Timing the close with a customer’s inflections and body language is an advanced skill every vehicle salesperson should practice.  Photo by FreeGraphicToday via Pixabay

Timing the close with a customer’s inflections and body language is an advanced skill every vehicle salesperson should practice. Photo by FreeGraphicToday via Pixabay

When people are talking to a stranger who’s trying to get them to buy a $40,000 vehicle, most are naturally cautious about what they say. That’s why you so often hear such excuses as “We’re just looking” or “No, just killing time” when you first meet them.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone came in with their preferred make, model, color, and equipment in mind and then told you what they’d actually settle for in the end? Well, we all know that ain’t happening.

To make a sale, you have to learn all that on the fly in order to help them get as close as possible to a perfect vehicle. When they’re on the right car, they try harder to buy and pay more than when you stick them into something based on price. To get there, you have to perfect your showroom communication skills. Here are three ways to do it:

1. Read Your Customer Like a Book.

For vehicle sales professionals, communication means asking the right questions at the right time. But wait! There’s more. You actually have to listen when they talk. While I had my accessory business in my two years out of sales, one of the best books I read was “How to Read a Person Like a Book” by Gerard Nierenberg and Henry H. Calero.

I was already somewhat aware of people’s expressions. I could spot when people were happy or sad or when trouble was coming. But as I learned more, I started watching customers and salespeople talk while I was putting “stuff” on cars. If I could hear them, it helped. But even when I couldn’t, I could easily see whether the sale was getting closer or falling apart — just by watching.

When people are uncomfortable, the signs are everywhere. They step back. He crosses his arms and she clutches her purse, and there aren’t any smiles. It was funny to watch the signals couples give each other when they’re ready to go. You know, that slight elbow nudge or that backward nod with that mini frown that says, “Let’s ditch this guy and get outta here.”

When they’re comfortable, the opposite happens: They smile, make more gestures, lean forward when you’re working a deal, or, like a woman I demo’d on a “Z” said to me as she got behind the wheel, “Hold my purse for me, Hon.” You can just tell when it’s going well.

When I was close enough to hear, it’s amazing how customers are saying all the right things, but salespeople keep telling them everything they know and can’t stop talking, so customers get bored and leave.

Start watching other salespeople with a customer. Even if you can’t hear, you can see whether the salesperson is listening or waiting to talk. When they’re listening, it shows. When they’re just waiting to talk, you can see the shallow breathing, they can’t stop the “Uh huh, uh huh” and nodding as they try quietly but urgently to say “Please stop talking so I can talk.”

2. Mind Their Tone and Nonverbal Cues.

There’s more! What customers say and the body language they exhibit helps, but their tone and inflection can give you even more clues. For example, a salesperson asks Bob what he thinks about the truck. Bob crosses his arms and with a “Whatever” tone and inflection, says, “Yeah, it’s nice.” If the salesperson only hears the words and tries to close the sale at that moment, they will fail.

Most people are very surprised at the stats on effective communication:

  • Only 7% is verbal.
  • 38% is through our tone and inflection (or “how” we say the words).
  • The biggest share, 55%, is through our body language.

Yes, as crazy as it sounds, selling requires good communication skills, but most of us never develop those.

3. Close Your Mouth, Shut Off Your Brain, and Listen.

So here’s the big tip of the day: Stop thinking when people are talking. Instead, listen to really understand what they’re saying. Then, as you’re listening, also pay attention to body language and how they’re saying those words.

That’s why it’s so critical to develop your skills now. No matter what your next customer says or what they mean, you’re prepared to respond with the best response and the best follow-up question to keep your sale moving forward.

Just don’t put off more success. Do something now to improve.

Joe Verde is the president of Joe Verde Sales & Management Training Inc. and an award-winning trainer who has worked in the car business since 1973. Contact him at [email protected].