Most dealerships have a series of questions that they ask each of their customers. The problem is, they don’t usually know how to ask these questions, especially with sensitive subjects like a person’s payment and trade.
Friendly questions like: “What brings you here today?” isn’t pushy and opens up the conversation. Of course, it’s not likely that your customer will start listing off exactly what they’re interested in seeing, so be sure to include other questions like:
“Are you looking for a car, truck, or SUV?” “What makes/models do you like?” “Do you prefer cars with lighter or darker colors?” Always ask “lighter or darker” instead of asking for a specific color. You want to end the conversation by telling the customer you have what they want, and if your back yourself into a corner, you may not be able to do that. These questions will help narrow your inventory without severely limiting your options.
“What type of features are important to you?” “What year range will you consider (if used, or an alternative is “How old is too old)?” “What mileage range are you looking for?” If your inventory is likely to have a lot of older cars with high mileage, you could ask “Do you think age or mileage has more effect on a car” as an alternative (and use their answer to persuade them to select an older car with low mileage or a newer car with high mileage).
Also ask: “Is having a warranty important to you?” (You can offer warranties even on most of your used vehicles through companies like Patriot Automotive Consulting.)
“How important is price?” Is a great question. Many customers will say that price is very important, in which case, your sales team should ask “Okay, so if I found a similar car to one you preferred that was cheaper, would you want me to present both options to you?” If the customer responds with something like “Price is important, but I care more about getting the features I want” (or vice versa) make sure to remind the customer of that if they dispute the price or lack of features later.
Save questions about trades, payment ranges, and credit until the end. Typically, customers will have hesitations about at least one of these fields and you want the customer to open up and feel safe with your salespeople beforehand. Think of it like this: lighter questions about colors and features are appetizers before getting to the “meat and potatoes” of your qualifying questions.
When it’s time for the entre to be served, serve it lightly; don’t just slap the questions on the plate. Carefully word questions that might throw your customer. Instead of asking about a trade, ask if your customer is looking only to purchase or to exchange a vehicle. When it comes to payments, don’t ask what’s the most that they can do. Instead, ask what payment range they’re looking for.
For down payments, ask if they would be looking to alleviate the payments with any type of initial investment. If the customer requires an explanation because they’ve never heard it asked that way, this your chance to discuss the benefits of a down payment. You can do that by saying “Some customers choose to invest $500 or more to reduce their payments and spend less on interest. I was wondering if that was your plan as well.”
Also ask “Is everyone here to make the decision today?” This is important whether there is just one person or a group of people because it will avoid future excuses like “I need to talk to my wife.”
A good way to end the qualification questions is to ask something that relieves tension like “Okay, last question: Do you like it when people make the most of your time and offer you the best deal?” (Wait for customer’s answer.) “Well, these questions help me to do just that, so thank you and I have some really good ideas about what’d you like to see, so follow me/wait right here and we’ll get started.”
Also make sure your sales agents smile when they greet a customer and when they complete the qualifying questionnaire. The initial impression they make on their customer is one of the most important parts of the entire sales process.