6 Strategies for Interrupting the Autopilot of your Brain
Even if everyone at your dealership is thoroughly trained and experienced in selling cars, you may be surprised at the number of times a potential successful sale with a woman prospect falls through. When that happens, there may be questions like “What did we miss? What happened to halt the sale? What was going on with her?”
When an expected conversion doesn’t happen, it is human nature to blame or to shrug it off and say someone wasn’t a serious buyer. By employing some new ideas, your sales team will avoid miscues – and missed sales. Let’s take a closer look.
The Brain’s Autopilot
Any activity that is repeated over and over can become routine. Our brains are built that way for efficiency. The brain’s Limbic System stores these memories and reactions so we can call on them again rather than “recreate the wheel.” This system can be handy when we are doing tasks that don’t require a lot of new thought, such as driving a car. When it comes to selling or buying a car, however, the autopilot nature of the Limbic System can be too limiting.
The Neocortex, on the other hand, is the best part of the brain to use during a car sale. The Neocortex is in charge of language, reason and analysis. This part of the brain needs to be active and supercharged during the sales process in order to take in all of the information necessary to understand interactions with your customers.
Consider this scenario: A woman prospect walks in the door. She doesn’t seem that interested or focused on a specific vehicle. She looks like a casual browser. Maybe she has her car in for service and is just killing time. Your Limbic System may be saying, “No need to really engage with this woman, because in the past, someone like this was only looking and didn’t buy.” Tuning in to your Neocortex, however, will help you look for information that doesn’t match those “only browsing” customers from the past. For instance, more careful observation might tell you she is distracted and anticipating a phone call, but she is still very interested in a new car.
Here are six ideas for reducing the natural tendency to let your brain’s autopilot take control:
- Assume your woman browser is a buyer until she buys a car. This may sound silly, but it is important not to dismiss anyone who is looking at a car. On average, women visit two dealerships prior to buying a car. Dismissing any prospect may mean she buys at the “other” dealership. Stay engaged in the sales process throughout the interaction with your women prospects, or you may lose the sale to your competitor.
- Beware of blind spots. Gender is a powerful filter for the way people look at the world. Bridget Brennan, author of “Why She Buys” and CEO of Female Factor, thinks it is “more significant than age, income, ethnicity or geography” in the way we see the world. It pays to examine if your dealership and sales advisors have preconceived notions about women buyers. Brennan suggests studying women as you would a foreign market, because “cultural differences dictate language, behaviors and perceptions.” Making assumptions can prevent accurate assessments of the potential success of a sale. Allowing emotions to cloud logic is easy to do – that Limbic System is always ready to turn on and take over. Work to remove any unconscious bias so that the sales engagement doesn’t follow the path of past unsuccessful encounters.
- Know what matters when women buy a car. Women certainly have a list of needs when buying a car, but emotional factors also figure prominently in decision making. The top reason women give for buying at a particular dealership is not The top reason is the service and treatment they receive. Price ranks second. This is important, because it really means you have to have the best price and top that off with unparalleled sales and customer service. When it comes to what women look for when working with a specific sales person, trust and respect rank first and second. Here, the Limbic System is at work in your woman prospect’s brain, comparing you with her memories and making emotional judgements. The easiest way to build trust with your women prospects is to listen carefully and remain present with the current deal. Look for ways to earn her trust and show that your dealership will be there for her now and long after she drives away in her new car.
- Be confident, but not overly so. Confidence matters in life, but over-confidence can derail a potential deal. Overconfidence can allow you to miss the subtle emotions from your prospect that may be signaling she is apprehensive, intimidated or frustrated. Keeping overconfidence in check can help you ask the questions necessary to mitigate any concerns she may have about the deal. And remember, her emotions may have nothing to do with your dealership or your sales process. She may have brought those emotions with her from another experience, and it is up to you to find out how to overcome the issues. Listen more and talk less to help you assess how the deal is proceeding and what adjustments will keep it on track.
- Stay logical. While emotions will certainly play into a car sale for your woman buyer, it is important that you stay logical and focused on the deal. Relying on your intuition, instinct or “gut feel” has great potential to mislead your perception. For instance, relying on a “smile” from your woman prospect as an indicator of her happiness, can be completely wrong. Studies have shown that 90% of people smile when they are frustrated. Again, culture and gender can be at play here – women often smile out of habit to placate others. Your instinct has a good chance of perceiving false signals of success. Keep a logical perspective and focus on the immediate situation to keep your sales team from misreading how a deal is proceeding.
- Find out what you don’t know. It is easy to rely on experience and knowledge during the sales process. Your woman prospect will count on you to have answers to her questions. Often times, however, it’s what you don’t know that will break the deal. Maintain an open mind, and ask questions until you know what you need to know to lead the sale to a successful close. For example, some women may have trouble articulating their issues about the car they want to buy, or the warranty, or the loan deal. Don’t assume you know what they are asking before you answer a question. Learn to obtain additional information to ensure you have really answered your woman prospect’s questions.
Neuroscience is a hot topic in today’s world. Leveraging scientific knowledge about the brain can create a better sales process, drive more dollars to your dealership’s bottom line and create happy women customers that remain loyal to your dealership for years to come. Toning down the Limbic System and firing up your Neocortex will help your sales team avoid “autopilot” and turn potential lost sales into successful deals.
 Bridget Brennan, “Top 10 Things Everyone Should Know About Women Customers,” Forbes, January 21, 2015, http://www.forbes.com/sites/bridgetbrennan/2015/01/21/top-10-things-everyone-should-know-about-women-consumers/
Author: Anne Fleming
Anne Fleming is president of Women-Drivers.com. The company has innovative solutions to assist dealers in showcasing their trust + commitment to women buyers and in turn expand their sales to this powerful buying segment.