This request came in today from a prospective customer.

"I am currently in the process of pricing a honda pilot 2wd EX-L w/RES. I have been to a couple of dealers already and whoever gives me the best price will earn my business. My questions for your dealership are: 1) will you match the USAA price of $31,406; 2) I am not paying for any dealer add ons; 3) I am not paying for any documentation fees other than title/tag transfer. If you can answer yes to these questions, I will be more than happy to come out to your dealership this morning and make a deal. I will be trading in a 2012 Kia Optima EX-turbo, 30,500 miles will every available feature on this car. Thank you. Tom"

My response was rejected; I'd like to read what other "response ideas" are out there. Thank you for your help.

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steve - what was your response? what is your role in the dealership - it helps determine the response?

The prospect's name was "Tom"!

Tom, Thank you for your interest. Your USAA price is well below what we pay for the Pilot, of course we'll match it. Our doc fee is $587, everyone pays it (by law we can't "pick and choose" who pays a doc fee and who doesn't. Our dealer adds are Mud Guards and Body Side Molding; both are vital to keeping your Pilot in great shape, meaning it will be worth more when you trade or sell it - reducing your overall cost of ownership. I just gave you the straightest and most honest response any dealer in America will give you! You can call me 404-456-7219. Thank you.

I am an acting Sales Manager

speaking for MYSELF, I know you despise the "if I could, wouldja?" line, but that is a staple in most negotiations, just presented in a much more creative manor.

in MY experience, when you are dealing with a black and white DEMAND buyer like this, logic doesn't really matter. he would force me into gray areas because of the variables.

  • is that REALLY the usaa price?
  • did the other two dealers offer to honor that price, and why NOT?

Just like on the phone or email exchange, you want to TRY to get him into a dialogue. Build rapport - USAA typically means Veteran or relative of veteran. Honor the military time they or their relative served. 

THEN: "We appreciate all that our military does. If we can honor the usaa pricing and your other requests, will you be taking delivery by saturday?" SET APPOINTMENT

"In many cases we can do even better than the USAA price, but something special like that requires higher approval." SET APPOINTMENT

I'd probably try to get onto the trade, rather than the retail piece. let him know how much you need / want it. but, of course, you have to see it...


Good ideas, thank you very much. My exposure to chat has been infrequent, and my "rookie" status was evident by my poor response. You have already better prepared me for my next opportunity.

Maybe it's lazy of me, but when I saw the trade, it became a no brainer. For me, the answer was "Because we value our USAA customers and because we could truly use your Kia on our pre-owned lot, I am willing to make an exception if doing so will earn your business. The answers to your questions are yes, yes, yes." Then I've got an out if I can't make up at least some of the difference on trade. And when the customer is visiting, and balks at the trade figure, you can revisit the fact that the customer has asked you to eat an additional $1000 on top of your already low price.

I've found that USAA customers (particularly veterans as opposed to legacy members) are pretty damn intelligent, and they have little patience for car sales rhetoric or perceived buck-passing. I wouldn't push for the appointment with someone like this until the customer had "won" during preliminary negotiations. But I've also found that USAA customers, managed properly, tend to spend a lot of money in the finance office.

Anyway, that's just me. And the fact that you've got dealer adds on your Hondas puts you at an inherent disadvantage - you can't shell game that at all when you're selling a Honda over the internet. Tough one. Would love to learn more about how you sell the adds to skeptical customers!

Beautiful reply, thank you. Far better than mine; it was the first chat customer I had engaged in a long time. Selling the adds is not normally a problem, we are good at creating value and we're not gouging the customer. It's a bit more difficult with the type request/demand "Tom" provided us. Thank you again for your help.

I would have replied with something along the lines of:

Thank you for your interest in the Honda Pilot! I would be more than glad to get you a price for this vehicle. However, to ensure that I'm pricing the correct model, what packaging options are you looking for? I don't want to waste your time getting pricing on a vehicle that doesn't have what you want or has too many options. Once I have this information, I can get the vehicle specification for a Honda that is more in line with what you are wanting.

In regards to your trade, I would be glad to get a sigh unseen appraisal for you. In order to do that, I will need the following information: VIN, exact miles, color, engine size, any after market products, factory packaging options, are you the only owner, and when and where did you purchase the vehicle. With that information, I can get a more accurate number put together for you. However, a sight unseen appraisal is going to be a fairly safe number. Would you offer a purchase price for a house without seeing it? My pre-owned sales manager is likely to offer you more for your trade if he can physically touch it and take it for a quick drive. I would also recommend running it through the car wash and giving it a quick vaccuumming as a clean trade commands a better price.

If you have any additional questions or need any other information, please don't hesitate to give me a call.

Thank you and have a wonderful evening!

That opens up the channel for more communication and shows that you want to be sure he's getting exactly what he wants.

Hi Tom,

Good Morning! It's Elise Kephart, your Internet Sales Manager from Sunset Honda in San Luis Obispo. 

While texts/e-mails are an easy way to communicate, I’ve always found that they lack that personal experience our customers expect when purchasing an automobile.  With that said, I’ve made a personal video just for you that you can watch above or by watching here: VIP VIDEO MESSAGE FOR TOM

I didn't see a phone number listed, however I have some REALLY GREAT NEWS for you about the Honda Pilot.  Please call me directly at 805-540-6666 We will be in the office until 7pm this evening and if I don't hear from you soon I will be sure to send you another email.

Thank you so much again-and I look forward to providing you with a great buying experience!


PS:  For fun, I have a few known celebrity friends too :)


Direct Call Number: 805-540-6666

Cell Phone/Text: 805-283-6047 - TEXT ME!

Sent from my iPad

My purpose will be to get them on the phone, this works about 75% of the time for me with the initial video greeting as shown above.

Once I get them on the phone:

"Hi Tom, thanks for returning my call!  I wanted to thank you for your interest in the Pilot.  Now just to verify you said your interested in the new model Pilot EXL 2WD with the DVD is this correct?"


"Okay excellent, I am looking at my availability and I do have this one available, when are you available to visit with me.  Would this morning or afternoon work best?"

(sometimes they wont even bring up price after this, but lets assume he does)

"Will you match the USAA pricing?"

"I do see your comments about the USAA pricing, and we use their price guides all the time so we are familiar with the options they use.  Now, the final pricing isn't my say, but I will let you in on a little secret.  I have been with Honda for about 5 years now...and the pricing over the internet or phone while I can get for you...the pricing in the store is always better.  The reason being is because when you are here in the store my manager doesn't want you leaving without buying a car from us.  Your presence is your leverage.  That being said, when are you available to visit with me-right now or later today?"

Possibly today-but I don't want to be jacked around.

I completely understand that Tom, I wouldn't expect anyone to buy a car from me if I didn't provide them with 5 star customers service and we couldn't accommodate your pricing needs.  I also see you have a trade in.  Being a 2012, I assume you are the only owner on your Kia?"

Yes, its perfect.

"NICE!  It sounds like a nice one, you said it's fully loaded?"


"Okay great, and only about 30k miles, anything mechanical wrong?  Is it still a good runner?"

Oh yeah runs strong. 

"Okay great, well as you know we are right next to Cal Poly University-so we are in the perfect area because we get a lot of college students and college grads looking for nice vehicles like yours.  Because we are such a high volume dealership, we are always paying top dollar for nice cars!  When are you available to bring it in for an evaluation, right now you said-or would later in the afternoon work best?"

What will you give me for it?

"As mentioned we are always giving top dollar for nice cars.  That being said there are several guides that we go by that you have probably seen online.  For me to say a number over the phone I would either say a number that was too high or vice versa to low-I wouldn't want to misrepresent your vehicle, or my integrity in doing that.  The best thing to do is bring it in for a professional evaluation.  Would this afternoon work best, or early evening?"

(now...for fun, lets assume the customer still fights coming in)

Tom, let me ask you an easy question.  Assuming all new car prices on a Honda Pilot were the same where would you prefer to do your business at?

(this usually creates a small awkward silence)

Well I would prefer to do it at my home dealer down the street-or whoever gave me the most for my Kia.

Of course, that makes perfect sense.  I would want to save the most money in drive time and also get the most for my vehicle too.  ME, knowing that-knows that in order to earn your business not only do I have to be aggressively priced on a new car, but pay you top dollar for yours and ASIDE from price and money, since it is a one time consideration-I have to go ABOVE AND BEYOND in the customer experience.  Last month 162 customers decided Sunset Honda was their dealer of choice and of those 162 customers, 63 of those clients were clients I worked with all of whom were concerned about price and the best deal like yourself.  I wouldn't expect us to be partners in this transaction if I didn't accommodate you in price, highest for your trade and the best in customer service.  Do I sound like the type of person you want to do business with?  When can you visit with me, this afternoon or evening?"

love your video greeting, but I would scare them away! 


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