Dealer Sales Opportunities Lie in Better Listening

A sales pitch is defined as, “a line of talk that attempts to persuade someone or something, with a planned sales presentation strategy of a product or service designed to initiate and close a sale of the product or service.”

The two problematic words here are “attempts” and “planned.” When we think of a sales pitch, we think of a rehearsed shtick that goes one-way: from the salesperson to the (often unwilling) recipient. The sales pitch is as old as sales, and there is increasing evidence that it’s not working anymore, at least when it comes to cars.

Vehicle shoppers today are savvier than ever: they check statistics, ratings and reviews. They look across social media for recommendations. They compare brands and models. They discuss their wants and plans with friends and family. They watch videos on YouTube. They test-drive. They read consumer reports.

Yet, according to Wards Auto’s Matt Muilenburg, they’re still getting the decades-old sales pitch from many dealers.

“An analysis of more than 6,000 phone conversations between consumers and auto dealerships across the U.S. shows that many salespeople fail to listen and respond to the needs of modern-day consumers,” wrote Muilenburg. “That’s bad. Worse, dealerships wind up leaving millions of dollars in sales opportunities on the table every year, largely because they don’t know simple conversational techniques that often lead to great outcomes.”

Dealers who can differentiate themselves from the slick, outdated one-way sales conversation have enormous opportunities for growth. These are the dealers who listen to customers, communicate with them in a channel of the customer’s choosing, and are ready to have two-way conversations with vehicle shoppers. For starters, this means eliminating the parts of car-buying that shoppers hate.

“Aside from the much-dreaded price haggling, customers are often put off by slow or nonexistent answers to contact requests or the difficulty of getting ahold of a salesperson once arriving at the dealership,” according to a report by McKinsey & Co., which noted that customers are simply avoiding showroom visits to prevent the type of encounters with sales personnel they dislike.

There are many ways dealers can train their sales personnel to be more responsive to customers. Map the customer’s buying journey and make a list of their biggest questions and concerns at each point. Gather resources to address those questions and concerns. Have salespeople practice their interactions in training exercises. The conversation need not be formal.

“Nothing fancy is required to revolutionize customer conversations,” said Muilenburg. “Data shows being polite, pleasant and an active listener are the main drivers of successful outcomes.”