Opinion: Are Salespeople Being Time Efficient?

A formal suit picture up close of Sobel University President Jered Sobel

Do you value a day off? I mean a real day off with no errands, no stops by the office, no honey-do list and no household chores you have been neglecting. In the fast-paced world we live in, a day like this is rare! Now, think of your customers and what they are doing with their valuable day off when they come to see you.

Both the husband and the wife had to arrange their busy schedules to visit your dealership. They do not want to waste a valuable day off by not making a purchase, thus having to do it all over again another day. When customers come to your business, they are not shoppers, they are not looking to kick tires, they are buyers! We must respect their time and help them purchase an RV.

But we must go one step further. If your customers had a choice between spending the next beautiful, sunny Saturday at a dealership finding the right RV or going camping…the choice is easy! Your customers would much rather be out camping than sitting with even the most professional salesperson. We must then redefine our salespeople’s job description as someone whose goal is not only to help customers buy a unit but to help them go camping as well. The goal is not the purchase. The goal goes beyond the purchase; customers want to go camping.

As we find ourselves in the midst of another unusual, yet record-setting, year, salespeople and managers are doing everything possible to attend to all the consumers in front of them. Salespeople are quickly learning they have only a finite amount of time each day to help their customers.

Good salespeople, however, do not want a limit on how many customers they can assist in a month. So how can we productively help more customers go camping without sacrificing our efficiency?

If we want customers to make an educated buying decision, we cannot take shortcuts with customer education. Giving an A-plus interactive presentation cannot be shortened if we want customers to make an educated decision. However, we can be more efficient in the number of and time allotted to presentations at the end of the salesperson’s sale.

Let’s use a pair of triangles to explain how we can productively and efficiently help customers go camping. The triangles pictured below represent the time frames of two types of selling processes.

The wider the part of the triangle represents more time in your process. So, on the left triangle, the least amount of time is spent at the beginning in the “meet and greet.” The greatest amount of time is spent at the end during closing. The left triangle represents what has been handed down over the years as the proper process and time allocation of a sale. The customer is greeted and is then rushed out to the lot, where the salesperson proceeds to determine what to show the consumer while presenting different RVs.

In this process, what are the sales staff’s product decisions based on? Do they show their favorite product because they know it best? Do they present the biggest, baddest vehicle because the RV is the most exciting? Or do they go straight to the one the manager wants to move? Meanwhile, sales is wasting the customer’s time walking through products the consumer does not intend to buy to narrow down offerings to what makes sense—assuming they ever even get to one that truly fits.

If the salesperson does manage to find a vehicle the customer will consider, the closing step takes so long because the salesperson is often trying to pull more money  but does not know how much the customer has. For example, an offer is given to a manager indicating the customer wants to spend $400 per month on an RV that will actually cost $600 per month. This old style of sales disrespects the customer and demoralizes the salesperson. And frankly, nobody has time to play that back-and-forth game when they are uncertain the RV is right for the customer.

The second triangle takes the same selling steps but flips the time frame upside down. It represents a time frame much more consistent with the way consumers prefer to shop and buy today. Spending more time listening to the wants, needs, and budgets of our customers is critical.

Remember, consumers have more information today than ever before. Allowing the customer to present their own research is respectful and allows us to show them what they want and, most important, what fits their budget. So, when we begin presenting vehicles, we can show the RVs that make the most sense for our customer and not waste time wandering aimlessly around the lot. By embracing the second triangle, we make closing easier because we are selling the unit the customer wants and is comfortably within their budget.

This change in the selling process may not come easily to your sales staff. Habits created through reactions to our customers’ communications have trapped salespeople in a presentation model that prevents growth.

Only by providing quality information and repeating new techniques will we be able to effectively increase productivity. If you plan to dedicate yourself to future training, ensure that it satisfies two goals. First, your training program must fit the philosophy of how you run your business now and in the future. Second, you must determine how the training will make you money now and in every market condition.

Let’s talk about how to execute the triangles. While this article is about efficiency and quality in how we help customers, we must learn to listen well enough to hear what customers are saying.

We often get in our own way assisting customers by focusing on what we need to say or do next. We never really listen to them. To help customers achieve their goals, we must develop listening skills and use those skills to learn how we can help our customers reach their ultimate goal of camping.

As an example, during the meet and greet, after establishing a connection with your customer about baseball season, you might say, “You didn’t come here to talk about baseball. I probably should have been showing you a travel trailer, fifth wheel, motorhome; Type A, B or C…what did you come here to see first?” Now, instead of becoming defensive and saying they are just looking, the customer will typically select one of the options and not waste a valuable day off.

This example continues: After the customer answers, “We want to see fifth wheels,” follow the principle of getting permission first. You might say, “We have a great selection of fifth wheels. Some over here (point to where they are on your lot), some over there, and some that haven’t even arrived yet.

“Rather than run the risk of showing you the wrong fifth wheel, would you mind if we sat down for a minute, and I will take some notes as to how you will be using your fifth wheel? For example, will you be using it in hot or cold climates, long or short trips, how many people will you be needing to sleep, where will you be storing your RV when it is not in use, and what will you be towing it with? I will write down everything important to you, be respectful of your time, and only show you what fits your needs. How does this sound for a strategy?” This is just one example of how to get permission from the customer first.

Using this approach, we are working to help our customers go camping and, because of that, they will make the decision on the triangle that makes the most sense so we can help them. When a customer is allowed to purchase this way, they save time, feel more in control, have less stress and are more likely to refer others to experience this low-pressure, highly effective way to buy an RV.


Jered Sobel serves as president of Sobel University, a company providing training for management, salespeople and consumers across North America. He is best known for designing the industry standard onboarding sales training manual and co-authoring the consumer guide to purchasing an RV. Among his previous work experience are roles as a dealership salesperson, a general sales manager and hiring dealer staff.

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