The automotive industry is an ever-evolving, laboratory of personal growth. To thrive in this business, you must consistently develop, grow your skills, and re-invent yourself. The most frequent and damaging mistake that I encounter at dealerships is requiring people to learn in the wrong sequence.
To thrive in this business, you must consistently develop, grow your skills, and re-invent yourself.
My initial introduction into selling vehicles is a perfect example. I was instructed to go into a room with a stack of videotapes and “don’t come out until you've learned how to sell a car.” They wanted me to learn the how first, and then just start doing it. There is much a better way to becoming a true professional. It is a simple four-step sequence of development that we can all follow.
Step One: Mindset – The Why
When the challenges come and the difficult days confront us, the only thing that keeps us going is why we do what we do. The first thing that customers genuinely care about is how the products we want to discuss will help them, not us. They don’t care as much about what the products are as they do about how it will make their ownership experience better. Our mindset must be on communicating effectively how our products will help the customer. It must be communicated in a manner that shows we genuinely care about them and their situation. So, don’t let self-interest creep into your thought process or it will start showing up in your conversations with customers. The result will be reduced product sales and dropping profits.
Step Two: Skill Set – The What
This can be summed up in one word — process. Our natural response is to begin selling immediately. Instead, design a detailed path that will walk your customers through a more comfortable and productive F&I process. Steps along that journey should include a two-way conversation, needs discovery, and planting seeds of information to revisit later. We all know the saying “short cuts are pay cuts.” They are also huge profit cut for the dealership. Those losses can affect multiple departments from F&I to sales and even service, even possibly resulting in reduced repeat business. The F&I process must be enjoyable for the customer and a celebration of their new purchase. Increasing the interaction with the customer prior to selling will make for a more productive and profitable process.
Step Three: Execution – The How
We sell solutions to problems, not products. However, we must employ the right efforts that encourage customers to take action. Be aware, this may require you to wear multiple hats — starting with the hat of empathy. Talk less, listen more and genuinely empathize. What if you were in their position? What would you do? Empathy is more powerful than any feature or benefit your product provides. Customers want to know the product we are discussing will fix their problem. We are selling compelling stories, not just products. Customers want proof that the products work, have worked for others and will work for them when the need arises. We must have tangible evidence of how the product has helped others. The features and benefits are the bow on the package.
Step Four: Refresh – The When
No matter how powerful the process, it will become stagnant if not adjusted regularly to fit the changing landscape of our business. We are currently experiencing an exhilarating, rapid change of direction. Successful sales principles never change or go out of style. However, when we implement and use those selling principles does change. This demands consistent learning, personal growth and adjustments to our process. Reading, researching, and involving yourself in regular training activities will keep the process evolving and ensure you provide the best experience and most desirable format for your customers.
Join me in the next few installments of "Peak Performance" to examine these more closely. Keep climbing!
Rick McCormick is the national account development manager for Reahard & Associates, which provides customized F&I training for dealerships throughout the U.S. and Canada. He has more than 20 years of auto retail and finance experience.
Originally posted on F&I and Showroom