By Walt Dobrowski, National Training Manager at Principal Warranty Corp
We all have a different name for it: introduction, interview, conversation, etc. I prefer greeting since it is the foundation of the sales process — the meet and greet. No matter what product you sell or whether it is in-person or over the phone, the first impression will have a great effect on your ability to help the customer make good decisions. We all know what we sell inside and out, and we know great ways on how to sell them. The why can be elusive, and yet it is the most important part of each step of the selling process.
We owe it to our customer, our dealership and ourselves to provide a comfortable finance process so customers leave with the protection they need on this major purchase in their lives.
The initial introduction to the customer is the most critical point on the road to the sale. Think about the most recent shopping experience you had. Were you greeted at the door? Was the person-pleasant and courteous? What type of mood did that set for your experience? If it was a positive experience, do you feel this influenced how much you spent? The first few minutes of any interaction can set the tone for the entire experience. How you start the process is highly influential on how the process finishes. The first few minutes of meeting the salesperson and then meeting the finance manager later are critical parts of the process of making a great deal for the customer and the dealership.
We all know we only have one opportunity to make a good first impression. Several items contribute to making the first impression a good one: voice tone, dialect or accent, professionalism, and competency. A language barrier or soft speaker could create more difficult communication for some. In addition, using slang or improper courtesy could cause resistance from the customer. So, whether you believe in the interview or not, there is a psychology behind the why. Your customer is about to go through a roller coaster of emotions with resistance levels going up and down, and an intentional process that focuses on building trust and comfort will always be the most productive. More deals are made in the dealership because the customer feels they are buying from trusted individuals that are trying to help them, than those that are just looking at the numbers. Make the roller coaster ride a fun one for your customers.
The sales roller coaster can take your breath away, as well as your customers, so hold on. It looks like this: During the sales greeting, the customer resistance is at 100% because they are about to encounter a stranger and decide whether they like them or not. As the conversation begins to open up and rapport starts to be built, resistance will come down and customer participation will start to rise. Then comes the most exciting part for the customer — the demo drive. This is why they are there, to experience the new car smell, ride, and updated features. The customer is focused on checking out the new vehicle that they want to take home today. This is a great time to mirror the customer’s energy and create a truly positive experience by explaining all the amazing features of the new vehicle. The more enjoyable and in-depth the experience is here, the more likely they are to buy the vehicle and protect it later with finance products.
The next step is the most difficult and the customer puts their guard back up as they begin — the negotiation process. The customer participation starts to fall, and resistance tends to rise again. They are now preparing for us, as car dealers, to actually try and make a profit. They watch cautiously as the trade appraisal is done and managers gets involved to put their deal together. Then comes the presentation of the first pencil and the resistance is back to 100% and participation has bottomed out. As the negotiation continues and everyone works toward an agreeable deal, the customer realizes they are about to drive home in a new vehicle. Another shift occurs again as resistance declines and participation starts to rise. The negotiation is finished.
The customer agrees, we have a deal, and the stress dissipates — what a ride. Participation is now back to 100% and the customers are the most relaxed they have been since arriving at the dealership. The excitement is short-lived in most dealerships, and the most resistance from the customer is about to take place as the finance manager has the salesperson bring the customer into the finance office. That is why the best time for the finance manager to start a showroom greeting is when the customer is fully cooperative. They are excited about their new vehicle and they are also apprehensive about what happens next
Take advantage of that open door and introduce your finance manager. This turnover and transfer of trust is critical to the success of the finance office. The demeanor and attitude of the finance manager is also crucial. The conversation should be full of energy and excitement to exude a positive first impression, obviously leading to more participation and less resistance. The clock has now been reset, and when the customers return to finance, they will remember that nice person they met in the showroom. Their resistance will be low, and their participation will be high, ultimately creating the perfect time to present your needs awareness presentation and transition to menu.
Now consider the opposite outcome with no showroom introduction and conversation. The customer gets escorted to the finance office to meet another stranger that they have to decide if they like. Full circle and you are right back at the beginning of the sales process with high customer resistance. People buy from people they like and trust. How do you gain trust or build rapport with someone on the defense? The customer resistance continues to remain high during the menu presentation. Therefore, the likelihood of closing on product drastically decreases and the customer experience also suffers.
Put yourself in the customer position in these two scenarios. Which process would you prefer? Customers love to buy; they just hate to be sold. The roller coaster experience of buying a vehicle is exhausting and the final part of the process should be a celebration of a new vehicle and an informative and comfortable discussion of how to assure a great ownership experience. This can happen if an intentional and timely introduction of the finance manager is employed. We owe it to our customers, our dealership, and ourselves to provide a comfortable finance process so customers leave with the protection they need on this major purchase in their lives. And that is why it is so important!