At some point in almost every transaction a customer will think, “Why are you asking me that?” Once in a while they will literally ask the salesperson the question aloud. Typically, this is the point when the salesperson stops – or nearly stops – the sale.
In sales, there are at least six questions a salesperson should never ask.
- May I help you?
- Are you planning to buy a car today (or right now)?
- How much do you want to spend (or how much do you want to pay monthly)?
- If I could (insert offer), would you?
- Why don’t you think about it and come back when you are ready to buy?
- Do you need to talk this over with a significant other? (This question is most often asked when a female is shopping alone.)
Yet, salespeople ask these questions every day, all across the country.
Instead of finding a vehicle that meets the customers’ needs, wants, and desires, salespeople negotiate. As a result, they create an impersonal, uncomfortable, and unsuccessful customer experience. Customers want to be asked intelligent, thoughtful questions that demonstrate a salesperson is listening, understanding, and sincerely trying to help them buy the right vehicle.
Think about it. The last time you asked these questions, I’m sure this is what you heard from the customer.
|Questions You Should Never Ask||Typical Customer Response|
|1. Can I help you?||1. No, I am just looking.|
|2. Are you planning to buy a car today (or right now)?||2. No, I haven’t decided.|
|3. How much do you want to spend (or how much do you want to pay monthly)?||3. As little as possible!|
|4. If I could (insert offer), would you?||4. No, but if you could….I would consider it.|
|5. Why don’t you think about it and come back when you are ready to buy?||5. They say “ok” but were thinking, “I was ready to buy. I guess you aren’t ready to sell.”|
|6. Do you need to talk this over with a significant other?||6. Excuse me?!!|
Then what do you do? When you ask the wrong questions, you and the customer become increasingly frustrated. For example, we know of a salesperson who asked a customer via email what they want to pay for a $40,000 car. The customer replied, “$20,000.” The salesperson stopped responding to the customer’s emails and effectively, stopped the sale.
When salespeople fail to ask the right questions, they take away from the customer experience. It’s their job to guide customers to making a selection by asking thoughtful, relevant questions that tailor each experience to an individual customer. In doing so, salespeople help customers feel confident about their decision to purchase.
Too often, salespeople ask questions that lead nowhere. Instead, they should ask questions that drive the conversation and experience in the right direction so ultimately, they can help the customer make a selection.
First, think about the information you need to build a relationship with a customer and help them select the right vehicle. Make a list. Then, prepare open-ended questions (never ask a yes/no question) that will start a conversation, encourage them to share information, and help you discover what they want, need, and desire in a new vehicle. Find out why they came to your dealership today. Don’t be aggressive; be sincere and interested.
When talking with customers, be aware of other people and how they interact. Find out if they are purchasing the vehicle together or if one is a friend along for support. Be subtle in finding out whether someone else is involved in making the decision. Then find a respectful way to engage them as well. When you do, be careful not to ignore your original customer or defer to one over the other.
If there is more than one person in the conversation, treat them equally when they arrive and throughout the experience. Use their names when you address them. Be friendly and get to know them. You are trying to build a relationship and trust. Never focus only on one individual and ignore the other.
Listen attentively and you will learn exactly what type of vehicle to show them. Your goal is to show each customer a vehicle they can fall in love with. When you do, price will be a secondary consideration. Pay attention to the questions that give you the information you need so you can use them again if appropriate.
Use the information you’ve learned to ask additional, open-ended questions that help motivate a customer to close the sale. But, remember the only time to buy a car is the customer’s time.
Your job is not to close the sale NOW, but to close the sale at some point. Do everything you can to build a relationship, to make sure the customer loves the vehicle and trusts you and your dealership so that when they are ready, they buy from you. It might be today, tomorrow, next week or next month. Never pressure them because they always have the choice of leaving, going down the road, and buying from your competition.
Be sure that you have done everything possible to make the customer’s decision simple. Then, if they choose to leave without buying at that moment, follow up. The first 72 hours are the most important to closing a sale. Send an email thanking them for coming in. Go the extra mile and check on a specific item they wanted; let them know what you find out. Call them and invite them back.
In a sense, selling a car is like building a new relationship. When you ask thoughtful questions, listen to the responses, and use them to build the relationship, you will be more successful in helping your customers buy the right vehicle, the one that meets their needs, wants, and desires.
Author: Jennifer Libin
Jennifer Libin, Sales Director, APB, excels in training salespeople to work as teams and cultivate relationships. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org.