Car Sales Tips To Help Dealerships Attract Lifetime Customers
If you’re a car dealership or a salesman, this might be one of the most important and helpful articles you will come across. In fact, I highly recommend sharing this with your entire staff or associates to help them close more deals for the upcoming quarter.
Here’s the quick backstory: I recently bought a brand new Civic Sport for my mom as a Birthday / Mother’s day gift and experienced some obvious blunders made by the dealership & salesman that have resulted in them being blacklisted in my social circle.
This means not only will I never go back to them with my expendable income, nor will any of my close friends.
So what exactly did they get wrong? And more importantly, what can you learn from their mistakes so that you end up with happy, lifetime customers?
That’s what we are about get into!
P.S if you don’t feel like reading, simply hit the “play button” on the podcast player above.
Tip #1: Know Your Product Inside And Out
This seems obvious, but I’ve found that some car salespeople simply do not take the time to learn about the new models that arrive in their showroom. Often times I’ve found myself giving them tips or nuggets of knowledge that they should’ve known about.
This can make your dealership look quite embarrassing. Your customer should never know more about a product that you’re selling.
Case in point: When my mom went to the dealership to get her “delivery experience” (where they go over all the features of the car) the salesperson couldn’t figure out where the hood release was. Nor did he explain one of the most important features to be released in the past decade: Android Auto / Apple Car Play. And this was just the start.
Bottom line? Nothing will kill the confidence of a buyer faster than you not knowing what you’re selling.
Practical Advice: When a new car model comes in, set aside time for a group meeting where everyone gets to poke and prod around the car and take it for a test drive. Then have your sales people participate in LIVE roleplays where they ask each other tough questions about any of the features on the car. Failing to answer any of the questions would be a failing grade in my opinion and this sales rep would then have some homework to do.
Tip #2: Don’t Hide The Downsides
You might think that exposing the downsides of a product would be a counterproductive idea because it means you will lose the sale.
This may have been true 10 or 20 years ago, but in this day and age most customers are smart enough to know that everything has a downside.
But a smarter salesperson will realize that they can actually turn these downsides into an upsell!
Case In Point: The Civic Sport I bought has a terrible turning radius compared to other sub-compact cars on the market. It also has sub-par rear window visibility due to the sloping roofline and the CVT transmission is a little lazy unless you put it into Sport mode (which my mom will almost never use).
None of this was mentioned, of course. Now part of this is because I was a fast sale (as you’ll hear from the episode) but if I was the salesperson, here’s how I would’ve handled it.
First, figure out what car your buyer is interested in. Then, be sure to bring up all the downsides by asking probing questions.
Example: “Hey how big/wide is your street and drive way?”
Customer: “Uhm, it’s normal sized, why do you ask?”
Me: “Because while this car is fun to drive and handles well, I do have to warn you that the turning radius isn’t as tight as your current car. Just wanted to let you know upfront so that it doesn’t become frustrating issue for you”
Now from here the customer will have only two options. Either they will be OK with this downside or they will say it is indeed an issue for them, and they will be thankful for your honesty.
But we’re not done yet. If they say that the downside is a “deal breaker” I would immediately upsell in order to solve their problem. Here’s how: “Sorry to hear the turning radius doesn’t work for you. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to live with that inconvenience on a daily basis either. However, I do have a model with a super tight turning radius and it’s just as fun to drive with even more features! Have you seen our brand new redesigned Accord? I think it will suit your needs perfectly. Would you like to take a quick look?”
See how that works? I’ve solved their needs by recommending a better model. If the price doesn’t work for them, simply bring out your best price-objection techniques (you DO have some, right?)
Bottom Line: Bring up all the downsides upfront. Not only does this show honesty, it makes the customer feel like you care about their experience and then when you recommend an upsell, it actually makes sense instead of feeling like a blatant money grab!
Tip #3: Don’t Make Promises You Cannot Keep
Every customer has their fair share of demands and “non-negotiables”. In my circumstance, I needed the car delivered on a specific date and wanted my mom to get the complete “delivery” experience VIA future appointment.
The dealership promised that they would make it happen.
Unfortunately they did a half-assed job.
First, they told me after the deal had been signed that the extras I ordered on the car (tinted windows, hood protection, sun shield and door guards) wouldn’t arrive until later in the week because they didn’t have it in stock. And to get them installed, I would need to make an appointment.
Based on Tip #2, this should have been communicated right from the start. But I accepted this as a minor inconvenience.
However, the bigger issue was when my mom showed up for her delivery experience appointment.
The sales rep was running around like a chicken with his head cut off. She had to wait for a while without anyone acknowledging or greeting her, then when the sales rep was finally was able to give her some attention, he was getting non-stop phone calls, getting interrupted by other reps and just generally trying to rush through the process just to get her out the door.
Suffice to say she did not come home happy and felt like she wasted her time. And since the car is hers, she has decided to find another dealership where it will be serviced.
Bottom Line: Don’t make promises just to get the sale. Be realistic. Always under-promise, and over-deliver!
Tip #4: Undivided Attention
This tip plays off the earlier one, but is still important to mention because it’s something that I personally experienced at a Toyota Dealership recently.
You see, after I bought a car for my mom I decided that I also needed an upgrade.
My goal was to have two cars. One is an A to B ride that’s super fuel efficient and handles most of my daily needs. The second should be a “fun” car that I can rip around on the weekends with my most-wanted and desired feature: a manual transmission.
And when I went into Toyota the entire sales process made me feel like I was their one and only customer.
I won’t bore you with the exactly details, but the end result was that I walked out with a brand new Toyota Corolla Hybrid that’s stupid good on gas (almost 1000km on a single tank) and a deposit placed on a GR Corolla in bright red paint (if you don’t know much about the “GR” model, feel free to watch a few YouTube reviews. This thing is basically a turbocharged rally monster.)
Bottom Line: They were able to sell me two cars that I am 100% stoked and excited to own because they made me feel like I’m their only customer and not just another sale or an afterthought.
Tip #5: Know The Type Of Buyer You’re Dealing With
When I walked into the Honda dealership, it was in a Hoodie and track pants. So I wasn’t concerned when they didn’t take me completely seriously at first.
After all, a young guy that looks like he’s just walked out of his college dorm room doesn’t scream: “he’s got expendable income”
However, I’m quite familiar with sales since I run my own business and sold my gym, so I know how “the process” works.
So when I started giving this sales rep every single “buy” single in the book, he should’ve caught on. But he didn’t and kept trying to walk me through his “sales process”.
The empty compliments. The nice guy routine. The listing of the benefits.
Those are all useful tools and techniques, but only when you know WHEN to use them.
Some buyers expect to be buttered up while others (such as myself) don’t have time for all the bullshit and simply want to buy the car that we came in for, and get on with our day.
These are called Fast Buyers. And when you see them, you should respect their number one asset: TIME
Fast Buyers generally won’t haggle you on price or a few dollars here and there. And if they want upsells or features, they will ask for them.
Bottom Line: Try and find out what kind of “buyer” you’re dealing with in the first few minutes. As a sales professional, it is your job to know this information by asking the right questions. And once you know what you have on your hands, act accordingly.
Tip #6: Learn How To Ask For A Review
Imagine going to a restaurant and before you order your food or experience any of the service, the waiter comes up to you and asks for a tip.
How would that make you feel?
Personally, I would simply walk out and find somewhere else to eat. Then after I enjoy my meal at the new restaurant, I would leave the old restaurant a 1 star review on Google for their absurd business practices.
The same concept applies when asking for reviews for your car dealership. The Honda dealership I was at was asking for a positive Google review and a “10/10 rating” on their survey before the paperwork was even finalized!
Are you kidding me?
Not only have you barely done anything, but I have yet to receive my car and you’re already asking me to transfer my reputation towards your business? I don’t think so!
What’s even worse is that they tried to guilt trip me by mentioning that my review will directly reflect the bonus pay the salesperson will receive.
Let me give you a piece of insight that you probably already know: Buyers don’t give a shit what your compensation is on a sale. When they are spending 5+ figures on a car, all they care about is what’s in it for them.
As you can imagine, I decided I will not be leaving them a review. I could’ve gone a step further and left them a bad review, but at the end of the day I simply don’t have time to waste and figured I’ll stay neutral.
Contrast this to the Toyota dealership that also asked me for a review… but only AFTER my car was delivered to me. It was one of the very last things they asked of me before I drove away.
Suffice to say, they earned their 5 stars.
Tip #7: Follow Up Is Everything!
After my mom’s horrible “delivery experience”, I waited two days to see if I’d hear anything back from the sales rep or manager (both of whom have my cell # and were texting me beforehand)
What I got instead, was silence.
Think about it: You just had a customer buy a car for their mother with all the bells & whistles, and there was never a thought that you should maybe follow up and ask how it went?
That’s some crazy talk if you ask me.
Instead I did the follow up and mentioned how dissatisfied my mom was with her experience.
You can probably imagine what happened next… excuses, followed by apologies. Yawn.
When I grilled him on why he didn’t go over the features and tech that he promised me (both in person and over text) his response was: “It’s just a Civic, not much for me to go over”
This is a clear failure to understand the details of the customer. My mom was coming from a car built in 2008. Any car sales rep with half a brain cell should immediately recognize that going from a 2008 model to a 2023 model from any make or brand will be quite a system shock in terms of features.
Sure enough, to my mom this new Civic feels like a god damn spaceship!
What’s more, the sales rep then wanted to buy her old car from her since it’s in decent condition (likely to flip it for a profit).
On principle, I’m not opposed to this. But as you can imagine, the last thing my mom wants to do is deal with them and so, the old car will be sold to the highest bidder VIA local private sale.
Bottom Line: A sale isn’t done when a customer signs on the dotted line or when they receive the product. It’s done when they feel like there is nothing else that you can add to their experience. Understand the type of sale you’re making (gift, business, personal etc.) and then follow up with a message that is relative. If you sell someone a truck who needs it for a job, be sure to follow up and ask them if their truck was able to haul everything they needed. At least make them feel like you care.
It will go a long way towards helping you attract customers that will stick with you for life!
If you found these tips helpful, be sure to pass it on to dealerships, managers or sales reps who will benefit.
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