Do your customers trust your salespeople? According to the most recent Gallup poll on the subject, the answer is a resounding “No!”. Americans rank car salespeople as the third least trustworthy profession. Only members of Congress rank lower, and now with recent elections…journalists.
Now, I know for a fact most car salespeople are not bad people. But fighting this customer perception can be an uphill battle. Trust must be earned, and it’s not easy if a customer is preconditioned to believe you’re dishonest.
In overcoming this type of silent objection, it helps to know how the mind works. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, there are seven situational factors that a person uses in their decision to trust someone. These factors were identified by experts based on years of researching trust, suspicion and resolution of conflict.
As you read through these situational factors, think about how you can apply them to your interactions with customers.
The higher the stakes, the less likely people are to trust. Buying a car is pretty high stakes for most people because a lot of money is involved. As a car shopper begins their journey, how secure do they feel giving you their contact information?
To entice prospects to give their personal information, many dealers use trade-in forms, price quote forms, payment calculators and other widgets on their website. The customer expects the widget to give them the answer they are looking for. If you don’t give them the answer they feel duped. You have just destroyed the first and most important factor in the decision to trust.
If you aren’t willing to quote a price or payment over the phone, don’t use that call to action on your website.
2. Number of Similarities
At a deep psychological level, people tend to trust other people who are like them. Similarities that your customers look for include common values shared and personality traits. This is why it’s long been important for salespeople to make small talk to try and find things in common with their customers, and why some salespeople use the ‘mirroring technique.’
These sales techniques are easy to apply with a showroom up. But what about when the prospect hasn’t decided which dealership to visit? Video emails have been proven to be very effective at increasing engagement and response rates. Send salesperson introduction videos, or have your salespeople record a personalized greeting for an existing vehicle walk-around video.
Videos allow your personality to shine. When customers see you smiling and being friendly on video, they are far more likely to trust you.
3. Alignment of Interests
Before your customer decides to trust you, they ask themselves this question: ‘How likely is this person to serve my best interests?’ For example, if their heart is set on a certain color for a certain model, and your dealership doesn’t have that color in stock, are you going to immediately try to push a different color, or are you going to go the extra mile to help the customer find what they’re looking for?
Alignment of interests also applies to negotiating a price. The customer always wants a good deal, but that doesn’t always mean the lowest price. Research indicates that although you must be in the market range with price, selling the value of your dealership is an effective technique. Find out why the customer is looking for a vehicle and fill that need with your value proposition.
4. Benevolent Concern
People trust others who show genuine interest and concern in them. This is similar to alignment of interests, but goes deeper. Every salesperson is trained to fish for what the customer’s objections are so they can overcome those objections. While relying on words from a script may be helpful in some circumstances, you have to be very careful that your response doesn’t come across as rehearsed or insincere.
Buying a car is a big, exciting and important event for most people. But to salespeople who sell cars every day, it can become mundane. It’s important to try and tap into the customer’s sense of excitement and give every customer the VIP treatment.
This comes down to how competent and knowledgeable the salesperson is. If you need brain surgery, don’t you want your surgeon to be experienced and knowledgeable? Although buying a car isn’t brain surgery, demonstrating confidence inspires your customers to trust you.
This is why training, mentoring and ongoing education is so important. Not just for your salespeople but for everyone who interacts with customers. Imagine a scenario where a prospect calls in and asks someone in your BDC what the residual is for a certain vehicle they’re looking at; and the BDC employee’s response is, “What’s a residual?” That kind of answer reflects poorly on your entire dealership.
Salespeople demonstrate incompetence when they send emails filled with grammar and spelling mistakes. From the customer’s perspective, how can they trust you to register and handle paperwork for their car if you can’t even spell? Templates can help solve this problem, but a better way to address this issue is with videos. The vast majority of salespeople I know are professional and well-spoken, even if some of them don’t know how to spell. They come across as very capable in person, and also on video.
Videos in emails are still novel enough to excite and engage customers. Communicating with customers in a direct, visual manner instead of with the written word is a great way to build trust.
6. Predictability and Integrity
Before a person decides to trust you, they ask themselves (on a subconscious level) ‘How certain am I that this person will act or react a certain way?’ As a salesperson, behaving in a way that the customer expects and wants builds trust.
However, if you say one thing but do another, you are perceived as lacking integrity. If you tell a prospect you are going to do something, do it. Send that email, do that research, call them back when you said you would, have that car ready for the test drive. Deliver on your promises.
The more predictable and honest you are, the more your customers will trust you.
7. Level of Communication
The ability to communicate openly and honestly builds trust, while poor communications skills destroy trust. As a salesperson do you answer your customer’s questions directly, or do you avoid answering their questions? If it’s the latter, I can assure you that all the charm and chatter in the world isn’t going to fool them.
One of the most effective means of communication is story telling. Are you telling your dealership’s story with a value proposition video? Are your salespeople sharing their stories with introduction videos? Are your loyal customers telling their stories with customer testimonial videos? People love stories and they love watching people share their stories on video. The more you communicate and share stories, the more your customers will trust you.
Trust is a vital part of every purchasing decision. For dealerships and for salespeople, earning customer trust can be an uphill battle, but knowing the psychology behind how people decide to trust is helpful.
Author: Ted Dupuy
Ted Dupuy is Director of National Accounts with Flick Fusion Video Marketing. Ted has more than a decade of experience working with automotive dealers to help improve their sales processes, inventory merchandising and video marketing.