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The Auto Sales Process – Brace Yourself

If you take a moment and Google “auto sales process,” you’re going to find a lot of different answers. 

Everyone breaks the sales process down to steps. Three, 5, 10, 15…everyone talks about the process that they use and how many steps they can break the process down to.

One person talks about four steps:

  1. Get to know the customer
  2. Find them a car
  3. Sit them down and negotiate
  4. Finance or payment

A few other sites stretch this process out to 10 steps:

  1. Greet the customer
  2. Discover their needs
  3. Walk around the lot
  4. Test drive
  5. Post-test drive
  6. Negotiate
  7. Close
  8. Financing
  9. Deliver
  10. After-sale review

Who’s right? Everybody.

Consider something you do everyday without thinking about it, like tying your shoes. The process of tying your shoes can be broken down into about 15 discrete steps. And you do that without thinking about it. Imagine how many steps your drive to work would need to be broken down into and you probably barely remember doing it.

Is Selling Dead?

Back to Google. Let’s google “the sales process dead”. Here’s what you get:

“Everything in sales is dead”

“Traditional selling is dead”

“The sales process is dead”

“Selling is dead”

Those dramatic statements don’t really mean what they say. When you read the articles, you find that they don’t think the sales process is actually dead, as if things will sell themselves, but that the process has changed.

So what has changed?

The change that has happened is that the salesperson no longer controls the sales process. The customer is in control. They have all the tools they need in their hands to put them in the power position. 

For example, they can buy a car from a vending machine. They can have a car delivered. They can see how much the car is worth, if the car is a deal, and what they should be asking for in the deal. 

Back in the good old days, the dealer had the power. She was able to control the flow of the process from start to finish. 

“According to AutoTrader.com’s 2015 Automotive Buyer Influence Study, more car buyers have already decided on the vehicle they want to purchase when they first visit a dealership. In 2015, 72 percent of recent car buyers reported that they purchased the vehicle they had in mind when they first visited a dealership.” – AutoTrader.com

Think about that. That means that three-fourths of all the people who come to you to buy a car know what car they want. They don’t need to walk the lot. They don’t need to get to know the salespeople. They might just walk up and ask for a test drive. 

This means that the old ways of selling might have changed. 

How to deal with the change?

Get over yourself.

That’s the whole thing. You might think that the lot walk is the second step, but the customer might want to do it after the test drive. You might want to discuss financing at the end, but the customer might make it the first thing they do. 

As dealers, it’s time to understand that the customer is in control of the whole process. Some will go along for the ride with you as you go through the 143 steps of the sales process. Many simply want to get to what they came in for.

Here’s an experience that some friends had recently. The couple went to look at a Volkswagen that they really wanted. They called and set up a test drive. They had the car looked at and it was a mess. When they went back to the dealer and said so, instead of being redirected to other cars or even having a conversation, they were accosted by a manager they had never spoken to about what a great car it is and how dare they have it looked at. Needless to say, they went somewhere else. In fact, less than two hours later they had purchased a Fiat for less money, fewer miles, and in perfect condition. 

What happened was that the sales process as it is “supposed to go” was interrupted by a customer who was in charge. The dealer lost the sale and the customer. Oh, and their parents bought a car a month later from the place they bought the Fiat. The parents didn’t even go to the first dealer.

The sales process is still there, but as the family recipe for spaghetti or fried chicken, it’s just a guideline, not a hard set of rules. 

Be ready to make changes because the customer is in charge now and they have more information and resources than ever before.