers in my car and I already had forgotten their first names or their children’s names. Unless you have an exceptional memory, I would recommend two things. First, get permission from the customer to take notes. “I hope you don’t mind, I would like to take some notes about our conversation, would that be okay with you?” Who is going to refuse that request? Second. TAKE NOTES! GOOD NOTES! In today’s process, Diane, my wife, was not with me but I dropped her name at least twice. If a salesperson was not paying attention or have a short memory, that important fact would have passed them by. Then at the first opportunity bring up the missing spouse’s name. Example, “Jim, do you think these safety features would be acceptable to Diane as well?” You have no idea the value of this process either consciously or subconsciously in the buyer’s mind. It has been said that the sweetest sound to any person is sales is to hear THEIR name come from the lips of someone else. This is just at true to a customer especially when the other person is not present. In other words, they understand that the other person is just as important to the transaction that you are even though they are not currently present.
The next tip may be one of the most valuable tip I learned in sales and that is to ask the probable buyer if they want to buy; learn to do it with THEIR permission. “Mr. Brown (or if given permission, Jim), you may look at more than one type of car, or model and frankly I won’t know which one is most attractive to you or which one meets your specific needs. Will it be okay if I ask you if you would like to buy a certain car?” Come on, who is going to say no, I don’t want you to ask. “And if I forget to ask, will you remind me? Will that be okay?” Bingo! We look at a car and you ask. We look at another car and again you ask but remember you are asking a question that I have agreed was okay to ask of me. Then I begin to linger on a car or I go back to a car I had already looked at. Don’t ask the question and watch what happens. “You forgot ask me about this one?” You could not ask for a bigger buying signal! In fact, I would say you made the sale without even asking for it.
Another sales lesson I learned was from a terrific trainer named Bob Burg, who wrote Endless Referrals and be considered a “must read” for anyone in sales. He said to learn to write thank you notes at every opportunity you get. Don’t tell me you have horrible hand writing skills. Hand writing IS a skill that can be learned. Practice if you need to but learn to hand write thank you notes. Then when you meet a probable buyer for the first time, try to get their mailing address and when you do, make a promise that you will not give or sell it to anyone and that you will not inundate them with mailings. Then within 24 hours, you write a Thank You note to them telling them what a pleasure it was to meet them. Include your business card; assume they have already thrown your first card away or it became lost under the seat in their present car. You have no idea how influential a hand written note card can be. (Plus you know your card has made it into the home of the probable buyer.) When was the last time you received such a card? Probably never. This one routine act will put you light-years ahead of your competition because they will NOT be doing this, I can almost guarantee you this.
FOLLOW-UP ROUTINE PROCEDURES
Don’t just thank the buyer for buying a car from you. Thank them in person and then immediately send another hand written thank you note. Assume that the sale is going to close without incident and write the card ahead of the closing so you can put it in the mail the same day the sale closes. With luck the card will be there the next day assuming the buyer lives in the same town.
Create a routine on your calendar that requires you to call buyers within the first 21 days to see if they are satisfied with the purchase. If you dealt primarily with just one of the two or more buyers of a car, it might be in your best interest to talk to and thank the other party involved in the sale. REMEMBER, every person alive has their own personal sphere of influence. I have mine, Diane has hers. You want to add to your referral business, therefore, it pays to contact all customers in a household whenever you can.
After the first 21 days, determine how often you will follow up with your buyers. I have purchased a lot of cars in my lifetime and I can’t tell you the name of one salesperson that I have dealt with because they have NEVER followed up with me after the sale. How many sales have they lost because I can’t possibly refer someone to them by name if I don’t remember their name? It is NOT about just this one sale; it is about all the sales that will blossom from this one sale and that leads me to the next extremely valuable tip.
SOLVING A PROBLEM: “Jim, you have created a problem for me.” A normal person would begin to wonder what they have done and then ask, “What problem is that?” To which, “You are going to be so satisfied with the car you invested in (always say invest as compared to buy or purchase, invest means that you bought something of future value) that I doubt you will be buying another car from me in the near or even distant future. I don’t want to be your car salesperson for just this one time, I want to be your ‘car go-to-person’ forever! I need someone to take your place so that I can give them the same high-quality service that I hope you feel I gave to you. If you or someone you know is considering investing in a vehicle, would you give them my name and card and ask them to call me? Here a few extra cards? You know I will treat them as I have you and Diane (note again the use of the spouse’s name).” Then ask them. “Can I count on you to help me to grow my personal sales business? Do you know of anyone considering investing in vehicle now?”
Here's the deal. I do know of someone who will be buying a car but not right now, and I think sooner than they think they will. I would be happy to give them your card. This is where most cars salespeople fail miserably – they don’t farm for future sales from current customers.
MAINTENANCE TIP. I would workout a deal with the maintenance people at your company. Should I need to bring the car in for maintenance, their records should be matched up with who sold me the car (you). Then they should tell you that either Diane or I will be bring the car in for service and the time and date. You should put that time and date on your calendar and if at all possible, be present when the we arrive to touch base with us IN PERSON. Ask them, since you will have to wait a few minutes, we could look at the current model being offered or any newer models that might be in stock, together. Simply make contact, engage in a conversation and slip in the reminder that I promised to help you grow your sales business and then, ask for a referral. It’s better than sitting around waiting for someone to walk into the front door and hope you are the first point of contact.
CONTACT TIP. Find a reasonable reason to maintain contact with past customers. As an example, I was surprised to see a pick-up truck made by a company that had not made trucks. Imagine sending out an email to your past customer list/future referral list, to let them ALL know that the new pick-up truck had arrived and is on the lot to look at. Then end with, “And by the way, if you or someone you know is in the market for a new truck, please forward this email to them.” Anyone who receives the email will now be aware of the new product plus they will have your name and email address and phone number, if you included it on the email you sent out. More importantly, it will also be on any forwarding emails the previous customer sends to their inner circle of friends. Everyone wants to share good and exciting things, give them such things to share.
EMAIL/DOMAIN TIP. Have a business email and a personal email and use them accordingly. I would recommend getting one of the many free emails to use for your business email. Get one that is easily remembered and does NOT include periods (.), underscores (_) or dashes (-) but especially the underscore which is difficult to see. I use a company called DomainDad.com. You can purchase Domain Names with them as I did where I purchased several including Gymbeaux.com, a domain name I used when I sold real estate. Simply type in the name you may want to purchase and the site will determine which domain name extensions are available for you. The most commonly used extension .com may or may not be available in which case you will be given alternatives. In sales I think you would want .com, .org or .net. Each extension has its own cost so check them out. Once you purchase a domain name, you can also create an email address as I did. For example, JimBrown@gymbeaux.com. That email address is actually directed to a Gmail address I have that no one sees. If you want a FREE email address that provides a lot more security, check out www.Protonmail.com. I recently signed up for TheJimBrown@protonmail.com It’s free to a point. If you store a lot of info on the site, there is a charge but for the most part you should be able to maintain a free email address that serves you well.
BLOG TIP. You can create and very easily maintain a blog by going to www.blogger.com. When you create this free blog, the service will give you a blog URL address. Unfortunately, the address is long and involved and almost impossible to remember. I did this with the Nuggets like this one that I would post on my blog. I also bought a domain name NuggetsfortheNoggin.com The domain name costs about $16 a year, very minimum investment. I then forward anyone that goes to the domain name to the actual URL that Blogger created for me. My advice would be to use the Blog to keep your past customers informed about anything and everything you can think of. For example, you could write a simple blog to discuss how to use a common feature on a new car. You could blog out a sale that the maintenance department might be conducting, or a special event at the dealership. You could also use the blog to repeat, with permission, any testimonials that customers may give to you which would further develop the reputation you want to grow within the community.
QR CODE TIP: You may or may not know how many people visit your lot after business hours. I would suggest that you make it extremely easy for them to get the information you want them to have on each vehicle on the lot. Most people carry smart phones with cameras. Most people understand how to use and access QR Codes. I would suggest that you create a QR Code for each car/truck/suv and place it prominently in the window of each car. Should someone visit the lot during business hours or after business hours they can then scan the QR code for the vehicle they are interested in and be able to access on their phone the information you are willing to share with them. I don’t know enough about QR codes on the back end to know if you will be able to track WHO is accessing the info but if you can, that would be one avenue for the business to track potential buyers. If you create a blog, you can use the blog to promote a new model and include the QR code for it on your blog and on your emails that you send out.
WHEN YOU THINK… THINK CARS, THINK (INSERT YOUR NAME)! What is this really saying? Whenever someone begins to think about new cars, they automatically think of your name. That is what you want. Back to me. If the only salesperson’s name I can remember happens to be you, I will even think of you when I’m in a competitor’s business. This is another reason to either have a personal web site or a blog Internet linked site. Instead of using the slogan, “Think Cars, Think Jim”, I could use, “Think Cars, Think Gymbeaux.com.” That way they are not only thinking of you when think of cars, they are also thinking about linking to you via a web address to one of your site(s). All this for a once-a-year investment of less than $20.00; money well spent.
SPEAKING OF MONEY WELL SPENT. Learn to monetize your activities. How much will it cost you to do what you are currently doing, whatever that is? Is it making you money or is it costing you money? Doing nothing is costing you money. Working on your scripts, practicing your scripts and delivery with a partner, is making you money. Contacting previous customers, is making you money. Do those things that can make you money now or into the future.
BEST QUOTE EVER COMES FROM JEFFREY GITOMER, AUTHOR OF MANY BOOKS
TO GET EVERYTHING YOU WANT IN LIFE,
JUST HELP SOMEONE ELSE GET WHAT THEY WANT,