Muscle Memory: The Key to Selling More Vehicles in any Market
You’ve probably heard the term muscle memory applied to professional athletes. It describes those who’ve committed to their craft and practiced something so many times that their actions become automatic. The game “slows down” for them; they hold an advantage over their opponents; they’re playing on a different level; they are a step ahead.
Professional sales is a lot like professional sports. Those sellers who’ve committed to their craft can and do develop muscle memory. They’re unafraid of customer questions or objections because they’ve heard and/or practiced these same questions and objections so many times their responses are automatic.
Of course, since just after the start of the pandemic, our industry was flipped upside down. No longer were superior selling skills required to win the sales game – if you had the vehicle, you sold the vehicle. Many top sellers even stopped practicing their craft – there was no need. Inventory was turning fast, and grosses were higher than ever. Their muscle memory began to atrophy. Many forgot how (or didn’t even try) to close the tough customers.
The dealership that had the vehicle had all the advantage they needed.
As our industry now faces continued headwinds (from the economy) and inventories that are beginning to normalize, selling cars once again requires professional salespeople – pro sellers with muscle memory.
Muscle Memory: The Easy Way
While gaining muscle memory as a professional salesperson requires practice, there are a couple of tricks that can make this easier for your sales team.
The first trick is to understand and commit to your road-to-the-sale (RTTS). The RTTS is not just there to guide new sellers through to a close, it’s there to keep even seasoned sellers from jumping ahead. The RTTS is also there to build value in you, the dealership, and the vehicle; something that’s becoming necessary again as inventories grow. When salespeople skip steps and try to close the deal on the phone or out on the lot, they lose deals that were easily winnable… if they’d just had a little discipline and stuck to the RTTS.
For example, we know from research that the demo drive is the most influential resource for most buyers today; yet I still encounter salespeople who fully answer payment questions on the phone or out on the lot… before the customer has even driven the vehicle!
Yikes. (What happened to “The feel of the wheel seals the deal?” Cliché, I know, but still accurate today.)
For salespeople committed to their RTTS, they know their goal is not to sell the car out on the lot, but always The Next Step. So, when a prospect looking at used vehicle asks them, “Can we get under $300 a month on this SUV?” They know to answer that question in a way that moves the prospect to the next step in the RTTS:
“That’s a great question, and I understand knowing exactly how much the monthly payments are going to be before you purchase is important to all buyers. Of course, there’s so much that goes into calculating final payments – including down payment, credit score, and any trade-in value – that it would be impossible for me to even give you a ballpark number out here on the lot. So, let’s do this. Let’s go ahead and take a quick test drive in the Cherokee, make sure it’s the vehicle you want to own; and when we get back, I promise to give you all the numbers, including the payment information, so you can make an informed decision. How’s that sound?”
AIM – The Second Trick
Using an old-school AIM cadence like we did above – where we Acknowledge the customer’s question or objection, then Ignore or redirect it, then Move on to our goal – still works well today. In fact, using this cadence to pivot your customers back to the next step in your RTTS is often the only successful way to answer questions or address objections that will be handled in a later step.
The monthly payment in this example should be handled in write-up, not pre-demo drive. That’s why we acknowledged the question (“That’s a great question, and I understand…”), ignored it (“Of course, there’s so much…”), and moved on to our goal of the next step in the RTTS (“So, let’s do this. Let’s go ahead and take…”).
Sticking to your RTTS and writing and memorizing AIM cadences is easy… if you practice. Of course, if you do, you can expect the game to slow down for you, to hold the advantage, to play on a different level, and to stay one step ahead.
Automotive Sales Books by Steve Stauning: