Selling Cars Online or Offline: The Building Blocks for Great Sales Processes


Instead of being an 11- or 12-part, 3+ hour ordeal where your salespeople treat the prospects like suspects, the best road-to-the sale is actually controlled buying process:

  • Controlled, in that your salespeople must remain fully in control throughout;
  • Buying, in that the customer must feel like they’re buying, not being sold; and
  • Process, in that you use a simple, repeatable process that you’ve committed to written form and that you enforce.

Whenever we talk about controlling any experience, it’s important to understand that this requires a process. And, for processes to succeed, they must be standardized. This means you need to put them in writing and that you need to enforce these. Additionally, all sales processes need to be simple, because complicated processes don’t work. Simple processes are intuitive and they’re easy to train.

In order for processes to work, they’re got to be repeatable. That means you cannot allow your sales team to freelance. Some managers believe it’s okay to allow the “superstars” to circumvent your processes. But, what you don’t know is that once you let one person sell outside your processes one time, then everyone begins to do so. Because they know you can’t be everywhere all the time, your salespeople become experts at checking boxes in the CRM, rather than following your written processes.

Process Outsells the Opposite

Not only do sales processes sell way more cars than the alternative; it’s the average dealer’s lack of repeatable processes that Carvana and others are using against them. Great processes are the only way to ensure a great customer experience; and unless customers are voluntarily telling you how great the experience was, you lack process.

If you have truly great processes in place that provide a great buying experience, you’ll know it. You’ll know it, because if these are in place, you’ll have buyers come out of F & I (after you’ve just taken their head off and also made great front-end grosses), look for the first manager they can find, and shake his or her hand and say, “You know what, this is the best car-buying experience I’ve ever had. I mean the best car-buying experience I’ve ever had!”

If you’re not hearing that on a daily basis, then you lack great sales processes in your store.

Do Your Processes Make Sense to the Buyer?

Customers should see the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) in every step of your sales process. Buyers should understand everything you’re doing, and these steps should all make sense to them.

Does it make sense to the customer when they arrive on your lot ready to test drive and you to take them back to the first few steps of your antiquated road-to-the-sale? They’re ready to buy and you want to take them through a needs analysis, a product selection and a feature presentation that they’ve already completed before they arrived at your dealership. That just doesn’t make sense to the average buyer.

Does it make sense to your customer to wait for 45 minutes or longer to get into F & I? Of course not. They’re sitting there thinking, “You know what? I’ve got this 40,000. I want to give it to you people but you’re making me wait. I don’t understand this.”

A process that makes sense values their time – and there’s no down time. The process feels seamless, smooth and continuous.

Great Sales Processes are Transparent

All great processes (that create great buying experiences) are transparent. This means there’s no mystery to your process in the mind of the customer. They don’t wonder what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. You’re fully transparent throughout.

One way to add the necessary transparency to a sales process is by engaging the buyer throughout. This means you’re with them – basically keeping them busy – at all times. When done right, engagement actually changes the buyer’s concept of time and makes the task of buying a carseem more efficient that it might otherwise be.

Think about it. What feels like it takes longer: Watching a 30-minute TV show or sitting in a waiting room with nothing to do for 30 minutes? Clearly, the buying process will seem efficient if we keep them engaged.

The 3 Rules of Car Buyer Engagement

Engagement is easy for your team if they’re remember three very simple rules:

  1. Never leave the buyer alone.
  2. Make sure the buyer participates in every step (even if this means you have to turn your computer monitor towards them).
  3. Where possible, have the buyer actually do the work.

Engaging them keeps them busy; keeping them busy keeps them off their smartphones; keeping them off their smartphones keeps them from shopping your competition when they’re in your dealership.

Next up: New-School Assumptive Selling.

(If you’re catching this series for the first time, you may want to begin with the first post in the series: It’s About a Great Experience)

About TheManager:

Steve Stauning, creator of The Appointment Culture and an expert in The Customer Experience. He is also an extremely popular keynote speaker, writer, and industry consultant. Learn more about Steve at