Selling Cars Online or Offline: New-School Assumptive Selling


Newsflash: Car buyers hate the typical car buying process.

Today, in their mind, they’ve already completed their own needs analysis. They’ve made their product selection. They know the car’s features. Everyone who submits a lead, calls you, or walks onto your lot is ready to test drive.

In fact, because they’ve already come equipped with all the information they need, McKinsey & Company says they visit just 1.6 lots on average before they buy. Because of this, you have to start treating everyone like a buyer; you have to start assuming the sale.

Assumptive Selling 101

Typical, old-school assumptive selling was effective in the past and it’s effective today. This type of assumptive selling occurs when you make trial closes that assume the customer has already purchased via questions like “How will you be titling your Mustang, Mr. Smith?” The goal is basically to convince him that he’s already the proud owner of your vehicle.

With new-school assumptive selling, the goal is a bit different. With new-school assumptive selling you convince yourself that everyone is a buyer. No more treating your prospects like suspects. Instead, you’re going to assume that:

  • Everyone has done a needs analysis
  • Everyone has completed their product selection
  • Everyone knows the car’s features
  • Everyone is ready to test drive
  • Everyone is a qualified buyer
  • Everyone starts the paperwork

You’re going to assume they are a buyer until they stop you; then, and only then, should you take them down an old-school road-to-the-sale.

Assuming the sale, by the way, creates a great experience for the customer, because you’re not taking them down a road-to-the-sale filled with lots of unnecessary (in their mind) questions and steps.

I’m Ready to Test Drive!

They arrived on your lot ready for Step 6 of the typical road-to-the-sale (demo drive) and you’re taking them back to “why” they think this is the car for them (needs analysis). In their mind, you’re almost demanding that they prove they’re worthy of buying your vehicle from you.

This is simply maddening to today’s buyers.

“But, Steve, we already assume the sale with every Up today!”

No, you don’t; I guarantee it. Let’s be honest: if you’re a typical dealer, your floor is closing about one out of five traditional Ups today. Because of your “1 buyer to 4 non-buyers” ratio, your team expects that 80% of the Ups they see are not going to buy.

Based on this expectation, the process for many salespeople includes qualifying questions that have morphed into an interrogation over the years. They want to “save time with these tire kickers.” They’re chasing away buyers because they’re not assuming the sale.

Okay, then what’s The Process?

An assumptive buying process is simple to follow, because there are only two things to remember:

  1. Everyone is buying today; and
  2. What’s my next goal?

Instead of having to follow a nonsensical 11- or 12-step antiquated road-to-the-sale, your team only has to focus on the next goal (of 3) in an assumptive buying process: Test Drive; Write-Up; or F&I. Whatever is the next step in our process; that’s our strategy, to take them to that next step.

They just arrived? Great, let’s get them on the test drive?

On the test drive? Great, let’s trial close them with something like “If everything checks out during the test drive, we’ll run the numbers when we get back to the dealership.”

Presenting the deal? Great, let’s have the F&I manager come out to meet them to let them know she’s going to help them “complete the state paperwork” once they’re ready.

You walk them through your process; staying in control one step at a time and assuming the sale throughout. It’s not about slowing down or speeding up; it’s about a road-to-the-sale that feels like a natural progression to the buyer. It’s more of a closing process, if you will.

They’re here to buy a car. Our job is to help them buy. That’s all it is.

Next up: How to Double Your Demo Drive Percentage!

(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