We are all emotional buyers! Brand development and marketing specialists have known (and exploited) this fact for decades. Every good salesperson knows people buy with their emotions, then retroactively apply their intellect and the information they gathered to justify the decision.

In our industry, it happens thousands of times every single day. How many of your customers have talked about design, quality, safety, fuel economy, horsepower, crash-test results and the length of the powertrain warranty before basing their choice on the way the alloy rims caught the showroom lights, the sound the car doors made when they closed, the way the leather seats felt or how their favorite music sounded on the stereo?

These details have nothing to do with quality, performance, reliability or the long-term cost of ownership. But they have everything to do with why people buy the cars they buy, and the better your sales professionals understand that, the more vehicles they will sell.

Buying Decisions

Why did that last customer walk in looking for a Toyota Sienna and drive off in a fully loaded, four-wheel-drive, 371-horsepower Sequoia? He said he needed a family car, and he got one, but the Sequoia’s massive engine and off-road capability reminded him of the ’87 Ford Bronco he drove in high school. You know, the one with the big engine and the 38-inch mud tires. The one he drove when he played football and dated a cheerleader.

If emotion and excitement didn’t play into our buying decisions, packaging and branding — not to mention fit and finish — wouldn’t be as important as they are.

Emotion is no less important to older car buyers. Many Baby Boomers have reached the age and financial status at which pure logic has grown stale and it’s OK to say, “The heck with it! I like it, I want it and I’ll finance it. My credit is impeccable.”

However, you can’t push just any emotional button to get the sale. Older buyers are savvy and hate being manipulated. Younger sales pros would be well-advised to cater to the way those customers want to buy, not the other way around. Provide the right mix of rational and emotional information, then back off and let them sell themselves.

Full Engagement

First impressions are emotionally based, so the buying process starts the moment the customer first sets eyes on you. If they form a negative opinion, it is much harder for them to reverse their feelings and get emotionally involved.

No matter the customer’s age, sex or race, your sales team should care enough to listen, understand and validate their feelings — and never fail to bring their own excitement and emotions to the conversation. They should take good notes during the initial conversation to be sure they know the pressing wants, needs and desires of every customer. They must listen for telltale clues about past buying experiences, previous vehicles they have liked or disliked and what really gets them excited.

Remember this important fact: Your customer’s level of enthusiasm will never be higher than yours.

The reason most customers don’t buy an automobile from you isn’t a lack of money or good credit, but a lack of interest and excitement. At the very least, you should be excited about what you’re selling. The more your customers have to listen to a monotone voice droning on about uninteresting features, facts and figures, the less they’re going to listen and the less likely they will be to buy.

If your team isn’t fired up about the vehicles you sell, don’t expect your customers to get fired up about buying them. It’s no coincidence that the last four letters of “enthusiasm” stand for “I am sold myself.” … And that doesn’t exclude car buyers who are dead-set on a make and model! There are still a number of decisions to be made, including style, color and trim level; new, used or certified pre-owned; and cash, finance or lease.

Customers divulge any number of emotional cues, clues and hints at every stage of the buying process. The most productive sales pros turn ho-hum presentations into stimulating conversations by gathering that emotional information and talking about what is really important to your customers.

Plan of Action

Now that we know why elevating emotions and excitement closes deals, it’s time to break down how your sales team can put those theories into practice.

  1. Look for tie-ins. Start each new topic by telling the customer how what you’re about to say ties into what they told you they want. (“You said one of your goals for your next car is to …”)
  2. Bridge the gap. When presenting benefits, take time to bridge the gap between what they told you they want and how each benefit provides it. (“Here’s how you’ll get that low cost of ownership you’re looking for …”)
  3. Don’t rely on word-tracks. Too many salespeople memorize their word-tracks and present the same features the same way to every customer. At some point, you have to be able to improvise and skew your presentation toward the specific benefits each customer is looking for.
  4. Get excited about the product. Take a minute and think about one of the models currently on your lot. Now, key in on one new feature that caught your eye. Why did the manufacturer add it? What does it do? What problems does it solve? Come up with at least five “You’re-going-to-love-this” lines for the feature. Try them all and figure out which ones work best.
  5. Call sold customers. Call the last five customers who purchased a specific model from you and ask what they’re enjoying most about the vehicle. This is also a great opportunity to uncover any potential issues and, more importantly, ask for referrals.

By training your sales professionals to apply these theories and practices to every interaction with every customer, your sales will soar — and you won’t be able to contain your excitement.

James Mueller and Steve Howard are the president and founder of No Pressure Selling. [email protected] [email protected]