by Steve Bauer
Believe it or not, but of the customers who walk through a dealership’s doors each day, an astounding 80 percent walk out without spending a dime. That sobering number was presented by Dealership University’s Tory Hornsby during a seminar at KYMCO’s national sales meeting in April.
With a few simple changes in your selling strategy, however, Hornsby insists any dealership’s sales can increase dramatically. From dressing properly to non-verbal communication skills to learning how to side-step the dreaded “no thanks, just looking” customer response, dealers can improve profitability by pushing down that 80 percent walk-out number.
The key to cutting into that 80 percent walkout rate, Hornsby says, is to follow some simple sales techniques outlined below.
Good first impression
The first thing any customer will do when they walk through a dealership’s door is size up the salesperson. With that in mind, Hornsby says it’s key to dress to sell.
“You don’t need to dress in a suit and tie everyday, but you need to look like someone that I’d want to spend $5,000 with,” he said. “If you don’t fit that bill, you’ll have trouble making that sale. You have less than 30 seconds to make a positive first impression, that’s the time it takes for a customer to size you up and decide if they want to do business with you or not.”
Another important aspect of a customer’s first impression of a salesperson is the enthusiasm he or she shows when the customer is greeted.
“We’re selling powersports vehicles, which are an enthusiast-driven sport and in simple terms selling is the transfer of enthusiasm,” he said. “If I greet somebody and I’m fired up about the product, and I can transfer that enthusiasm to you, how much easier is it to make the sale? When’s the last time you got excited over buying that living room set or dining room table? That’s the advantage we have in this industry, the ability to really get people excited about buying the product.”
According to a University of Wisconsin study, only 7 percent of how human beings communicate with one another is through words. Hornsby says this is an especially important statistic if you have a salesperson who isn’t great at conversation.
“Non-verbal communication is so important when it comes to selling,” he said. “Thirty-eight percent (of communication) comes from tone or inflection of your voice, and the majority, 55 percent, is body language. And that ranges from having a smile on your face, to how you’re standing, making sure you’re not in a defensive position with your arms crossed. Those are all very obvious signals to someone you’re selling to.”
Handling reflex objections
According to Hornsby, more than 90 percent of customers have been trained through previous sales experiences to give the reflex answer of “no thanks, I’m just looking,” when a salesperson asks them if they need any help. They might actually want to be helped, he says, but people have that response ingrained in their head because they know it’s an answer that will give them an out from getting an immediate sales pitch.
But Hornsby says there are some great ways to handle these objections, but it must be done proactively.
“The problem with ‘can I help you?’ is that it’s close-ended, where the answer can only be yes or no,” he said. “When you first greet someone in your dealership, you want to open up the conversation, not immediately give them an opportunity to close it.”
The first type of question that will avoid a yes or no response is an open-ended question, which start with the words who, what, when, where, how or why. An example Hornsby provided is “How is your day going?” It’s a question that can’t be answered with a yes or no answer, and it doesn’t immediately defeat the sales process.
The third type of question, and one that Hornsby has found is most effective is a multiple-choice question. This type of question gives customers options to choose from and most important, it helps to guide the sales conversation.
“A great example question would be ‘Welcome to John Doe Cycles, are you here for parts or service, or are you just looking around today?’” Hornsby said. “And if they say they’re just looking, you can immediately follow that with ‘Great, are you looking for something to ride on the street or something off-road?’ And from there you can keep getting more specific. If they say off-road, then you can ask them if they’re looking for a two-wheeler or a four-wheeler. The point is it helps to get them to open up to you so you can better serve them.”
Building rapport with a customer might seem like no-brainer to many sales managers, but it’s a common mistake.
“A casual connection goes a long, long way in sales,” he said. “Someone isn’t going to buy from a salesperson they don’t like, period. The University of Wisconsin did a study that showed 50 percent of successful sales were the result of a common bond made during the sales process.”
Hornsby says even if you don’t have anything in common with the customer, whether it be sports, hobbies or something else, you’ll always have one to rely on: they’re interested in powersports.
“They wouldn’t be in your store unless they were, and that’s all the foundation you need to build rapport with them if you can’t find anything else,” he said.
Avoid sales floor negotiations
One of the biggest mistakes new salespeople make is to negotiate price on the sales floor, and doing it while standing, as people tend to sit down while making important decisions. Another pitfall to avoid is to ignore the customer when they ask about price, which Hornsby says many salespeople are taught to do.
“Just give the price, don’t put any word in front of or behind it,” he said. “For example, don’t say ‘Well, it lists for $14,999.’ What that means is you’re willing to discount it. Most customers don’t even know they have that option, but you’ve just tipped them off to it.”
Lead the customer
Anytime a customer starts asking you questions, he or she is leading the sale. If they’re leading you around the showroom and asking one question after another, they have control. Hornsby says the best way to regain position is to turn the questions right back to the customer.
“As a salesperson you should be the only one asking questions,” he said, “and if you feel you’ve lost control of a sale the best way to turn it around is to ask a question. If they ask you how many miles per gallon a unit gets, ask them whether they’ll be using it for recreation or commuting.”
Ask for the sale
The most common deal breaker to any sale, Hornsby says, is the simple mistake of simply not asking for the sale.
“You’ll never make a sale if you don’t ask for it,” he said. “Sometimes you’ll miss, but that’s the nature of the game. Hornsby says a great way to test the waters in terms of closing a sale is to ask a trial close question, which will give you a good indication of how close a customer is to buying.
“A good trial close question for salespeople is ‘Is this going to be in your name or you and your wife’s?’ he said. “Have you made the sale? No. But you just took a big step toward it by asking an indirect question about a sale.