This article “Car Sales Skills” is a timely article. As I am writing this, the fiscal quarter is ending for my dealership, and we are wrapping up the last few deals of the month. After traveling for a few weeks, I ended up back at my desk with a large quota to conquer and a week to do it. Every day I’ve been bringing my best face forward to work with the customers, and I’ve been paying attention to what works best when I’m in the zone.
It’s from these customer experiences that I distilled down these three car sales skills. The three car sales skills that I’ve focused on are patience, determination, and organization. I’ll break down how I think these three car sales skills can help you set yourself up for success when working with customers.
Patient Mindset: How Long Can You Take It?
I’ve spoken about patience before, in my 2018 wrap-up article:
Blogging, as my side business, is slow going. It’s a labor of love, one that takes a long time to scale to reasonable profitability. Anyone that sells you the “overnight success” story is just making shit up- I can tell you that honestly from the trenches. I figured that if you break down my hourly rate on this project, I would be making an average of a dollar an hour.
So why do it? The easy answer is- I’m just not there yet. One day I will make more. Matthew McConaughey, that weird actor dude, once said that “my hero is myself, in ten years.” Although that still sounds a bit odd, I like the sentiment. Right now I make $1/hour doing this blogging business, but six months ago I was losing money doing this. Now I have passed breaking even; I only have one way to go (up, hopefully)!
So patience is key. In blogging, in automotive, and life. It took me a while to figure that out.
This above advice that has only become more relevant to me.
Car Sales Skills: Becoming a Patient Chameleon
You can’t just sell easy car deals. To sell the volume that it takes to set yourself up for financial independence, you need to sell the vast majority of types of people cars. That means you need to sell slow customers, the fast customers, the cheap customers, and the barely-speaking-English customers. To make the outsized incomes that car salespeople routinely make, you need to master the art of the patient chameleon.
The patient chameleon can take 10x the punishment of the average salesperson, changing attitude to facilitate the demanding customers. Why is it important to remind yourself to be patient? The reason is simple; it’s easy to get burned out when working directly with the public. You are liable to have to answer the same questions, day in and day out, to customers that are often thankless. That can grate on anyone, especially when you’ve been working at a store for more than a few years.
When you are a patient chameleon, you know going to work that customers are going to grate on you. You see it coming, and you plan for it. The patient chameleon shifts their attitude to facilitate the customers.
I make a game out of being patient. When confronted with a demanding customer, I mentally go through a few steps:
- I remind myself that if I get upset, this will only get more difficult
- I think of all of the times that I have dealt with demanding customers successfully in the past
- I challenge myself to give this customer a perfect experience, regardless of how difficult they are
Rather than treating the customer as the challenge, I create a game out of being perfect. The more complicated the customer, the more difficult the game, the more accomplished I am if I succeed.
The Patient Chameleon Saves It’s “No’s”
Customers can only be told “No” a certain number of times. The majority of customers can only be told “No” three or four times before turning against you. Once you have exhausted that number, the customer will resent you, deeming you unworthy of their business.
When you consistently oblige a customer wishes for the majority of the sales process, you are saving your “No’s” for later. That way you can say “No” a few times during the negotiation and still maintain the customer satisfaction you need!
Even the Patient Chameleon has Limits
Ok, so that sounds great, but how realistic is it? I’d say harnessing the “patient chameleon” mindset and running with it will work with 80% of the demanding customers. That said, once in a while, you will run into one of those world-ending customers. The customers that don’t trust you fight you every time and refuse to be happy.
These are customers that I politely let go. It’s not worth it for me to try and fix a broken person. Perhaps they are inherently bad or possibly it’s just not their week, but regardless, I don’t need to ruin my week helping them.
When I deal with a customer like this, I will give still give it a good attempt. I will bend over backward, but only to a point. When they begin to become distinctly unpleasant, I find a way to let them go. Until you’ve worked in customer service for a few months, you might not know what I mean, but you will know when you see it.
So how do you get rid of a customer like this? If they are looking at cars, I would test drive and show them the vehicles they are interested in, and then let the conversation reach a natural end. I might mention an upcoming appointment and suggest that we schedule a follow-up. In the worst cases, I have told the customers that I think that “this isn’t working for us,” and I offer to direct them towards some other store that might be able to help them.
Determined Mindset: How Long Can You Last?
I’ve had one big goal since I graduated from university: Financial Independence. The idea of having enough capital investment to buy my freedom from work has been the central tenet of my working career for seven years now. Perhaps it’s my dislike of being managed or my hatred of going to the same building every day. Whatever it is, I’ve wanted to become financially independent since the second week I began working. I’ve worked every day with that goal in mind, determined to make it my reality.
You need to be able to put off what you want now in the short term for your “big goal” in the future.
Your goal may be different. Perhaps you dream of owning a home or putting your kids through the best Universities without debt. Regardless of what your goal is, you need to have a “finisher’s” mindset. That means that you are singularly dedicated to accomplishing the goal that you set for yourself. You have told yourself that you will do what it takes to get to where you want to go.
My goal of Financial Independence requires me to save over a million dollars and have it invested. The magic of compound interest means that the earlier I begin investing, the better I will do.
Car Sales Skills: Dedication to a Big Goal
When working with customers, you need to remember the “big goal” that you align your work life with. When you consider the house that you and your spouse want to put a down payment down on, you get a bird’s eye view of your job. It is a means to an end. As such, there isn’t an option for you to “give up” on a deal. You can’t “half-ass” it. The only option for you, if you hope to accomplish your goals, is to work hard and work efficiently.
This determination to accomplish your goal will give you the ability to accept new challenges at work. You will be willing to take on projects that seem outside of your skill set, with the understanding that you will learn what you need to accomplish the small tasks.
Every customer is both a person who needs care and attention and a brick in the road to your “big goal.” Never forget this balance.
Organized Mindset: Can You Juggle?
If you plan to build a road, brick by brick, to reach your “big goal,” you need to stay in a straight line. Being organized is so often ignored, even though it is a requirement for operating at your highest capacity. You need to be able to juggle your responsibilities at the dealership and never drop the ball.
In the car dealership, having an organized work life means that you have a firm grip on what you are working on every hour of the day. Your desk is clear of clutter, and your email inbox is under control.
Personal organization is the shield that stands between you and potentially letting down customers. How often do you forget about an appointment or an email because you were scatterbrained? Do you ever forget about responding to a text because it sinks into your messy message inbox?
I use a few key strategies to keep myself together.
Car Sales Skills: Organization Tools
My first tool to keep myself organized is my paper hot customer list. I always have a piece of blank printer paper followed to 1/3 size with a list of my hottest customers. I jot down their names and the car they are interested in, plus the date of their next appointment. If they don’t have an appointment, it sits blank, driving me to follow up with them.
I’ve tried using excel, my CRM, outlook, and an array of other tools, but for this, nothing beats paper. That little paper reminder of my highest potential customers keeps my head in the game every day.
My second tool to keep myself organized is my CRM strategy. By focusing on “Update Days” in Dealersocket, I can always make sure that my web leads are followed up with on a regular schedule. The “update days” metric is the linchpin of an effective follow-up strategy. If your customers are being touched every three days, they are unlikely to be forgotten.