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Sell More Cars By Focusing on Emotions, Not Features

Guest blog by Lorraine Ferguson, President, Direct Impact Associates/Sandler Training


Lorraine_FergusonAre you a car salesperson? Here’s what you need to know about me: I love cars, I drive a lot and I like to drive fast. If I walked into your dealership right now, how would you try to close me?


My personal experience has taught me that most salespeople focus on selling features instead of meeting the emotional needs of the customer. Here’s an example: several years ago I decided I needed a new car. At the time I had a four cylinder, so when I stepped on the gas pedal, the car didn’t respond the way I wanted it to. It accelerated very slowly.


When I walked into a dealership, I told the salesperson I was looking for a new car. He asked what kind, and I told him I currently had a four cylinder and I needed something faster. He immediately popped the hood of a nearby vehicle and started talking about how many cylinders it had and how great the engine was. I stopped him. “If I step on the gas pedal, will it go fast?” I asked. “Yes,” he responded. “I’ll take it,” I said.


I didn’t care how many cylinders the car had. I cared whether it would accelerate quickly when I stepped on the gas pedal. This is one of the most common mistakes I see salespeople make. They qualify customers by asking what they’re looking for, then focus on selling that vehicle and its features.


Now, I realize some customers do care about features, but I guarantee they care even more about their own needs. When a customer walks onto your lot, your first job as a salesperson should be to find out why they are there. What need is driving them?


Say there’s a young man looking for a CRV. Why is he looking for a CRV? Perhaps he’s got a sports car, but he recently got married and his wife is pregnant. That’s an emotional reason. If you can tap into that reason, you can build rapport and explore options that are right for him.


Say there’s an older couple looking for an SUV. Why are they looking for an SUV? Perhaps the wife has arthritis and they need a car they can easily get in and out of. That’s an emotional reason. This couple probably won’t mention the arthritis. As a salesperson, it’s your job to find the reason behind their need.


I’ve bought a lot of cars, so I’m familiar with the typical qualification process. All too often it consists of “How are you today? Can I help you find something?” That’s it. When the customer mentions a type of vehicle, the salesperson immediately focuses on finding that vehicle and selling its features. But what if you’re selling the wrong features?


Once you show a customer a vehicle, there’s very little opportunity at that point to build rapport. If the customer decides that vehicle doesn’t satisfy their emotional needs, you’ve lost them. However, if you slow down and take a few minutes to qualify a customer up front, you’re more likely to gain their trust and build rapport.


To find out what the customer’s emotional needs are, you may want to include the following types of questions in your qualifying process:


Follow up on answers. When I was buying a car, the salesperson didn’t have to open the hood and tell me about the cylinders and engine. I would have liked the conversation to go more like this:


“Why are you here today?”

“I’m looking for a new car. I have a four cylinder and I need something that goes faster.”

“Can you be more specific? Your car doesn’t go fast enough?”

“Well, it does, but it takes a while. When I step on the gas pedal, I want it to accelerate quickly.”

“Is that because you like to pass people?”

“Yes, I travel a lot for work and I like to drive fast.”

“Okay, what else is important to you in a car?”

“I want to look hip.”

“What do you mean by hip?”


“Do you mean small and sporty, like a two-seater, or a sporty sedan?”

“A sporty sedan.”


See what I mean by following up on answers? “Going fast” and “looking hip” can mean very different things to different people, so you have to find out what they mean to that person standing in front of you.


As salespeople, our goal is to get customers to paint us a picture of what they want. This makes it much easier to sell them what they need. An in-depth qualifying process doesn’t take more than five minutes, yet it will definitely differentiate you from your competition. And learning how to tap into–and satisfy–your customers’ emotional needs will result in more sales.

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