During my training seminars all over North America, regardless of whether I am working with Salespeople, Managers or Dealers, one question usually comes up at some time during the program: Why are Customers so defensive?
Anyone in this business who has been working directly with Customers for more than a week probably takes for granted that it’s par for the course. The common public perception of our trade often lends itself to suspicion and mistrust on the part of Customers.
I’m not saying that we should accept this as the way it is and live with it. The truth is, it’s understandable for a potential customer to come to a Dealership with their defenses on high alert when they are looking for a new car. Since there are a lot of reasons for this, let’s take a look at some of them, learn what they are and find out what we can do about it.
Fear of Taking a Risk
In today’s economy, it probably feels like a big risk for most people to invest their hard earned money on a high ticket purchase like a new car. The fear of waking up the next morning after making a purchase and then second guessing why you did so is nerve racking. Risk will always be a part of our daily lives, but most will try to minimize that risk, and here we have the first reason for a defensive posture.
Negative Experience in the Past
Perhaps this individual has had a negative experience in the past and was treated unprofessionally by a Salesperson or Dealership. It could be possible that they even ended up regretting what they had purchased. Let’s be frank, the Automotive Business didn’t get the reputation of being aggressive or shady without the help of some questionable practices that took place along the way. Stories of shady car Salespeople may have made a lot of money for the movie makers who produced films like ‘Cadillac Man’ . . . ‘Suckers’ or . . . ‘The Goods,’ but they sure haven’t helped build public confidence in our business.
Negative Advice or Warnings from Others
What about family members, friends or business associates who may have tried to prepare your new Customer in advance by relating their own car buying horror stories. Real or imagined, none of these make the potential Customer feel assured that they won’t be taken advantage of by some fast talking, slick Salesperson. Obviously, these people mean well, but this can go a long way in preparing your Customer with expectations that make them take on a defensive posture in order to protect themselves.
Fear of Getting Cheated
Probably more than any other reason, Customers become defensive from fear they will be cheated or taken advantage of. They question whether they will get a fair price or if they can get enough for their trade? They are skeptical whether they can be certain that a used car hasn’t been in a wreck and fearful they may purchase a lemon. On top of it all, they are apprehensive that the Salesperson may put a lot of pressure on them and try to sell them something they don’t really want or need.
This kind of uncertainty can certainly produce fear in the Customer when they feel they can’t control the outcome of something that is such an important decision or expensive investment.
Perception is Reality
As you can see, fear of loss or of being taken advantage of can be a big factor why some Customers come in with their defenses on full alert! In today’s world Perception is Reality and for those who are in Sales or Management, turning that Perception around is a big part of your job. Do that well and all of the negative obstacles I just mentioned can become powerhouse positives for both you and your Customer.
How to Release those Defensive Postures
The best place to release a Customers defensive posture is at the initial Meet & Greet. Using verbiage that Catches them off Guard and makes a statement is completely unexpected. Remember, we have a lopsided situation. The Customer came to look at cars with no intention of buying today; however, you came to sell cars and intend to sell one right now. This is like oil and water, they do not mix.
Let’s consider a very common statement that clearly demonstrates a defensive posture: I am just looking, is it OK if I walk around alone?
This comment creates a great opportunity to be unique, inspiring and to lower that Customers very defensive posture. I would state, “Of course you can. Can I assume that means you do not have to buy a car today? (No….not today). Great, that actually takes all the pressure off me as the Salesperson. Why don’t we consider today to be more of an informational gathering event. If you find a car you like, you can still take it for a drive and then before you leave I will be happy to provide you with brochures and prices for you to take home and consider during the shopping process.”
This simple response catches them off guard, lowers their defensive posture and creates an opportunity for you to spend time with them. Isn’t that what you want? Obviously, we all know that at the end of the presentation, we are still going to ask them to buy the car, but there is no need to tell them that upfront. You have a Customer who is fearful, apprehensive and very defensive, any comment that either keeps them in that state or raises that posture is clearly a negative.
Good luck, give it a try and I know you will realize increased success.