What tools are going to get us through this next period of uncertainty

Nicole Marcellino

The most important thing a sales associate can do for a customer right now is to listen to their needs. Customers have been shuffled through the proverbial cattle shoot recently; with the current market availability and the automotive industry needs to remember that this is just a period of time were moving through, not an industry standard. There have been insane markups and a “take it or leave it” mentality that is going to cripple the dealerships that have adopted this mindset as permanent. 

We need to remember that a dealership makes a profit when a vehicle is sold, however, if the experience isn’t a good one, that customer may never come back. If the customer gets a bad experience over the phone when they call for information, they may never step foot on the lot at all. It’s very important to ensure that our sales associates are treating our customers on the phone with the same superior decorum that we provide in the showroom and vice-versa. An overall excellent experience, from start to finish, will make or break a customer and we should be working right now to keep every customer we can. Let’s face it, there’s no gross on a deal that trumps a customer for life, is there? 

Getting all associates on the same page with a simple process to follow on the phone will ensure that each customer receives top-notch service from start to finish. One of the things that sales associates need to remember is that customers have specific needs, and we should be working to accommodate those needs. Having an exploratory conversation with the customer to start the call is a great way to determine what they are looking for. Trim, color, technology, and drive train are all very important features that should be discussed even if the customer is calling to “just see what’s on the lot.” A sales associate that takes the time to find out what the customer’s specific needs and wants are is going to be able to make educated decisions when it comes to finding and presenting options available for the customer and what may fit their needs and wants. 

Even though the car market for a sales associate may feel like “shooting fish in a barrel” right now, let’s never mistake market conditions for skill, especially when new unsold units arrive. We must continue to work on providing the best experience for our customers regardless of the market because customers that need a vehicle now will also need a vehicle in the future and this market anomaly isn’t going to last forever. Dealerships can only thrive if customers return for a new vehicle and if they send their family and friends by talking about their great experience. 

Treating customers how we would like to be treated is a great way to think about it. The Golden Rule is timeless and will ALWAYS apply! We should start getting to know our customers from our first contact with them. When calling about a car, a customer doesn’t want to be told that they only have one option, and they can “take it or leave it.” Even if that’s the case, please remember bedside manner matters! They want someone that is going to listen to their needs, determine what the best course of action is and educate the customer on the best way to proceed. When we ask a few questions to determine the customer’s “must-haves or deal breakers,” a savvy salesperson can present multiple options without that “take it or leave it” attitude. Even if there isn’t a lot of progress made from the initial phone call, a customer will return to a salesperson and dealership who was compassionate, educated, and professional during that first encounter. We should all remember that this period of time is not going to last, and our dealership’s reputation should not be crippled by complacency. It should be bolstered by associates that care and show that from start to finish. 

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