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Pre-Qualifying Customers: The Mixed Messages

I remember my first off-site used car super sale and the sales meeting that preceded it. “Guys, forget about the sales process. Don’t worry about demo drives. When customers walk in, sit them down, ask a few questions and qualify them for a payment.” Those weren’t the exact words, but I’m pretty sure I took away the right message. With 1500 cars to choose from and hundreds of customers pouring into the stadium every hour, expediting the process and making it as easy as possible just made sense.

I’m going out to go out on a limb and say that you’ve heard, taught, or currently teach your salespeople that it’s wrong to pre-qualify your customers. And I’m guessing you also know and stress the importance of landing the customer on the right vehicle. It’s difficult to do both things well; when you don’t have a conversation about affordability, you often end up on the wrong vehicle and either lose your customer or start the process all over again. I cannot tell you how many interactions at the desk I’ve heard where the Sales Manager is grinding on the salesperson for putting the customer into a vehicle he or she cannot afford. Well, didn’t you train the salesperson not to pre-qualify customers?

Yes, sometimes “love will find a way.” We all have stories of the customer who wanted to be at $300 a month who left at $550 per month. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think that’s the majority. Good dealerships close about 25% of their total opportunities.  There are plenty of stories we forget to tell about those customers who left without buying – or even sitting down to consider – a vehicle we desperately wanted them to love. And that’s not even considering the phone and Internet customers who never make it in the door.

When you shop for anything these days, you probably hop online, do some research, review pricing, determine how the purchase will fit in to your budget, and then identify where you’re buying. Your customers are no different. They want to know what fits into their budget, and since more than 90% will end up financing their vehicles, the payment is critical in their consideration process. So how do you bridge the gap, online and offline?

  1. Earn the right to have the conversation. Obviously, the greeting is not the time to say, “What payment are you looking for?” We still need to build rapport and make payment part of, not the focus of, the process.
  2. Make it the customer’s choice. Having a conversation about finances can be complicated. Make it easy, and let the customer choose whether to engage in it or not. Simple questions like, “Is there a payment range we should be considering when we’re looking for the right vehicle for you?” can help guide the selection process.
  3.  Give the customers the information they need to select the right vehicle, online or in store. Do you put payments on the vehicles in your showroom or on the front line? How about online? Since most customers don’t equate $20,000 with $380/month, it helps “connect the dots” and lowers the surprise factor during the negotiation, which should reduce time and improve CSI.


Most dealers give customers a static payment calculator and an option to fill out a credit application on their website. Historically, these tools have very low engagement and offer limited information of real benefit. There is a tool available now, however, that changes that. AutoUSA’s Payment Pro puts real payments on new and used inventory on the dealer’s site and pre-qualifies customers for those payments without affecting their credit score. Powered by Drive It Now’s patent-pending technology, the customer gets the information they need to help them select the right car, and the dealer gets a lead that includes the customer’s credit eligibility, vehicle of interest, and all of the payments the customer qualified for and selected.


If you read my blogs, you know I don’t push our products. Well, this one’s too exciting to keep to myself. Finally, this gives the customer what they want and ask for, and it gives the dealer what we need to facilitate a sale with good gross, front and back. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Views: 62

Tags: Internet, car, leads, marketing, new, used, website


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