Updated: Dec 2, 2019
Thirteen (13) years ago I lost a $150K deal because of a $5K missing piece of plastic. Was it the fault of the product? No, it was my fault because I did not ask the customer one simple question. "What's important to you?" My years in the automotive industry have been eventful, rewarding and a great learning experience as a sales professional, however, that particular experience has stuck with me throughout my career.
Fast forward to 2018 and with my passion for sales and cars still burning inside me, I cannot help but notice that present-day automotive sales professionals are making the same mistake I did many years ago. A prospect walks into a dealership expresses an interest in a vehicle and they would go straight into demo mode.
I'm not one to see something wrong and not try to do something about it so here are seven questions you should be asking your customer before talking about generic specs.
1) What are you driving now?
As a consultant, I would always recommend you start with the current state. This gives you an idea of the customer, providing you have created a customer profile for each product type.
See Article: The #1 Step in Sales Prospecting
2) What do you like about it and why did you initially purchase that model?
This question gives you further background into the customer mindset. Some customers are emotional/impulsive buyers, while others are more practical buyers. The practical buyers normally come from those who have the role of travelling officers or are making a purchase on behalf of a company. We will get into the B2B side of things in part two of this article.
3) How long have you had it?
This is a time gauge question which gives you the ability to assess how soon the prospect will be looking at changing. Most financial institutions run their vehicular loans for a period of five (5) years. However, within the last three (3) years the increase in foreign exchange and motor vehicle taxes (MVT) the list prices of vehicles have increased considerably pushing the loan term to seven (7) years. Based on the customer's response to this question, you will know if they are closer to the end of the five or seven-year term. This helps with the assumption they are actually in the market and have started the process of looking.
4) What do you like most & least about your current vehicle?
Here is where you start digging a little deeper into their likes or dislikes. As technology, specs, features, bells & whistles change so has the customers. Some customers may give you a snapshot as to what is important to them now especially if anything changed their lives over the last five (5) years.
5) Why are you looking?
Based on how well you've been listening you may not even have to ask this question as you may have already discovered the reason. Asking the question is good for validation and there are many different reasons why people purchase vehicles. Here are just a few;
New job with/without car package
A new addition to the family
The family got smaller (bigger car no longer needed)
Son/daughter is a new driver
Was previously in an accident, the vehicle is written off/totalled
The customer is road safety conscious
Change in job/personal activity (e.g. picked up off-roading on the weekend)
The warranty is almost up
Problems with the previous dealership, so looking for a new vendor
Something with a lower monthly instalment
Better overall total cost of ownership (TCO)
These questions trigger responses that will give you a lot of leverage on how to position your sale. The key to picking up on this is being an active listener and proficient in asking more questions when you don't get the answer you may be looking for.
See Article: “FINDING THE INFLUENCER” The Users
6) What's most important to you?
This is where you are basically asking the customer to shortlist all the things they like about a certain vehicle into one or two specific features. This gives you the ability to zone in on what will push them to the closing stage once those specific criteria are met. If the customer says reliability, then you get the opportunity to speak on how reliable your recommendation is and its value to their reason for purchasing. Keep in mind that some customers may choose the credibility of the dealership and how they do business. So in this instance, there is no need to talk about the car but about your after-sales service.
Quote: "You are the expert" - Lyndon H. Brathwaite
7) The Recap Question:
Selling is about discovery, even if the customer walks into the showroom and expresses an interest in one of your vehicles, it's your responsibility to make sure they are looking at this for all the right reasons. You don't want to close on a sedan when they really needed an SUV. That's value misaligned to the customer and a loss of extra revenue for you.
Take the time to ask these questions, make up some more questions on your own, practice asking with your sales managers, team lead or teammates so that you get better at it and give the customer an exceptional consultative experience.
About the Author: Lyndon is the founder and managing director of OPAAT-SWY Consulting Ltd. His areas of expertise are sales and customer service coaching.