I’m sitting in a beautiful new dealership after being called for the umpteenth time this month to assess the performance of a struggling finance office. As is typical, this department has failed toproduce the gross, penetration, and customer satisfaction levels the dealer expects.
I watched the entire process. After a stellar turnover from a talented salesperson, our hero, the business manager, takes the customer into his office. After he does his “sales routine” and signs some paperwork, the customer is headed out to her new vehicle. As soon as she leaves, the hero hangs his head in shame.
“Didn’t sell her anything,” he says. “Not a single product.”
What he didn’t know was his customer was a prime candidate for several protection options. Had it not been for his use of several cancerous words or phrases, he would’ve had a much better opportunity to succeed on this deal.
This month, I’d like to review the three words that crippled our hero and how they affected the customer’s perception when he uttered them. I’ll also provide some replacement words that may have changed the outcome.
WORD NO. 1: “PRODUCTS”
To open up his product presentation, the F&I manager said this to the customer: “I’ve got several different products here for you to choose from.” Problem is, when you mention the word “products,” the customer is thinking: “The product I’m already buying is good and expensive enough.”
What’s the alternative? Open your F&I presentation with this: “I’ve got several protection options here for you to choose from.”
See, products are things that are sold to us. After making a large purchase, many customers are conditioned to believe that “extras” are a waste of money. By labeling our service contracts, tire and wheel, GAP and environmental protection as “products,” you are unintentionally inviting your customer to develop negative sales resistance.
WORD NO. 2: “BUY” OR “PURCHASE”
During his presentation, the F&I manager said the following to the customer: “If you purchase this package, you will be covered in the event of a breakdown.” The customer’s reaction to that statement was probably: “I’m not listening because he just wants to sell me something.” It’s better to say, “By selecting this package, you could avoid costly repairs later.”
Words like “buy” or “purchase” lead to heightened sales resistance on the part of the customer. As the old adage goes, people love to buy but hate to be sold. When one of these words is uttered by a salesperson, the customer may instantly decide that they’re not going to be “sold.” It then causes them to discredit whatever value you may build in your presentation. By using a word like “select,” we are telling the customer they control their own destiny, which is a critical element in a low-pressure sales environment.
WORD NO. 3: “DISCOUNT”
Our hero could not resist the temptation to ask his customer, “If I can give you a discount to get closer to your payment range, would you accept?” That statement probably caused the customer to wonder why he only gave a discount after she said “No.”
Other customers will wonder whether the F&I manager can discount the product even more. They may begin to wonder how much money the F&I manager is making on them and whether there’s anything else they can get a discount on.”
Try this: “Based on your circumstances, we are able to offer a preferred customer price that will fit your budget more appropriately.”
Arbitrary discounting is one of the quickest ways to lose all credibility — not only for yourself, but also for your entire business. While it is true that most customers want to feel as though they’re getting a great deal, the word “dis- count” is usually tied to goods being overpriced in the first place.
The only time you may want to consider dropping the price of your offerings is when you’ve exhausted all other options to drop a customer’s payment (i.e., extending the term, lessening mileage, changing deductibles, etc.). And if that situation should arise, you still need to be able to justify your price concession through something like a “previous-customer price” or a “first-time customer price.”
At the end of the day, our hero failed because of a few simple word-usage mistakes. By avoiding words like “product,” “buy” and “discount,” he would have had a much higher probability of getting through to his customer and being able to meet whatever needs she may have had.
Remember, the best finance managers in the industry have one thing in common: Their customers unanimously believe they have no vested interest in which protection option is ultimately selected. The words we use have a direct impact on the customer’s perception that they are choosing to buy rather than being sold to.
As you perfect your process, refine your skills and seek to raise the bar in your finance department, it is critical that you scrutinize each and every word you use, because, oftentimes, the sale can turn on a single syllable.