In any car sales negotiation, asking for the sale is the point of no return. It’s the all-or-nothing moment that everything else in the sales process has been leading up to. Needless to say, timing—knowing when to ask for the sale—is everything.
Many car salespeople make the mistake of assuming that the customer is objecting when they ask about the price, when they are really just gathering more information. The salesperson starts making concessions too early, and this can completely derail the deal.
How can you tell when it’s the right time to ask for the sale? I’ll show you so you never miss the right moment in a negotiation again.
As I mentioned above, too often, a car salesperson will be caught off guard when a customer asks about the price early in the process. Then, even though we’re still doing the presentation or are still in the Pre-demo Trade Walk, we feel obligated to start making concessions the second the customer says, “What’s your best price?”
That person is about to make one of the biggest investments of their life—of course they want to know what the best price is. But there’s no point in you telling them that price before they even know they like the vehicle. If you want to get them past their concerns, you need to bypass the numbers discussion until you’ve built value and earned their confidence. Technically, the customer can’t give you an objection to buying until you ask them to buy.
If we chase early questions about price, we’ll start making promises and offers at the wrong stage of the deal. The customer will have triggered the negotiation phase before anything else has been completed, and whoever starts the negotiation has the advantage.
Bypassing—avoiding negotiating in the first fifteen or so minutes of the deal so you can be the one to start in the last fifteen—keeps the sales process intact. It moves the conversation about price until it’s the right time in the deal to ask for the sale. We begin the closing phase when emotions and value are high and we’ve earned the right to ask for the sale. Then we can overcome their objections to gain a commitment on the vehicle and set up a successful negotiation.
Stopping ourselves from talking price and trying to negotiate early is challenging, and it can be even more difficult to make ourselves ask direct closing questions when it’s time. If we’re bold enough to ask for the sale at all, we instinctively wait until the last possible minute—and resort to our reflexes and poor closing questions out of fear. That’s because closing is highly emotional.
The commitment to buy is driven by the same emotional energy that compelled them to show up on the lot with the intention to buy—both the excitement and the nervousness—but on a much higher level. The longer they’re there, the more their emotions build up. And ours are just as high. We’re afraid that we’ll say or do something to lose this deal we’ve been working so hard to seal.
Instead of leveraging the excitement, all too often we give in to the nervousness and fears and just run away. We avoid asking for a commitment at all.
The problem with that is, at some point, the buyer has to commit to buying. If we make closing and negotiation one big, bulky, combined process, then we’re negotiating for the sale, not for gross. On our end, we’ll wind up taking a loss and a hit on the customer satisfaction index (CSI). From the buyer’s perspective, we’re talking them into something, not helping it fit into their life. It’s lose/win at best, lose/lose more often.
While closing is an emotionally driven step that should come at the highest emotional point of the deal, it doesn’t have to be dramatic or scary. That’s why we wait until after the demo, when the customers are in love with the car and see it painted into their lives, and when we believe from the top of our head to the bottom of our toes that they need that car.
By then, we know they love the car and they know we’re looking out for them. They’re behind the wheel and can see that car being part of their life. If we did a good job to that point, then they’ve already taken mental ownership anyway. We’re just confirming it. We’re finding out how they want to own it, not if. If the customers already see themselves owning the car, you know you can ask for the sale. Their emotions are poised to make the deal happen, you simply need to facilitate it.
You’re the expert, so you control when negotiations start. By knowing to look for emotional buy-in from your customer, you can hold off on price discussions until the ideal moment and give yourself every advantage in closing the deal.