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Posts by Joe Webb
Back and forth. Up and down. Back and forth. Up and down. Back and forth goes the salesperson negotiating with the customer. Up to the sales manager’s desk the salesperson walks and then back down to their desk they go with another price. Another attempt. This volley with the customer has become archaic and antiquated. It is disliked and disgusting. The days of penciling deals over and over must end.
No more No. 2. No more pencils. That strategy is done. It’s finished. Someone tell your sales managers. Break into their desks and steal the pencils and multi-colored Sharpie markers. The consumer has moved beyond this tired strategy and is ready for new days of selling! Stop the negotiating with customers and start the educating.
It is time your sales managers and sales people end the rigmarole they’ve used for years and do away with how they’ve penciled deals. Instead, your managers and salespeople must learn how to overcome objections and negotiate through education. The consumers are coming in with very specific expectations and very detailed research. Why put them through the constant back and forth? Instead, you must utilize the online resources and data at your (and the customer’s) disposal to validate the price you charge.
Dedicate yourself to understanding what all is available to your consumers online and begin using the third-party data as evidence to defend the price you are charging. I’m not advocating a one-price solution here. Negotiation is still allowed and going for gross is still acceptable, but be prepared to answer the “WHY?” question when it arises with real data.
We have now entered the era of Validation Selling. (Yes, I’m coining a new term here). We must prove the reason we price our vehicles by utilizing the data they already have. Moreover, we must eliminate the tactic of writing down our offer on a half-blank sheet of paper with markers and pens and begin presenting our figures on a fully-printed out pricing proposal. All figures must be entered into the CRM and printed out as if it were an official contract. This must happen from the very first offer. Having it printed and available in a clean format lends credence to the numbers your sales team present. Certainly more validity than a four-square with $24,995 scribbled across it in thick blue ink.
Get on board with Validation Selling. Throw out any previously-held beliefs that the customer still enjoys the ‘back and forth, up and down, crossed-off price here and slightly lower price penciled there’ strategies that you’ve grown accustomed to. Educate yourself and then educate the customer with online, third-party data – or be prepared to overcome it. You will sell more vehicles and build a quality customer sales experience at the same time.
This is how to sell vehicles in 2012 and beyond. Education over Negotiation. DealerKnows are the Validation Selling Specialists. Let us explain it to you.
On our DealerKnows’ Virtual Dealer Training program, we help dealerships maximize the technology, solutions, and opportunities already in place. With this comes a considerable amount of negotiating with vendors to improve their products on behalf of our dealer clients. No system is perfect, despite what vendors say, and often it takes a fresh set of eyes to show a dealership what they are missing with that provider. Product enhancement requests flow when we take on a new client and our Virtual Training platform can help evolve your use of a system/site and can help the vendors get better as well. And there lies the rub.
With advancements changing in the online marketplace daily, vendors must realize their products must change as well…just as quickly. Dealers won’t wait around forever as their vendor clients continue to sit on their hands. So here is my challenge to every vendor:
I want a Vendor Scorecard. I believe vendors should create a scoring system that allows all of their dealers to see, review, and vote on what advancements their teams should put into action. Not support issues (though a Vendor Scorecard could be beneficial for this as well), but an idea exchange where people on the ground can tell the people in the high rises what their system NEEDS to be able to do. It could be a small password-protected community within your software that allows ALL dealers to post their product enhancement requests so that ALL other dealer clients can see. Make it available to your own loyal public. Each product enhancement request should be time-dated and stamped so we know just how long it takes the vendor to react. Not respond… react. Fix. Change. Develop.
Then, take it to the next step, and allow every dealer client to VOTE on which product enhancements they most desire to see active sooner rather than later. You will create your own weighted scale as to which improvements to focus on completing. If you so desire, consider giving those few dealers that utilize your system to its fullest, are your oldest clients, or represent you in the online communities a heavier VOTE than others.
The automotive resource site, DrivingSales, has taken one step by bringing Vendor Ratings into the forefront and asking the automotive retail professionals that peruse this site to vote on who and why they recommend the companies they’ve chosen. This has been a good way to help vendors gain exposure and allow dealer personnel to give feedback to their peers. When a vendor’s reputation is questioned on these sites, it is amazing how quickly they respond. They either scurry to cover up the negativity or do their due diligence to correct it before it damages their business.
The end goal here is to let your own community of clients that USE your product to IMPROVE your product. I think there is a progressive way to do this without risking a vendor’s reputation.
If you are a vendor reading this, please don’t hate me for saying it, but your product/solution/sites CAN improve. Not “will”, but “can”. You can enhance your offerings to dealers if you just listen closely to your current clients. Above and beyond negotiating with vendors on behalf of our clients and suggesting new technological opportunities, we help them get the most out of their current solutions and websites. When we look to improve a vendor’s offerings for our dealership clients, though, we see far too many no-brainer enhancements that still are not being implemented. When I request a change from a vendor or give them (free) advice on how to better their offerings, I hear the same responses constantly. “We are working on it.” “I’ll pass it along.” “That is scheduled to be in our next release of enhancements 6 months from now.” What else do I hear? “I don’t understand.” THAT is the problem. You aren’t using the product the same way an Internet Sales Manager or Sales Manager uses it so you have your blinders up to the real needs of your software.
Dealers are asking themselves daily: “Where the heck do all of my product requests go?” “How many times do I have to suggest an improvement for it to go overlooked?” “When will this feature become available or active?” “Is anyone listening to what I want?”
I see no better way to get a vendor’s attention than making product enhancement requests a centerpiece to their customer service initiatives. Customers will finally be able to track their relationship with the vendors and hold them accountable if need be. Make them time-stamped suggestions with enough of your constituents voting for it and there will be no way a dealer can have a deaf ear. It is time more vendors listen to their clients first instead of listening to their own random ideas.
As I said, this is a CHALLENGE. The first vendor who decides to make the direction of their technology a democracy by creating a similar Vendor Scorecard available for all of their dealers wins my approval and another blog post dedicated to their innovative ways. Fair enough?
I was on-site training a new dealer client’s BDC team last week when I heard the most disturbing thing. The phone rang and the BD agents began a discussion that went something like this…
“Who’s turn is it?”
“Not mine either.”
“Well I just had one, like, two minutes ago.”
“So did I.”
“I think it’s your turn so you take it.”
“I’m in the middle of an email. Can’t one of you?”
“But it’s not my turn.”
It was about this time, during the 9th ring of the phone, that I raised my voice and hollered, “Someone pick up the (darn) phone! There’s a customer waiting!”
That outburst immediately got their attention and at least motivated one of them enough to answer the call. With a little side-by-side guidance from me, she was able to set an appointment with the prospect. I wonder how many more rings that customer would have waited through before hanging up and calling another dealer.
Your dealership team must realize that the phone is the lifeline into the store. I am of firm belief that if you know how to handle an inbound sales call, you never have to take an up in your life. Maybe it is just the fact that in most Business Development Centers, the phone rings so often it is overlooked. Had that call gone to the sales floor, in this economy, someone is liable to get stabbed by a coworker for the chance to get the lead.
This was a terrible game the BD agents were playing with an inbound sales call. It is the automotive dealership’s version of playing Hot Potato. I see it happen with both phone calls and internet leads now and again during either my in-store consulting or Virtual Dealer Training. When I asked them why that exchange took place, their excuse was that they only wanted to be fair to the other team members. They want everyone to have a shot at setting an appointment. But when do you say enough is enough? I didn’t want to “tattle” on them to the ownership and suggest they might have a crew too passive to be effective as appointment-setters because I feel everyone can be trained. Everyone can get better with some coaching. In this instance, my first lesson to them was that sometimes it is better to be greedy than it is to be fair.
Let it be known that I am 100% in support of having a trained, aggressive Business Development Center team handling inbound sales calls much the same way I believe there is a value to having prepared professionals in an Internet Sales Department managing leads. There is a benefit to having specialized workers with defined skill sets in these positions. I’m also all for having a fair distribution of opportunities (phone and email) between those team members. What I cannot support is when department policy interferes with the level of support you should provide a prospect.
When that phone rings, imagine it is a mystery shop you are receiving from your owner’s 20 group. You do not want to be the reason your dealership scores low marks in front of their peers. That could lead to a job loss if the call is mishandled poorly enough. But let’s look beyond your job security and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. When you call into a place of business, do you want those employees to look at the ringing phone as an albatross? A chore? Of course not! You are a potential customer that wants, nay, deserves a professional greeting, a kind response, and an intelligent answer to your question. Recognize this and handle all calls accordingly.
I know this doesn’t happen in many places, but it does indeed happen. Watch out for it. Listen to how the calls are being handled and make adjustments… for your sake and the customer’s sake. And for gosh sake, please stop playing hot potato with your sales calls.