The car industry believes that customers do not want to spend hours buying a car so sales consultants need to reduce the time customers spend at dealerships. This way of thinking looks at the problem too simplistically.  Customers understand that buying the largest or second largest purchase they will ever make takes time.  The problem is customers do not like when their time is wasted.  When a customer has to wait 20 minutes for a trade appraisal or 15 minutes to see the F & I Manager or 10 minutes for the sales consultant to find the keys to the demo, they naturally feel the process takes too long.  While those problems can only be solved at the individual dealership level, one problem we can address is when the customer’s time is wasted because the sales consultant spends time presenting the wrong vehicle.  When sales consultants do not perform a proper Needs Assessment or skip it all together, the sales process will not only take longer, but will inevitably feel like a waste of time to the customer.  Performing a proper Needs Assessment will help sales consultants sell more cars and make more money.  Here is an excerpt from my book, “Turn Every Transaction into an Experience,” on the Needs Assessment step in the sales process.

The Needs Assessment is the most important step in the Sales Process. During the Needs Assessment, you gather crucial information from customers and use it throughout the Sales Process to personalize the customer experience. Online sales companies, especially clothing companies like Trunk, use algorithms to determine customers’ needs rather than send the same things to everyone. When applying for jobs, people research the relevant companies so that they know how to tell the employers why they, the applicants, are the perfect fit for the relevant jobs. When selling cars, you need to do the Needs Assessment so that later you can present to your customers why the selected vehicles are the perfect fits for them. In addition, a recent JD Power study concluded that “having a salesperson who completely understands the needs of the customer is far and away the single most impactful Key Performance Indicator, which speaks to the importance of having salespeople who can ask the right questions and then follow through on requests.” Hence the reason that the skill to ask good questions is so important to elevating the customer experience. Within the next few pages, we will delve into how to use the questioning techniques revealed earlier when executing the Needs Assessment, but let us start at the beginning of this step.

The Needs Assessment begins in earnest after you sit down with a customer. I know you will be gathering information throughout the Sales Process, but the heart of finding out your customers’ needs and wants for their next vehicles happens during the Needs Assessment. After greeting a customer, you should say, “Mr. Jones, to better assist you in selecting the perfect vehicle for your needs, I would like to gather some information from you. Let’s have a seat over here, and by the way, may I get you something to drink?” As you say these words, use a conversational tone, and walk toward your desk or a table. This is the one time in the Sales Process when you will tell customers what is going to happen next and the benefits of the step (How to Build Trust), but do not ask for their permission. The reason you will not ask for permission is that the customers do not yet fully understand the benefits, so they will say no if you ask for permission. Therefore, just make a comment like the one above and walk. The key is to ask them questions like, “May I get you a drink?” The customers will walk with you as they answer these types of questions. Essentially, what you are doing at this point is guiding customers through the Sales Process, and doing so requires you to be firm but polite. No matter what, though, customers must be sitting down with you when you do the Needs Assessment.

Okay, I know that there are going to be instances in which customers give you some resistance, so you need to know what to do and say. Here are some scripts you can use for some of the common objections to sitting down. In each instance, your body language (walking as you are talking) and tone (firm but polite and conversational) will not change.

  • A customer says, “I just have a few questions, so I don’t need to sit down.” The sales consultant says, “Mr. Jones, I would be happy to answer all of your questions, in order to better assist you, I would like to get some information from you first. Let’s have a seat. By the way, may I get you something to drink?”
  • A customer says, “I don’t have a lot of time.” The sales consultant says, “Not a problem, Mr. Jones. Let’s have a seat and discuss what you would like to accomplish while you are with us. By the way, may I get you something to drink?”
  • A customer says, “I just want a price on…” The sales consultant says, “Mr. Jones, I would be happy to assist you with that. In order to better serve you, I would like to get some information from you. Let’s have a seat. By the way, may I get you something to drink?”

In all of these scripts, the sales consultants are always stating that whatever they are doing is to better assist the customer.  Once you are seated with a customer and, perhaps, he or she is enjoying a drink, you should begin the Needs Assessment. To learn more about how to perform a proper Needs Assessment that will increase sales and gross profit, please take a look at my book, “Turn Every Transaction into an Experience,” as well as my 2 Day Sales Class.