Make the Interview a Shining Part of Your Sales Process

Many of you will read this article and realize what I am talking about makes sense, and you will know it’s necessary to do the things I am about to mention in order to make profit this year. Nevertheless, some of you will do absolutely nothing about it. The question becomes why won’t you do anything about it?

Selling more at higher profit margins is hard enough, but the question is how to achieve this in a down time. Believe me, there are dealers out there doing it. Let me share with you how.

Almost every dealer I speak with around the country agrees with me on one thing: one of the main reasons so many people leave their dealership without buying is that they tried to sell them the wrong vehicle. How many times have you heard that one of your customers bought a different model (more often than not, a cheaper one) elsewhere and the salesperson said, “I could have sold you one of those?” If the salesperson could have sold the customer one of those, why didn’t he?

When times are tough, we all get a little desperate for deals. When we think we have a live customer, we get anxious to make the sale, and all too often, we start taking short cuts.

The biggest short cut we take is with the interview. The interview is a part of the process that is very difficult to master, and as a result, not many salespeople do. It is too much trouble for them to hone this very important skill. Yet, if done right, this step will sell more vehicles at a higher profit per unit, so you need to take the responsibility as a dealer to make sure the interview is a professionally performed part of every potential sale.

Hold your managers accountable for your sales staff actions. You are empowering your salespeople to take care of your customers. Have your managers track each step of the sales process, and have them get involved with every customer early in the process to ensure compliance with your process.

Let’s talk about the interview in more detail. This is a fact-finding mission and a rapport-building session all in one. It is not easy to extract the kind of information we need to properly put a deal together without seeming as if we are interrogating the customer. It is an acquired skill to have a conversation with a customer as if you are talking to a friend, while gleaning all kinds of personal information from them. So make sure your managers role play with your sales team over and over until they are comfortable with the interview.

A lot of salespeople try and interview customers out on the lot, and while this is sometimes necessary, a salesperson should be conducting the interview in a comfortable environment. The preferred location is at a round table indoors or at the salesperson’s desk. This will set a good tone for a more relaxed atmosphere, which is more conducive to the customer opening up.

I was never in favor of having a written interview sheet, but a few years ago, we had no choice in a particular dealership after recruiting a new team of raw talent. We needed to put the new team to work sooner than we would have liked and they had not mastered the interview enough to know it by heart. Therefore, we allowed them to use our sheet that is designed to mix business and pleasure with a variety of questions. We observed from the side as a couple of the new salespeople worked with their customers.

The salespeople knew only to go through the interview as we had trained and the customers actually enjoyed the process! They were surprised that we wanted to know so much and felt like we really cared about their wants and needs.

The salespeople were doing their job in finding out how the customer was going to use their new vehicle, what they were trading, their likes and dislikes about their old car, their rough monthly budget, cash investment, where they worked, what they did for a living, who else was going to be involved in the decision, and other personal information.

They used the answers to their questions to build rapport and spin off into talking about personal things. They found common ground. Before long, the customers were buying in to the salesperson, the dealership and the vehicle. You probably have had green pea salespeople become salesperson of the month in either their first or second month out. Why? They followed the process and spent time with the customer.

Do two things to increase sales and gross:

     •    Hold your team accountable for every customer contact
     •    Hone your team’s interview skills

There will be dealers who manage to increase their business this year. I know everyone is talking about 2008 as being a down year as far as volume. That does not mean there won’t be any vehicles sold. You need to make sure you get your share, and if indeed the nation’s volume is down, it means you need to get a bigger share than last year. Here’s the good news: you are perfectly positioned to get the same share as last year. Here’s some better news:  if you act and do things differently, you can get a bigger share than last year. Yes, you can even sell more at a higher profit margin.

Here’s the rub. Most, if not all of you, know you can do better. You know that by doing the two things I have described, your business will improve. However, you will likely do nothing. It requires effort and tenacity to see the change through. You don’t want to ruffle any feathers, so you will put up with mediocre performance. It is because of the dealers who do nothing that a few of you will reap the rewards of your hard work in doing something different. Hold your people accountable. Make the interview the shining part of your sales process. Do better in a down year when so many won’t. Here’s to you few.

Vol 5, Issue 4


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