Contact At Once! Blog

8 Tips for Getting to Know Your Customers the “Old-Fashioned” Way

Everyone’s talking about how things have changed, from how we communicate to how we search for and buy almost anything. While that’s true, there’s still an important human element involved, especially when it comes to big-ticket items like cars or places to live. Shoppers often want to ask an expert questions or to see the product in person, and how they’re treated during those moments may play a role in the final decision.

So how do you make the most of those human-to-human interactions, whether they chat or text or walk in?

Along with being easily available and knowledgeable, use this chance to get to know your potential customers…so you can guide them to the best vehicle for their needs. Here are a few tips from our Contact At Once! client community:

#1 – Try to Find Common Ground

This is a time-honored tradition of lowering barriers and getting along with just about anyone. (Just make sure you avoid religion and politics, advises Jason Whittington of Sons Automotive!) For example, Tahler Jones, Internet Sales Manager at Baum Chevrolet Buick, connected with and bounced ideas off a recent customer because they were both remodeling houses. It’s not just about asking questions and finding similar topics of interest, either:

  • “If they come in and have young children, I get on my knees (so I am closer to their level) and introduce myself.” – David Boyle, Sales Manager at Bill Page Toyota
  • “We love when people bring their animals in! We have dog treats in sales and service.” – Sarah Kukovis, Marketing Manager, Competition Toyota
  • Consider hosting a charitable event at your dealership and inviting the community. That can establish a common ground from the get-go.

#2 – Respect Their Time

If you want a customer to keep sharing information, show them you’re not just wasting time. When asked a question, “instead of beating around the bush, respond in a quick manner,” says Jennifer Griffith, Internet Marketing Coordinator of Tom Ahl Family of Dealerships.

And when it comes time for your own questions, don’t assume they understand the importance. Explain that you’re making sure you understand what they’re looking for—that always seems to work for Melissa Dominguez, Business Development Manager of Hendrick’s Chevrolet. Speaking of…

#3 – Talk About Outside Stuff

Keep in mind that some of your conversation won’t appear to be car-related. What they do for work, how they got into that type of career, how old their children are, if they live in the area—all of these unassuming questions can help make the car sale. “With the information we learn, we can find out if there’s a possibility for a near future sale based on the age of their children, if they live in the area when we can schedule their vehicle maintenance appointments and so on,” notes Lacey Tallmadge, GM of Killer Auto Sales.

Here are few topics dealers shared that may either spark useful information or help you find common ground: family, friends, vacations, sports, health, traffic, local events and the first place they’ll go with the new vehicle.

#4 – Find Out What They Really Want (& Why)

One dealership marketing manager put it this way: “In the car business you need to know why they need the car (business or personal). If it’s personal, you need to know if they have a family. How big is their family? What features do they absolutely have to have?”

As you talk about their wants and needs, they’ll likely share a wealth of information (like family names or hobbies). You can use these responses to put customers in the right vehicle and connect them to that vehicle on a more personal level, as Taylor Duke of Dave Smith Nissan’s BDC department tries to do.

And if you don’t have the car they really want? You can still use that information to build a truly exceptional experience. For example, “if the car they want isn’t on our lot, we will become their personal shopper and find it,” says Lacey.

#5 – Listen Up

Of course, using the information customers share with you requires that you “listen twice as much as you speak,” per Jason Whittington. It’s far too easy to start a conversation and get so distracted by your end goal (really want to make this deal!) that your mind glosses over an important detail like the fact that they’re now expecting their second child. To prevent that from happening to her, Melissa Dominguez often paraphrases what they say back so they know she’s listening.

#6 – Say It Via Video

Ever feel at a loss trying to build rapport and trust via text or chat? Consider adding video messages. (Hint: you can add them to your text/chat conversations with Contact At Once!) One Internet manager explains that videos can be comforting to online shoppers because it allows them to see who they’re speaking with, and using them can increase responses. She’s created videos to thank customers, walkarounds on vehicles of interest, appointment reminders, Internet lead responses, etc.

#7 – Laugh

Whether online or in-person, this is a great tip: Laugh with every customer. Don Murray, BDC Manager at Ressler Motors, says, “When you laugh with them or find something in common, you’re more than just a sales associate or a source of information. It humanizes you and makes a sale much more likely.”

#8 – Act on What You Learn

Don’t let all the effort you put in to get to know your customers go to waste. Use it to follow up and stay top of mind with them in more personalized ways:

  • Remember their interest in future vehicles or other things (or add it to your CRM), and bring it up when you see or talk to them again. – Jennifer Griffith
  • “A client was going to have surgery, so I checked in on them the day after just to see how they were feeling.” – Melissa Dominguez
  • Send invites to special events based on what their interests are. One sales consultant keeps tabs on who has (or just loves) classic cars and invites them to the dealership car shows.

These aren’t hard sales tactics or set rules by any means. Getting to know customers is a delicate, personal activity, and it shouldn’t matter whether they’re talking via chat, texting or standing across from you in the showroom. Your goal is to help them buy and have a wonderful time while doing so. The better you know them, the easier that can become.

Written by: Angela Wijesinghe on May 30 2017