Opinion: Educated Customers Demand Knowledgeable Salespeople

A picture of Jered Sobel

Over the past year, the RV industry has had to continually adapt to survive. Everyone in the industry has been busy working to figure out changes, such as the flux in manufacturers’ marketplaces, overwhelming supply demand and having the proper staff available.

As selling season is underway, inventory options are again becoming limited. You would expect productivity decline. For many dealerships, that will not be the case. As an industry, we have to contend with changes so they do not negatively affect business.

Manufacturers and suppliers will do their best to fulfill orders, and the economy may go up or down, but good dealerships grow through all market phases because their sales staffs continually develop more skills. Those skills give salespeople tools to spend more time with each client, which increases sales. More time equals higher closing ratios and more income for the salesperson.

Tough market conditions do not affect top sales professionals, because top professionals require fewer clients and inventory options to make a sale. The top producers’ secret ingredient is not limited to one item. They execute each step in their process at the highest level and embrace change to keep up with the market.

To build stronger value, however, requires various preparations before salespeople meet a client. Remember, “Telling is not selling!”

Do Not Dominate Conversations

Watching salespeople today is often painful for owners and managers. They observe their sales staff doing all the talking, with no interaction from their client. This is why no good sales trainer has taught feature/benefit selling in maybe 30 years. Feature/benefit, however, does still have a place in our industry. Factory representatives use the selling technique with salespeople to compact more features into training time. Although your sales staff receive information this way, the technique is not how they learn nor should present information to clients.

I remember an exercise my Psychology 101 professor performed in a 730-person lecture hall. She told us she would test our memory and then listed 20 random items. She gave everyone a few minutes to write down all we could remember.

I felt not too intelligent when I could list only five or so. I did relatively well. When she revealed the results, the first few and last few items on the list were the most remembered, by far. However, few, if any, people remembered the items between the first and last ones on the list.

The lesson: Our memory is limited to recency and associations we make with information.

In the 1980s, the feature/advantage/benefit concept became the better way to present a product. We went from saying, “This RV has tinted glass” to “This RV has tinted glass, which means that you will stay cooler in the summer without blasting the AC, have more privacy, and less glare, so you will not have to wear your sunglasses inside.”

The technique attempted to create a stronger memory tie to the features. Although it gives managers something to say in sales meetings, and trainers something to sell, the concept did not solve the real problem in sales presentation. Salespeople still did all the talking, and clients still were not involved.

Today’s savvy consumers require a different approach. One of my favorite sales principles from “Principle Centered Selling” is: “We are not allowed to open our mouth unless what we are saying is in direct benefit to our client.”

Build a Knowledge Base

As we move to a modern solution, we first must do some good, old-fashioned work. To give clients an outstanding presentation, we must have thorough product knowledge. Each salesperson must write out each feature for every product they sell.

Yes, that is correct! Writing out each feature will take hours to do correctly, and there is no shortcut.

The best way to accomplish the task is to make stock cards and present them to the sales manager when they are complete. After you finish all the new products, start on used inventory.

The first step in giving an A-plus presentation is to have the most in-depth product knowledge the client has seen. Remember, most consumers have done their homework on the internet before visiting the dealership. If you cannot offer more than that already available online, clients do not need you.

Create an Interactive Presentation

After a professional interview, sales staff must provide an interactive product presentation that focuses on the client. The presentation concept is easy to learn but requires role-playing.

Using an important feature to the client, create a problem: “You mentioned that you like to read a book in the bedroom while your husband watches sports in the living area. When you close the door to the bedroom, what happens with your current RV in the summer heat?”

Let the client answer as long as they like. The customer might say, “Our current RV gets too hot in the bedroom and stays nice and cold in the living room. My husband does not care because he is nice and comfortable. Meanwhile, I am sweating like crazy! One of us is always either too warm or too cold!”

You reply, “This RV has ducted air conditioning.”

Before you can even explain how the air conditioning works, the client interrupts and says, “We have got to have that!”

A successful interactive presentation lets clients do most of the talking, close themselves on the feature and address all their needs.

Enabling customers to think how the problem is real to them creates an association, such as tying the ducted AC to their real-life situation.

To continue to grow, regardless of market conditions, improving your presentation skills is a great place to start. If you simply throw a barrage of features at clients, they will remember as many listed items as the students in my Psychology 101 class…not many!

Helping customers associate the feature with their needs provides them a chance to truly learn how something can be beneficial. When you give consumers an A-plus education, they can make the best purchasing decision regarding the RV they learned about with you.

In our current market, we have to show the specific RV that will be available, while still ensuring the RV fits their camping life.

We know clients would not have come in or reached out to the dealership unless they wanted to buy and enjoy your products. Are you providing consumers the proper education to give them the chance?

Jered Sobel serves as faculty at Sobel University, a company dedicated to training top dealerships and salespeople around the country. His previous experience includes working as a dealership salesperson, hiring dealer staff and working as a general sales manager.

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