The Value of the Embedded Sales Process

The Value of the Imbedded Sales Process


Ask yourself this question:  “Do you want to run a loose ship and still make money or a tight ship and make lots of money?”  Look, I know that money isn’t everything, but it’s a great way to keep score.  Where am I going with this?  Well, in my opinion every dealership should have an embedded sales process.  For this and many other reasons, structure at the sales desk is imperative.  It leads to consistency and predictability and eliminates surprises. 

One way to accomplish this is the proper use of desk questions.  Too often we train our sales people to ask questions of customers because we know that information is power.  Unfortunately, sometimes when they try to share that information, the manager cuts them off by saying, “I don’t need all that.  I need to know three things:  Are they buying today? Do they have a trade?  Where do they want their payments?” If that happens, all the training we have done gets undone in an instant and the salesperson gets retrained on the spot.  It’s called negative reinforcement and it is a killer.  There are 3 main reasons why salespeople fail:  1) They don’t know what to do. 2) They don’t know how to do it or 3) Someone interferes with their desire or ability to do it.  We can train them for the “what and how to do it,” but that is too often overwhelmed by someone interfering with their desire or ability to do it.

What if everyone who desks a deal in your store asks the same questions of salespeople every time, without fail?  Not only would you be armed with great information to aid in properly structuring a deal, but you would be training the salespeople to do their jobs properly.  If they knew they were going to be held accountable for getting the answers, even those who are resistant to change would eventually get the message. 

Here are some potential desk questions from which you can choose.  This is not an exhaustive list, so add or delete as you like.

1)    “Which vehicle did the customer drive and what impressed them the most?”  This question puts the emphasis on taking demo drives because if they didn’t take one, they can’t answer the question. 2) “Who is the vehicle for?”  We need to know if we are directing our efforts to the right person.  3) “Why is the customer in the market right now?”  In other words, is it a need or just a want?  4) “What brought them into our store today?”  There are lots of dealerships - why ours?  5) “What equipment do they absolutely have to have?” People have both wants and needs.  Needs MUST be satisfied.  6) “Are all decision makers here?”  That tells us whether we can do business.  7) “Is any other equipment to be factored into the proposal?”  Let’s have no surprises—otherwise the customer often wants us to throw things in for free.  8) “Is the vehicle ready for SPOT delivery?”  In other words, if we want to pull the trigger—can we?  9) “Are there other vehicles being considered?”  Always know your competition.  10) “Why are they replacing their vehicle at this time?”  Is there urgency?  11) “Tell me about the vehicle they are replacing.”  This encourages that a silent trade appraisal is done by the salesperson. 12) “When the figures are agreeable, they are ready to complete the paperwork now, correct?”  That is a better question than the often asked “are they a buyer today?”  13) “Why aren’t they closing at this time?”  (assuming they are not).  Is it a legitimate reason, an excuse or confusion?  14) “What impressed them about your parts and service value walk?”  That ensures that one was taken prior to negotiating while it can build additional value and affect the outcome.  And 15) “What are the reasons you feel this deal should close?” Hope springs eternal, so let’s be as positive as we can be for everyone’s sake.

As I mentioned, this is not an all-encompassing list, but let it serve as a springboard to putting additional structure into what is sometimes an unstructured environment.  The results are worth it. 

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Comment by David Martin on April 29, 2014 at 11:54am

Joe, I love those additional questions! They give managers a clear vision of where things stand and shows the salesperson of their willingness to help. And the early introduction can completely alter the customers perception of the "scary person making all the decisions" to "that nice person I met earlier".

Comment by Joe Clementi on April 29, 2014 at 11:45am

Great post, David.

I think the sales process breakdown starts and ends with properly trained sales managers.  Your outline of questions are there so that there is consistency in the process.  We like to make sure we add questions that help lead us in the direction we want to be.  "What was the last successful step you took?" "What step are you at now?" "What can we help with so that you can continue to the next step?"

The bottom line is that there is consistency and expectation from each visit to the sales desk. Sales managers should be performing the "early introduction" so that the tranistion is less stressful for all involved.  Excellent share David.

Comment by Al Mosher on November 30, 2013 at 8:45am

Great post, David.

I think part of the issue comes from managers who are not trained on their side of the interaction and how they should use the information these questions provide. Too often managers don't even attend the training they make salespeople go through and so the value of that training is lost when it never gets put into action.

Asking the right questions is instrumental to the salespeople in helping his customers buy and asking the right questions are equally instrumental in helping the manager determine where he can be of assistance.

Comment by Jason Mickelson on November 29, 2013 at 4:07pm

Information is power.  It seems as if the car industry is full of people who forget to listen.  Talking feels like power. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Bossing people, telling them what is best before seeking understanding is a recipe for certain failure. This approach doesn't work for sales people with customers.  Why would the sales manager try it with their customer, the sales professional?  Rule #1 in my business is help people.  Not listening to them violates this rule.  Great post and I love your idea of turning desk questions into a process.  Excellent!

David, do you find question 12 helpful to the desk?  It appears that your questions are specifically geared toward not asking this question.  I love how your questions are geared toward understanding the customer and their situation which is way deeper than "Are they buying today? Do they have a trade?  Where do they want their payments?” .  This questions lead us right back into dangerous territory where we become the offense and the buyer has no other side to be on besides defense.  Why not be on the same team, and does this question divide us (buyer/seller)?

Comment by TRACY JOHNSON on November 29, 2013 at 3:47pm

Oh this is so true to what happened to me today!! I have encountered the part where you said;

 Too often we train our sales people to ask questions of customers because we know that information is power.  Unfortunately, sometimes when they try to share that information, the manager cuts them off by saying, “I don’t need all that.  I need to know three things:  Are they buying today? Do they have a trade?  Where do they want their payments?” If that happens, all the training we have done gets undone in an instant and the salesperson gets retrained on the spot.  It’s called negative reinforcement and it is a killer.

But in my case it was with telling my Regional Sales Manager in proposing to him that I want to train and educate my internet department sales teams so that internet sales is more profitable in return. He just cut me off, like above...But I love your post! Thank you

Tracy Johnson

Comment by David Martin on September 28, 2011 at 5:39pm
I appreciate that, Kurtis. All many salespeople need is a little love and professional direction. And I agree with what you wrote to me earlier. Sales training needs to be based less on transactions and should be part of a comprehensive approach. Otherwise they will never achieve the success they desire.
Comment by Kurtis Smith on September 28, 2011 at 5:28pm

Dave I love your road map approach to providing those that truly want to succeed direction that they can really use now! I am truly a fan.



Comment by David Martin on August 11, 2011 at 9:31am
Thanks, Pete. After all these years, it still surprises me how few sales managers understand this simple concept and how few Dealers/ GMs insist on it.
Comment by Pete Grimm on August 9, 2011 at 12:50pm

Love this post! We actually used a pre-padded checklist with most of these questions (and a few others) as a guide for desk-salesperson interaction at each of my dealerships. They work! They help communication, they help retain gross, they help close deals and they help keep salespeople and the desk on track. Reading over the worksheets of both closed and unclosed transactions after-the-fact also yield a ton of useful management data. As I said, I love this post!



Comment by Bob Carmack on August 4, 2011 at 11:16am
Managers must manager!  The easy, or difficulty, of the close is DIRECTLY related to fact finding. It's true for any sales person selling any product. In my workshops with thousands of sales managers, I've asked them to bring their work sheets on the deals they MISSED and didn't sell.  Outside of the things you can't control (too much negative equity, etc), the number one reason that surfaces is the sales person is showing "the wrong car, too much car for the budget", etc. and it's all directly related back to fact finding. The manager needs to interview the sales person before they show the customer a car and control/verify they are showing the "right" car for the reasons already mentioned.  "Build it, and it (the close) will come".  It starts with the interview and selection process. Closing only takes a few minutes, profits are higher, and the bottom line is you sell more cars.


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