“The sales process is dead”. I keep hearing this from all sorts of experts. And I’m not sure these people know what sales is or if they’ve ever been on our side of the desk. But the process isn’t dead. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s changed and evolved and hopefully you have, too, but it surely isn’t dead. Think about some of our best sports teams. The Lakers/Bulls under Phil Jackson with the triangle offense. The Patriots, love them or hate them. All the good sports teams have processes that make them successful. They know what they are going to do in every situation. They have a play for that!


a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.**

The part of doing the steps of the sale (whatever those are to you) in a particular order is where the wheels may start to come off. I have worked at stores that have 7 steps, 10 steps, 12 steps, 15 steps…and it all boils down to the same thing. We want to sell a car and we think we know the best way to do it. I have 3 steps, and I’ve been preaching them for years:

1 – get to know your customer
2 – land them on a car
3 – sit them down

I understand that this is overly simple, but the game of cars and trucks is simple. Mine most likely need to be done in the order I mention above, but when you start to throw in all the other steps that need to get done you can mix those into these three in whatever manner you’d like and still get the desired result.

1 – Talk to your customer. Why is the customer here? What do they do for a living? Lets talk to them and ask them questions like we actually care about them!

2 – Obviously we need to land on a car. Preferably one in stock…but we need to pick out something they will buy and drive now.

3 – Bring them inside and sit them down. You can’t negotiate with them outside or with them standing up. Let’s be professional and sit them down.

If at any point in time the sales person can’t progress, that’s when the manager needs to jump in and get involved. Hopefully he’s already done an early manager intro and he just has to join the conversation and see if his expertise can get to the next step.

I read some stats recently that stated that 72% of the buyers come onto the lot already knowing the exact car they want to buy. I’ve also read the stat that 85% of buyers don’t buy the first car they inquire on. So even as a rough estimate, these stats strongly indicate a need for a sales professional. If we have the right team on the floor and behind the desk we can move them along the process and not irritate them.

Where the car dealer messes up is if they are so rigid with their sales process that they won’t show someone a number unless they test drive. And they are even willing to blow a potential deal because they don’t want to do it the customer’s way. “You want to see numbers then we need to run a credit report”. Why not just run some numbers and use what they think their credit score is? Everyone has a credit card now that will show them their score at any moment.

We need to understand that in this day and age the customer is used to doing business how they want and when they want. We’ve had a really good long run as car dealers being able to control the entire sales process, but now we can’t. Time to get over ourselves. Is there a quick way and a long way to do business? Yes. But if the customer wants to have his trade appraised at the very end and then see what that does to the numbers then guess what? That is how we need to work it. Are we going to try and explain the advantages of not doing it that way? Of course we are, but we aren’t going to lose a deal because of it.

Ultimately I don’t think the sales process is dead, but our rigid interpretation of it is dying. It needs to be much more fluid than we allow it. We need to remember that there is an infinite number of ways to skin a cat, and we shouldn’t be so invested in how it gets done. If our salesperson can sell a car while not sticking entirely to the steps of the sale… then great job.

I can already hear someone saying “but that green pea has no idea what he’s doing!” Then why are you allowing him/her to take ups? Who’s fault is that? If they understand that the idea of our process is to build a little rapport, land them on a car, and then sit them down so either they can close a deal or the manager can come over and help them close a deal, they should be good. Someone else is saying “But what about the dealers reputation? I can’t have a bunch of sales people just doing what they want out there.” I’d have to ask, “Who are you hiring?” Again, if you have a bunch of criminals out there, who’s fault is that? Because they should be doing what the customers want to do, and that’s not such a bad thing, right?

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