I have heard it said, people buy cars from people, not companies. We can all come up with exceptions to this statement. However, as long as there are dealerships with salespeople standing on the point this will remain true for a percentage of buyers. I would contend that many buyers are not sure what they want and still require someone to assist them in landing on the specific vehicle that is the best fit for them.
When someone arrives at the dealership, their first decision is, “do I trust this dealership enough to buy a vehicle from them.” This decision is often made in the first 5 minutes of the visit during the meet and greet. Our salespeople will either confirm their fears that car salespeople are sleezy, and are only interested in serving their own needs, or they have found someone who will truly assist them in getting what they want for a fair price. I believe a car deal is decided as often during the meet and greet as any other step in the road to the sale. If it is done well, every other step in the process will be easier and the information will be readily received by the customer.
A quality meet and greet starts before the handshake occurs. Taking a few seconds to evaluate the person you are preparing to meet is valuable. What did they drive to the dealership? Do they have kids with them? What are the stickers, license plate cover, or front plate saying about the customer? Does the vehicle look freshly detailed or in desperate need of a wash? Did they park up front or as far from the front door as possible? All this information, that can be gathered at a glance, will provide insight into the person or people you are about to meet. As valuable as this information is, do not commit to a definitive mode of attack based on your quick observations. This may not be their car or may not be indicative of the person. This information gathered adds the direction for questions in the “getting to know you” phase of the meet and greet.
Now it’s time to approach the customer. I would advise against standing beside the car as they are getting out. This sends a definite message to the customer and it is not a good one. Stand back, let them get out of their car, gather themselves, and make their way toward the dealership. Too many times I see salespeople hovering over a customer while they are still in their car and I cringe every time. Once you initiate contact, start with, “what brought you into the dealership today?” “Is there someone I can find for you?” This relates to the customer that you are approaching them in a gesture of helping, not just trying to sell a car.
If they are there to look at vehicles you will hear the phrase, “just looking.” When role playing the meet and greet with seasoned salespeople, I am surprised by the number that do not have an immediate response to “just looking.” If you have more than 5 minutes of retail experience you know you will hear these 2 words. How is it that someone who knows exactly what is going to occur is not prepared for it? I love to hear, “just looking.” It gives the opportunity to move toward an agreement from customer that today is an “information day.” I encourage salespeople to immediately respond with, “Oh great, so this is just an information day for you?” Information day implies that you understand they are not buying today. This lowers their guard and allows them to continue to participate in the process without fear that you are going to force them to make a decision to buy. “I am glad to help you gather all the information you are looking for during your information day visit.” Even compliment them, “it is very smart to take the time to gather the information so you can go and make an informed decision.” Every other activity in the sales process can be just another piece of information for the information day visit. If the information they receive convinces them to move forward on their purchase today, all the better. There is no reason to push this reality at this point in the process. Allow the customer to shop with the understanding that they are free to purchase at their pace. Remember, people hate to be sold, but they love to buy.
Many green pea trainers will instruct their newbie salespeople to say to the customer, “follow me” and just turn and walk. Although this can be an effective way to get the customer into the showroom, it is a small percentage of the people who can pull this off with confidence. I teach this technique during my trainings for those bold enough to adopt it. However, if that is the only technique you provide a new salesperson, the more timid ones are going to try it halfheartedly and fail or never attempt it and try to find something else that works for them by trial and error. I have a hard time with leaving a brand-new salesperson to trial and error on the very first step we teach them.
An alternative to “follow me” is to invite the customer inside. If they have agreed that this is an information day, simply say, “I would like to get you all the information you are looking for.” “I can pull up our entire inventory and save you some time with a few minutes at my desk.” “With a couple quick searches, I can more easily point you in the right direction.” This approach explains the value the customer will receive by following your advice and following you into the showroom.
Once the salesperson is headed into the dealership with the customer, I train them to ask 1 simple question. “Where are you from originally?” This is a great ice breaker, easy for the customer to answer, and easy for the salesperson to respond to. This starts a conversation that is not related to buying a car. Holding a conversation that the customer is comfortable with lowers their natural barriers and makes them feel the salesperson is becoming a friend.
Lastly, psychologists and sociologists will tell you, 70% of what we communicate is not the words we use. It is non-verbal cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, body language, and physical gestures. It is also the tone, cadence, volume, and inflection with which you deliver your words. Role playing will help you improve your communication skills. Mastering your non-verbal cues and your speech delivery will go along way to achieving a great meet and greet.
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