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Building rapport, connection with customers is key to better selling

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 - 09:40
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In a sales skills class I teach, one of the first things I say is that your goal should not be to become a better salesperson. Your goal should be to learn how to become a trusted advisor. You want the vehicle owner to trust you as someone from whom they seek advice rather than just someone selling them something.

Mike Anderson

I use two triangles to help explain one key to doing this. The triangles represent time spent with the customer. The wide end of the triangle represents maybe 20-30 minutes, while the narrow pointed end represents zero. For most shops, the small end of the triangle is at the top. The customer comes in, and the estimator heads right to the car to get the VIN, production date, etc. They focus on the car, not the customer. They don't stop to build a rapport with the customer.

The same thing happens at the time the customer drops off the car. They get the customer in and out quickly. So by the time the car has been dropped off, the shop has really spent very little time with the customer.

But then what happens? We discover a taillight is out, or we don't have the key for the locking wheel lug, and we have to call the customer about that. It's a negative experience because we're calling someone with whom we really haven't built any rapport. Yet now we're starting to fill up the triangle as we spend more time with the customer that way – by playing phone tag.

Then we find the car is going to be done a day later than we expected. The old saying goes, "There's no atheists in foxholes." I always say there are no atheists when a customer has to be called about a delay. We all pray to get voicemail so we don't have to talk to them directly. It's more time spent, and more of a negative interaction.

Then the customer shows up to pick up the car and is concerned the paint on the plastic bumper cover doesn't match the rest of the car. So we have to spend the time showing them other cars on the lot to explain that that's a common situation. By then, they don't trust us much, and are going to look over their car with a magnifying glass – before trying to pay you with a $1,000 personal check that you didn't tell them in advance you can't accept.

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