With many manufacturers recently running promotions with low interest rates, many salespeople have encountered customers coming in and mentioning the advertised finance deal. Unthinking, unprepared salespeople immediately refer the customer to the F&I Manager then wonder why the customer got a lot of info about the finance and then left without buying a car.
In response to requests from numerous clients we put together some strategies for salespeople asking customers about vehicle finance:
1. Focus on Customers’ Needs
Customers’ needs are their greatest motivation to do anything, including buy a car from us. There are six categories of logical needs and six categories of emotional needs. We cover these in our sales training.
Because customers’ needs are the greatest motivation that the customer has to do anything, it should be the primary focus of the salesperson to investigate, identify and develop those needs.
When salespeople do not accurately and comprehensively find out the customers’ needs, they have automatically and significantly reduced their chance of helping those customers buy the right car.
One of the easiest traps for salespeople to fall into when there is a promotion is on is for the salesperson to focus on the promotion and automatically make assumptions about the customers’ needs relating to the promotion.
For example, with finance promotions (like an advertised low percentage finance rate), we have heard of salespeople who expect customers to come in fully prepared to buy immediately based on the low finance rate. Poor salespeople shortcut the sales process and rush to close and scare the customers away.
So even though the low finance rate offer may have got the customer curious to contact your dealership, you should still conduct a full and proper ‘Road to a Sale’ process and properly establish all of the customers major needs before showing the car, test driving, and negotiating.
I recently spoke with a Sales Manager who is doing well with his manufacturer’s low finance rate offer. I asked what he is doing to get such strong results and he confirmed: “The customer is in the showroom because they want to buy a car, so we are going back and asking about all their vehicles needs first, then talking about the car and then revisiting the finance offer only when we have established the right car for the customer’s needs. The finance is a closing tool, not the entire sale.”
2. It’s not all about the Finance
As a sales professional, you should have a planned, prepared printed check list of questions and information that you cover with every customer before they start looking at your cars.
When you use a check list with your customer:
1. You don’t forget to ask any important questions about the customers needs (that may cost you or the customer unnecessary time, money or a deal later on)
2. The customer can see that you are professional, organised and methodical.
3. The customer can see that you ask these question to every customer so they are not personally being targeted by questions such as:
a. How do you normally finance your vehicle?
b. Who else is involved in the buying decision?
c. When do you need your new car?
4. You have a clear set of priorities for your presentation and test drive, based on the customer’s needs.
5. You have high quality information to follow up with, instead of simply throwing away the dealership’s money to apologise for your poor sales skills and customer service skills.
6. You have a check list of the customer’s needs to summarise before closing, which is scientifically proven to improve retained gross, sales closing ratios and CSI scores.
7. You are able to better equip your sales Manager for an effective double-close. Instead of blindly coming out to the customer and throwing away money, a professional sales manager can revise the customer’s needs and make beneficial suggestions or alternatives that do not necessarily involve sacrificing gross.
8. You have quality information about the customer’s needs to provide accurate and relevant information, invitations and opportunities to the customer in future marketing.
Initially, your blank check lists should be kept in a clipboard or similar. After a few months, you should know what, if anything needs to be amended. Then get your customer needs sheets printed in pads, with pages numbered for greater accountability and follow-up.
Furthermore, as a Sales management tool, if a salesperson has not completed the customer needs sheet, he/she should be refused entry to the Sales Managers’ office to discuss a ‘deal’. If the salesperson has not done his/her job properly up this point, it is going to cost the dealership a lot of time, effort and money trying to secure a deal that has not established, let alone met, the customer’s needs.
3. Get your Wording Right and Practise
Earlier this year I went to the best restaurant I have ever experienced in my life. I lost count of how many things they did perfectly with the service, the food and the wine. It all started when we arrived, they asked: “What name is your reservation in?” This implies a 100% expectation on their part that they were expecting us and that we were welcome.
Most restaurants ask: “Do you have a reservation?” This implies at least a 50% expectation that you do not have a reservation.
Along similar lines of thoughtful questioning, I’d recommend asking a customer about finance like this:
1a) “How do you normally pay for your cars?” OR: “How do you normally finance your cars?”
<<Customer answers the question>>
1b) “So will you be doing the same this time?”
Asking this way implies that you naturally expect that the customer has bought cars in the past and CAN afford our cars, instead of “How do you intend to pay for THIS car” could be taken to mean “we don’t think you can afford it.”
This can now open the line of relevant questioning to include each of the following shown on the “Customer Requirements Form” about the customers current car. Practise it with a colleague so it comes out naturally when you are in front of a customer.
Make sure that the customer can see your Customer needs pad clearly so that they can see that this is a question that you ask every customer.
4. Timing (not speed) is Everything
The question about vehicle payment/financing should be asked in the first ten minutes with the customer in the Needs Investigation. The perfect time to do this is when sitting down with your customers after offering them refreshments.
One of the most common mistakes when completing the customer needs form is that the salesperson starts selling. This is the investigation stage, not the presentation stage of the sale.
If the customer says “finance” and the salesperson immediately starts pushing finance, most customers will shut down and the salesperson will lose the opportunity to find out all of the customer’s other needs, severely jeopardising their chance to help the customer buy the right car car at the right price.
Find out all the customer’s needs before you start selling.
If the customer says “finance”, make a note of it, acknowledge it and keep going through the other question to establish the customer’s needs.
Once you have a complete summary of the customer’s needs written down, the car can be presented and test driven focusing on the customer’s needs, and then you can then put the full picture together for the F & I Manager to suit the customer’s situation.