With every interaction, we enter having preconceived notions of what is expected, what is going to happen, and how we will proceed. We collect these expectations based on facts or opinions obtained in advance, environmental stimuli, what we see, and what we hear. This builds our perception of the reality. (It doesn’t mean it is the reality, but simply what we perceive to be the case.)
We’ve all seen the commercials aimed at car shoppers urging them to validate pricing on their third-party website before proceeding with a purchase, or else they may pay too much. You may have Googled image search results for “used car salesman” and see what people’s perceptions of us are. Gallup poll studies what consumers perceive to be the most ethical and honest professions and car salespeople come in second to last. (Even Congress is considered more ethical. CONGRESS?!) This is why I’ve long stated my goal is to change both the culture, and perception, of car sales. This negative stereotype is what we must overcome.
We must crawl before we run, though. And we start by leveraging language to gain a foothold in changing the customer’s perception of us. Dealers are already taking massive leaps in advancement through the tools they’re deploying on their websites and the transparency in their communication. We still must improve the quality of that communication and the customer experience on the showroom floor. If customers dread coming into a dealership now more than ever, what language or tactics can we use to change their perception?
Here are just a few ways to give the perception of your desire to serve a customer:
“So as not to waste your time driving in here if the vehicle isn’t available, let me go outside and physically put my hands on it to make sure. Sound good?”
“I have the ability to add your vehicle to a wish list so my used car manager can search out and buy the exact vehicle you’re looking for. It may take just a week or two. Would you like us to take those steps?”
“Why don’t I go shoot a video of the exact vehicle you’re interested in, so you can see it live?”
“I will keep you abreast of any and all changes to incentives, as they happen, while you’re searching for your new vehicle.”
“If it is more convenient, would you prefer I bring this vehicle to your home or your work?”
“To save you time, I can complete all of the paperwork in advance of your arrival. Would that be helpful?”
“We’ve received a lot of calls on that vehicle. I want to make sure it is still here for you and hasn’t been sold. Do you have a moment for me to confirm?”
“We work by appointment only so I can have time set aside for you and don’t schedule any other clients during this time.”
“The reason I ask for a specific time for your test drive is because I don’t want to have you sitting around waiting for me if I’m working with another shopper.”
“My manager asked me to reach out to you personally since he is tied up. He wanted me to confirm you received the quote we provided you. Did you get it?”
Discussing Vehicle Availability
“Above and beyond this one you’re looking at, know that we have a sea of other [SAME MODEL]s available for you to consider.”
“We have a lot of vehicles in that price range/style for you to take a look at when you arrive.”
“As you can see on our website, we list out how many of each model we have in inventory but know that is the tip of the iceberg. We have sister lots we can pull from and find you exactly what you need, along with shipping vehicles in to us, or simply having it built just for you.”
Controlling the Showroom Experience
Instead of word tracks, here is one request, one tactic and one story that can change a customer’s perception of you while in the showroom.
- Stop offering your customers a drink, and instead, just give them one. Put a bottle of water in front of every customer. They’ll drink it. Don’t ask. If you ask, they often say no because they’ll feel obligated. Just give everyone a water, whether they want it or not. It lets them know this is just as much about them as it is about you.
- At DealerKnows, we always create a “Road to the Sale” email template (and, if possible, a video walk-through) on what the process is when a customer arrives for an appointment. This way, we can essentially lay out the dealer’s preferred road to the sale, while still seeming flexible by reminding shoppers that aspects of the purchase performed in advance of their visit wouldn’t need to be duplicated in-store.
- When I was selling cars back in the day, I had one sales manager that would greet customers as they walked in and would ask them what vehicle they were there to see. He would then walk them over to a salesperson and say (in front of the customers), “these fine people came here today to buy a [VEHICLE MODEL]. Can you help them with their purchase?” This was brilliant psychology on two fronts. First, because, even though the shoppers may have said they were there to look at a car, the sales manager just put it in their mind that they are indeed there to buy a car. Second, the salesperson naturally gets excited because they feel the sales manager is handing over a buyer and will personally see to it they purchase. I always felt this was a great way to change a customer’s perception (and the salesperson’s) as to what the customer will be taking place during their dealership visit.
The more we can use language (and tactics) to influence a customer’s perception of us, our store, the deal, and their purchase, the better off we are at controlling the outcome. Don’t get me wrong, what you say must happen and any promise better be executed. Don’t catfish your customers. Instead, use your words and actions to set different expectations for them and control the narrative. Words matter. Using them correctly is the first step to changing the customer’s perception. It’s all about perception.