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Sept. 22, 2008 – Identifying the real purpose of the salesperson’s greet

September 22, 2008
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I recently visited a dealership near my hometown. A nice-looking salesperson walked up to me and said, “How ya doin?” He then followed with “Can I help you out with anything in particular?” I said what the majority of all customers say, “Nah, I’m just looking around.” He ended with, “Well, just let me know if you have any questions,” and then he walked away.
Was this an unprofessional way to greet someone? Not at all. The salesperson seemingly covered all of the aspects of greeting a customer. He acknowledged that I was there, even smiled, greeted me and made sure I was taken care of. This salesperson did a great job, right? If the purpose of The Greet is to merely welcome a customer, make sure they’re taken care of and then walk away, he did a great job. But the purpose of each step in the sales process is to get to the next one, so the true purpose of The Greet is to bypass “just looking,” begin building rapport and move to interviewing/investigating.
But, all too many salespeople can’t get past welcoming a customer. According to Pied Piper’s national retail benchmarking study, salespeople ask the customer for their name only 54 percent of the time. And I believe that if you factor in all of the customers who say “I’m just looking,” and are then left alone, the percentage is probably much lower than that.
If we can’t get past welcoming a customer, we can’t begin building rapport or get key information during the interview. If we can’t get key information in the interview, our presentation will be based on our personal thoughts and feelings instead of the customer’s, and we won’t be able to build value. If we can’t build value, we risk losing the sale because the sale happens when value exceeds price.
So, the question is, how do we welcome a customer in a way that bypasses “just looking” and leads to an interview? Well, first we must understand the three types of questions:
1. Closed-ended questions
These questions start with a verb (are, can, do, did, would, etc.), are almost always answered with a “yes” or “no” and are designed to close a conversation. For instance, the question “Can I help you with something?” will typically be answered with a “no” from the customer.
2. Open-ended questions
These questions start with who, what, when, where, why or how and cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no.” They’re also designed to open a conversation. The most common open-ended greeting I hear is, “What brings you in today?” But, if you ask this question in Georgia, many customers will tell you that their truck brought them in today. The challenge with open-ended questions is they don’t help guide the customer’s response.
3. Multiple choice questions
This is the easiest type of question to answer because they give the customer answers to choose from. Think about it, would you rather have an essay question on an exam or a multiple choice question? Multiple choice, of course. And because these questions provide the answer, they help to guide the conversation. For instance,
“Welcome to D.U. Powersports! Are you here for parts or service, or are you just taking a look around today?” The customer will usually respond with, “Oh, we’re just looking around,” but now you are setup to immediately ask, “Great! Are you looking around at some on-road bikes or something for off-road?” For a Harley-Davidson dealership, “Great! Are you looking around for a cruiser or more of a touring bike today?” Customers almost always choose one of the answers you provide!
By using a multiple choice greet, we will be more successful at bypassing “just looking” and determine the type of unit the customer is interested in. This will give salespeople the ability to introduce themselves to more customers, which will lead to more six-square interviews, more value-building presentations, more sit-downs and ultimately more tail lights hitting the road. psb
Tory Hornsby, general manager of Dealership University, was drawn to the powersports industry more than 10 years ago when he turned his passion for motorcycles into a career. He welcomes your e-mail: thornsby@dealershipuniversity.com.

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