Value Added Selling
“Value-added.” That word is used so much it has become a cliché in business circles. There may not be a business in the world that doesn’t claim to be a “value-added” seller.
The problem is that once a word or phrase becomes a cliché, it often losses it’s original meaning. This is true with “value-added.” What exactly does that mean?
Ask six dealer principles or General Managers what it means when they say that they are a “value-added” seller in the market which their dealership operates, and you’ll likely hear six different explanations. One claims that they close guests NOW instead of hearing today, and that vehicle moving across the curb now is “of value” to their guest and the unit count for the day because someone may close the guest that you let leave without buying. Others claim that their experienced sales consultants/service advisors bring value to their guests. Their guests do business with them because of the quality of their employee’s. Others claim some unique technical expertise, others are proud of their sophisticated IT or BDC systems, some are focused on their relationship with the manufacturer and the allocation mix of their inventory, still others reflect on the manufacturer brand name and the perception it gives to the cliental they engage with.
I’m always confused and sometimes skeptical of this. Almost every commissioned sales business that I have work or consulted with claims to have better people, better service, and more technical expertise than all their competitors. What is puzzling to me is that their competitors say the same thing. Someone surely must have an inaccurate perception.
The definitions grow even more obtuse when you ask sales consultants/service advisors what they mean by “value added.” Some will claim that their guests demands regular communication of them. Their consistent presence, therefore, is valuable to the guest. Others, like their desk manager/service manager, claim expertise with product knowledge as valuable. Many point to the long term relationship as the factor that brings the most value to the guest. On and on it goes.
The truth that we often overlook is this: Value is defined by the guest, client or customer, not the dealership. It doesn’t matter what you think your value is, it only matters what your guest believes it to be. And guests, clients and customers don’t always think alike, so that the operating definition of value-added varies from individual to individual.
As the automotive industry has grown more complex and competitive, the demands of the guests, clients and customers and their subsequent definitions of value have grown more varied. What was more or less accepted or perceived as valued added a few years ago is not anymore. For example, local diversity mix of inventory may have been universally valued in the 70’s, 80’s or 1990s, but today some guests, clients or customers would rather buy direct from the factory and absorb a longer in transit shipping time. Experienced sales consultants may have been valuable to everyone a few years ago, but some guests, clients or customers today would rather gather their information off the internet avoiding the sales consultant and pay lower prices. Technical expertise may have been universally valuable a few years ago, but some customers today would rather reduce their time spent in a dealership’s brick and mortar and purchase from a web based site administered by a faceless entity 500/1000 or more miles away.
It’s not that some of the things you have built into your retail automotive business processes as value-added are no longer important, it is that some of then are no longer viewed, by significant numbers of your guests, clients or customers, as worth paying more for. They may be necessary, but they are not sufficient.
If you are going to be a true value-added seller of automotive product and services in the 21st century, you must be flexible and capable enough to offer different things to different guests, clients and customers, responding to the individual customer’s definition of what are valuable to him or her.
That means that you must have some way of ascertaining what is valuable to each of your guests, clients and customers, and then some processes in place that allows you to investigate, present, demonstrate and negotiate those aspects of your offer that appeal to the guest’s individual definition.
The primary means of doing that is a highly trained sales team that is trained and adept at the strategies and tactics that result in a deeper and broader understanding of what the guests, client or customer really want needs and desires. But mostly what the customer really values, and what the customer will really pay for.
Unfortunately, much of the automotive industry’s “LOTS” are populated with technically challenged sales consultants/service advisors who view their job as order takers and are providing little value in resolving solutions to needs based pains/problems that guests have. While product knowledge certainly is a significant part of the job, and an excellent foundation for value-added selling, it is not sufficient. Other sale consultants/service advisors see themselves as face-to-face customer service people, staying in touch with guests on a regular basis in order to pick up referrals or repeat business. Still others have evolved into comfort zones: working the “LOT” or service drive waiting for something to happen, burning through “Ups” with the same unprofessional “Talk Tracks” that send guests, clients and customers, to your competitors.
More and more, value is determined by deeper and broader issues than just those addressed by these limited perspectives. How the solution fits into the guests, client or customer’s buying cycle, the philosophy of the guest, client or customer relative to his/ her decision to buy is the way you as a sale consultant/ service advisor demonstrates professionalism. Buyers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. We at Jim Ellis Automotive Group explain this in our training classes by “mastering the basics” because we have found out that these are the issues that the customer values.
If sales consultants/service advisors are going to adequately uncover the guests, client and customers deeper issues, they’ll need to excel at certain sales behaviors that go above and beyond just the ability to explain a technical product problem, or show the window sticker regularly to a guest.
What must sales consultants/service advisors excel at? Prospecting and Social Networking
Specifically, value-added sales consultants will need to enhance their ability to create positive business, personal and social order relationships with anyone and everyone. They’ll need to relate to a variety of positions and job titles, like CEO, CFO, Vice President, as well as middle managers, supervisor or everyday hard working people. Additionally, they’ll need to expand their abilities to deal positively with a wide variety of personality styles. The sales consultant who remains in the comfort zone of doing business as usual by going to work to wait will severely limit his/her value.
Not only will effective sales consultants need to create positive business and social relationships with everyone, they also will need to fine tune their skills in asking Hi – Gain questions, listening constructively in order to “Drill Down” the deeper needs of those guests, clients or customers.
Those sales consultants who can understand what each guest considers to be valuable to them, and then can bring creative solutions to those guests, clients or customers, will be the valuable value-added sellers of automotive product and services.
What is encouraging about this is that each Jim Ellis Automotive Group sales consultant and sales manager has the opportunity to “master the basics” of these value-added selling skills because we know it is a learnable behavior. No one is born with the ability to ask penetrating questions, create positive relationships, listen constructively, or develop creative proposal and solutions.
These behaviors of the most effective value-added sales consultants can each be learned. Once a minimum consistent level of expertise is attained, sales consultants can continually improve on these behaviors for the rest of their selling career.
This is a great opportunity for the sales consultants and service advisors at our Asbury Automotive dealerships that are intent on maintaining and expanding their position as value-added professional sellers and up sell service’s of vehicles in their markets. Those who develop and practice consistently on the selling systems that encourage key sales behaviors, who work your daily plan in professional sales behaviors, and who stimulate and motivate themselves to continuously improve on your dealership’s processes will be those who rise to the top as value-added sellers of automotive products and services in your markets.
Make It A Champion Day!
“SALES TRAINING MATTERS”