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10 Steps to Car Sales: Your Complete Guide

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There’s no denying that the car sales process is changing. Most customers already know what they want when they come to your dealership, right down to the specific car. As customers become more empowered to compare cars and prices online, there’s less negotiating happening. But the 10 steps to car sales are as relevant as ever.

Also called the “Road to the Sale,” the 10 steps lay out a process for engaging customers, providing an excellent experience and ultimately making the sale. Some sales people cut the list to 7 steps or extend it to 12, and every dealership has its own scripts and best practices. However, these 10 steps are the basic breakdown most sales people use to sell more cars.

1. Meet and Greet

The road to the sale begins when the customer comes into your dealership. In the past, the meet and greet was a “getting to know you” step: You’d ask the customer questions to understand their needs. Today, most people who come in are warm leads – that is, they’ve already expressed interest, usually online, and answered a few questions.

With warm leads, you’ll already know what they’re looking for, even right down a specific car on your lot. But the meet and greet is still important. It’s your chance to make a good first impression with verbal and nonverbal cues. A warm, professional welcome from a knowledgeable salesperson is key to how to sell more cars.

2. Initial Discovery

While most customers today are already warm leads, you’ll still want to dig a little deeper so you can provide them with the best possible experience. Initial discovery is your chance to ask them questions they might not have answered already. Some dealerships have scripts to use for this step, which might include questions like:

  • What’s the main purpose of the vehicle (commuting, kids’ activities, towing an RV)?
  • How many miles will you drive in a year?
  • What do you like about your current car?
  • What interests you about this model in particular?

Even if the customer only wants to look at one particular vehicle, these questions still give you information that will help you show off the right features and get them excited about the purchase.

3. Vehicle Walk-Around

Before the digital transformation, this step would have been where you would show the customer various vehicles that fit their criteria and help them choose. But today, most customers already have a car picked out, turning step 3 into a vehicle walk-around instead.

During the vehicle walk-around, you’ll show the customer the relevant features of the car they’ve chosen. Some customers are interested in safety and reliability, while others are interested in performance, and still others may simply like the look and style of a certain car. Remember: The best tips for selling cars are all about personalizing the process.

4. Test Drive

Now we’re getting to the exciting part of the 10 steps to car sales: the test drive. Have the customer get in the driver's seat and adjust the seat, mirrors and climate control. This is a great time to point out more features like adjustable pedals, heated seats or backup sensors.

Then it’s time to hit the road. You might want to take the customer on a predefined route that covers both highway and surface streets, and includes curves, hills and even rough terrain, like railroad tracks, so you can point out the smooth ride. Or, customize a ride for them based on what you’ve learned so far. The important thing is that they can imagine themselves owning this vehicle.

5. Post-Test Drive Discovery

You’ve probably noticed that learning how to sell more cars at a dealership is all about asking the right questions, at the right time. After the test drive, ask a few more questions to confirm the customer’s selection, like:

  • Was it everything you were looking for?
  • Is there anything you’d add to the car if you could?
  • Are you ready to move forward with the numbers?

Now is also the time to get information on whether they have a trade-in, what sort of monthly payments they’re looking for and other finance-related questions.

6. Service Introduction

Some dealerships think that 10 steps to the car sale is too long. However, it takes time to build excitement – and it also takes time to get the paperwork together. That’s why we have the service introduction step.

After you’ve determined trade-in value and other financial considerations, introduce the customer to the service department while your team works on the paperwork. Tell them about the department’s experience, special features, facilities and hours. Encourage them to connect their service alerts so they always know what they need (and so you can ensure they come to your dealership to get it).

7. The Numbers

Taking into account trade-ins, down payment and other considerations, the finance team will come up with a number for the customer. You’ll go over the paperwork with them, including what you’re offering for their trade-in and how a higher or lower down payment might affect their monthly bill.

You’ll want to emphasize anything special that’s included in your offer and make sure you educate the customer about what to expect from the contract. Monitor their reaction to the initial price and any other points you make so that you’re prepared for the next step.

8. Negotiation and Closing

Negotiation used to be the single most important of the 10 steps to car sales. In our digital age, most customers have already compared cars and prices online, and they’ll know how your offer measures up. However, there may still be negotiating to be done.

Some customers will want to negotiate the value of their trade-in, as well as the price of the new car. Like the rest of the car sales process, this step is about listening to the customer. Don’t get bogged down in the details. Keep the focus on helping them leave with the perfect car to fulfill their needs.

9. Finance and Insurance

Once you agree on a price, you’re ready to turn the customer over to finance and insurance (F&I) to finalize the paperwork. With F&I, it isn’t just about how to sell more cars, but how to increase the value of each car. This department takes care of the title, licensing and registration, as well as add-ons like anti-theft systems, window tinting or special equipment like cargo trays or splash guards.

At this point, the customer can still get cold feet. They are about to spend thousands of dollars, so this step needs to make them feel confident and reassured that they will be taken care of. Once all the paperwork is signed, you have a deal!

10. Delivery

While the customer is working with F&I, you’re having the car detailed, gassing it up, putting on the temporary tags and making sure everything is absolutely perfect for the customer. You can even preset the radio to a station they might like. Only then are you ready to do the “final delivery” of the car.

You might work for a dealership that actually delivers its cars directly to customers’ driveways. More often, the delivery step is the final presentation to the customer before they drive it off the lot. Make sure you’ve answered all their questions and they’re completely satisfied – and if they’re not, fix it. This is your final chance to earn referrals and repeat business.

The Missing Step 11: Follow Up

So, what’s missing from the 10 steps to car sales? Making the sale is only the first step in the process. It’s more important than ever to also follow up with each and every customer. You want them to leave you a good review, tell others about your dealership and come back to make future purchases. You also want to capture every possible service RO, including quickly responding to connected car alerts.

Many dealerships are turning to outsourced business development centers (BDCs) to help with follow-up for both sales and service. By automating lead response, outsourced automotive BDCs free up the sales team to do what they do best: Perfect the 10 steps to the car sale. BDCs like Better Car People can even find you new leads by mining your manifest lists.

Want to see how a BDC can help you optimize your car sales process? Book a meeting with us today for a free consultation. We’ll help you find the gaps in your sales and service processes and provide tailored solutions to fill those gaps.

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