It is time to remember once again who holds the cards at dealerships. If you have forgotten, go to a retailer of choice at lunch or after work today and watch carefully how your interaction and transaction develops with the salesperson. This is not to say that consumers are in the same state of mind going out to buy a new flat-screen TV as they are for a vehicle purchase. By the same token, shouldn't one of the larger investments people ever make be met by a solid professional who knows how to assist and guide? Why would you invest with a broker or choose a dentist to do work on you that was not a leader?
So, are your customers Doubtful On Arrival? Hope you didn't think I was saying they're dead on arrival. No, that would refer to dealership sales staffs (and if you don't believe me, visit nearly any other dealership in your area). Your customers are doubtful because of so many factors today. So let's not give them any more excuses to believe that they (1) can control you because you're selling fewer cars, or (2) that they can't have an outstanding experience.
As retailers, you can never relinquish control of your engagement with the customer. You can absolutely have them believe they're in control by answering their questions, validating them, being relevant, maintaining eye contact and mirroring and other proven methods (that you're already using every time, right?). Pass control over to the customer and you're done. And they'll know it the moment you do. As a matter of a fact, that practice has been going on for years! Remember this top-10 hit: "Hold on...I'll have to talk this over with my manager...please let me grab a (fill in the beverage of choice here) for you because this might be a while". Or how about this perennial favorite: "Wow, you really drive a hard bargain. Gosh, I don't know...well...OK. Let's do the deal!".
We have given auto retail customers so much garbage to deal with, having a great experience with a knowledgeable salesperson that talks about benefits for that specific person and truly delivers on their promises is such an unbelievable occurrence (read: you have to talk about benefits in the customers eyes, not ramble off a list of specifications that they can read on the brand site or Edmunds.com).
Here are a few thoughts from a great person I listen to regularly that may change your current perspective or actions (hopefully):
Take consistent action
Leadership is influence not manipulation
Small things done well lead to big things that were once impossible
You have to achieve your goals no matter what happens
Action needs to be driven by decision not emotion (but please do keep your customers emotional as their purchase needs to matter more to them than to you).
While you can't guarantee that your customers won't come into your store DOA, you surely can positively influence them, stay in control, demonstrate integrity and have a great impact on them. And by doing that you can also turn them into the best advocates you can ever have, which is precisely what your job is no matter if you're selling new cars, used cars, service, parts, accessories or finance.
You're always selling you...don't forget who's in control of you. Be great!
Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results