Does Price Really Matter – Part 2: Steps to the Sale

by Mark Sheffield, Spader 20 Group Facilitator


Let’s pick up where we left off in Part 1:  the steps to the sale.

The key to closing more deals and holding additional margin is rooted in consistently following a proven, documented sales process. If we don’t start out by building a relationship with the customer, then we are always going to remain behind the curve. People like to work with people they know and trust, and it takes a little time to get to that point.

Step 1 – The Greet. There isn’t one line that works for every customer you meet, but the one question we don’t want to ask is, “Can I help you?” The customer has spent a lifetime practicing the response, “Nope, I’m just looking.” Instead, rely on situational awareness to start out the conversation.

  • If the customer pulled up in a lifted truck, then asking some questions about the modifications is a great starting point.
  • If their email states the customer is from a local city, then mention someone you know who lives there.
  • If the customer has a cool Rolex watch, ask a question about it (almost every Rolex comes with a story).
  • Pay attention to clothing, especially t-shirts, as they can provide information on a customer’s travels and interests.

A few key points about every greet:

  • Always stand up when talking to customers; never make an introduction from a sitting position.
  • If a couple comes in, acknowledge the woman first.
  • Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with either a yes or a no.
  • Reach out for a firm handshake.
  • Introduce yourself by name.
  • Ask for the customer’s name(s), and then use it in a response back to the customer such as, “John and Rebecca, I’m glad you decided to check out our selection here at Quantum Marine.” If you don’t know the name of the customer you are working with, you aren’t ready to move on to the next step.
  • Spend a few minutes talking about anything other than the products you sell in order to get to know the people.

Step 2 – Exploration/The Probe. Now that you have made a new friend, it’s time to identify what brought the customer(s) into the dealership. In some cases, they will migrate to the unit of interest, but in others we must work harder to identify their wants and needs. If we don’t know by now, then instead of coming right out and asking what the customer is looking for, we can ask other questions that will give us the info we need.

  • Do you currently own a motorcycle?
  • Where do you like to go camping?
  • Do you live on the lake?

The answers to questions like these can be used to narrow down what the customer is looking for. Once we have these answers, then we can start asking additional questions about when/where/how/why the unit will be used. I’ll reiterate that many customers know what they want, but not all of them know what they need. It’s our job as the “experts” to make sure the customer purchases the “correct” unit. If he/she ends up with the wrong unit, your chances of repeat and referral business will be severely damaged, and you also set your service department up for the potentially-nightmarish scenario of working with a customer who is unhappy with his/her purchase.

Once we know what the customer is looking for, then we provide options. It’s important that we don’t back ourselves into a corner, because options provide flexibility. If we find the unit they have in mind is outside of the customer’s budget, then options provide us the ability to suggest a different unit that is in the customer’s price range (instead of discounting the single unit we’ve spent all this time promoting).

Step 3 – Selection. Once the right unit has been identified, we are at the stage where we work to achieve “mental ownership.” When a customer can sit in/on the unit and visualize what ownership looks like (adjusting the seat, mirrors, feeling the materials, etc.), that is when a person is crossing the point from being a shopper to becoming an owner. If we have done our job well and worked through steps 1 and 2, and if it’s the right unit, then in most cases the customer will let us know (either verbally, or through his/her actions).

Step 4 – Presentation. The presentation happens together with (but near the end of) step # 3. During the presentation we discuss FAB (Features, Advantages & Benefits) with the customer. We walk around the unit and point out the things that make it special, what separates it from the competition, how it works, and why it’s the best choice for the customer. We then answer the customer’s questions and we take the time to confirm that he or she has selected the right unit for the intended use.

Step 5 – Sit Down. Our goal should be to avoid discussing unit pricing on the floor and to have the customer answer some key questions before we present a price. This is accomplished by moving the customer from the unit to your desk. Make sure he/she is comfortable and relaxed (nice chair, drink of water, sitting in AC/heat, etc.) and then ask key questions like:

  • How does the customer intend to pay for the unit (cash, check, credit card, financing)?
  • Will anyone else be involved in the purchase (co-signer, spouse, etc.)?
  • Does the customer have a trade-in?

If the customer has a unit to trade in:

  • What condition is it in?
  • Is the trade paid off?
  • When can the customer bring it in for a full appraisal?

Step 5 is the halfway point in the process. Additional steps vary greatly by dealership, but they should take the customer from pricing to becoming a proud new owner.

Step 6 – Commitment. This is the point where we find out if the customer is willing to transition from a looker to an owner. It’s often the toughest step for a salesperson to get past; however, if we have worked diligently through the first five steps, then it’s a lot easier to ask the question. Here’s an example of asking for a commitment:

“John, based on everything you told me you were looking for in an RV, I think this model will be perfect for the vacations you and your family are planning to take during the summers. We’ve talked through all your requirements, and this model is definitely what you need. When you were sitting in the driver’s seat and adjusting the rear-view mirror, it looked like you were already heading out with your family on vacation. Are you ready to complete some paperwork so you can take it home today?”

This is the point where we are going to find out whether the customer is ready to agree to something. If he or she isn’t ready to commit, then it’s time to find out what the objection is and then we return to the correct step to spend more time working on that item. Once we come to an agreement to purchase, then it’s just a matter of closing the deal.

Step 7 – Closing. We’ve already made it clear that the customer should be sitting down and comfortable. We now present a write-up to the customer. Every dealership has their own worksheet, but they all contain the same basic information. At this point we confirm that we have the correct personal information for the customer, and then we present the following:

  • Price
  • Trade value
  • Down payment
  • Monthly payments

The customer is either going to agree to the above and sign off on the worksheet, or he/she will present an objection. We’ll negotiate until the deal works for both parties.

Step 8 – Business Office. We now turn the customer over to the business office. (Hopefully at some point earlier in the process, the customer was introduced to the person who will present their options and finalize all the required paperwork.) Our finance specialists will make sure every “t” is crossed, every “i” is dotted, and that the customer has been presented with all the options to fully protect the purchase (warranty, maintenance plan, roadside assistance, etc.).

Step 9 – Delivery. At some dealerships, the salesperson completes the delivery, while others have dedicated staff to take care of this step. The goal here is to make sure the customer knows how to operate their unit, what their responsibilities are as an owner, and acknowledge the dealership’s responsibilities to the customer. We make sure the customer knows where to go when he/she returns, and who to work with for their service and maintenance needs.

Step 10 – Follow Up. All the steps are important, but this one is paramount. A short time after the customer has taken delivery of their purchase, we follow up with them to answer any questions they have and to address any concerns. It’s always best if we contact the customer, instead of the customer contacting the dealership. If everything is good, we thank them for their business, and remind them that we’d love to take care of their friends and family.

History has shown us the more customers we can get to each step, the more units we will sell. In the RV, marine, and powersports indusries, closing ratios (the ratio of customers we talk to versus the number of units delivered) vary by salesperson, but in each dealership we can calculate an average. If a salesperson is below that dealeship average, then a traffic log can help to identify where targeted training can help. If we consistently see an individual with a closing ratio higher than the dealership’s average, in many cases the greets are not all being logged (although in a few very rare cases, we have identified a superstar). Our goal in each case is to improve the closing ratio of every salesperson, and of the dealership as a whole.

Most dealerships utilize a binary process to measure the effectiveness of the sales process. A customer either purchases a unit or he/she doesn’t. There may, however, be many overlooked measurements we can use to identify a solid sales process. If a customer comes in looking for a specific unit, but ultimately purchases a different model, then we know the salesperson has taken time to identify the needs of the consumer. When a salesperson consistently manages to maintain gross margins higher than his/her co-workers, we can assume that person is spending the right amount of time in steps one through three.

For those of you who are wondering … regardless of whether the customer walks through the front door or submits an email from your website, the steps to the sale are the same. The process to respond to a digital lead will often combine some of the steps together, and the salesperson must pay more attention to important cues that are often contained in each email. Skipping steps will result in reduced margins and a lower closing rate. If you want to improve your email response skills, then I also wrote a 4-parts series of articles on that subject. Part I is titled “How Do Your Online Responses Stack Up?”

Regardless of the industry, when we compare the top performers against average dealerships, we find that the higher performers have new unit gross margins that are around three points higher than the average. By adding an additional three points of gross margin to each deal, a dealership with an average new unit selling price of $15,000, selling 1,000 units per year, will add an additional $450,000 of Available Income/Gross Margin to the P&L. Add in the additional sales you are going to recognize, and it’s not that hard to visualize an additional million dollars added to the bottom line. Regardless of the cost of training, that’s an incredible return on your investment.

If you are interested in learning more, Spader is here to help. Our Win3 Selling Workshopcan help your team to learn, understand, and master the steps to the sale. For more information on our training click on the link, email, or give us a call at 800.772.3377.