Are You a Detective?

Most of you, if not all of you will answer this question with a “no,” and however technically accurate, maybe ask yourself, “should you be?”

I once attended a sales training seminar and the instructor asked us if we ever watched the TV series Columbo and given that the show was before almost everyone’s time no one raised their hand that they had seen it. Heck, only a few had ever even heard of it. The instructor went on to explain how the star of the show, Columbo himself, was a homicide detective famous for is beige overcoat, and in each episode Columbo would interrogate suspects until he has sifted through the contradictions between the truth and the version presented to him by the killer. Then with his popular catchphrase “just one more thing” he would ask a critical question that solves the case.

Selling anything works the same way. You ask questions to determine the customer’s current problem and their desired outcome. Sometimes, customer will be very forthcoming with some or all of this information, and other times, they will be very protective of all their information, and you must “investigate” into your customer in order to solve the case of “How to Sell Them a Car?”

The best of the best salespeople are detectives. The make “Sales Investigation” the highest priority in their sales process. Adopting an investigative mindset helps these top performing salespeople uncover the clues needed to complete the sale.

As a Sales Detective you must learn the following information:

  1. What is the customer’s current problem?
  2. Why is now the right time to solve it?
  3. Who or what is this problem affecting most?
  4. Is the problem clearly defined?
  5. Is the problem easy or hard to address? Why is that?
  6. What happens if you address the problem? What happens if you don’t?
  7. How does this problem affect you on a day-to-day basis?
  8. If you weren’t experiencing this pain anymore, where projects/priorities could you focus on?
  9. What’s the most frustrating aspect of this problem?
  10. Define your timeline for solving the problem and getting the right results. If we can work out a solution sooner, how does that help you?

One of the best ways to begin to gather this information from a customer is to begin by talking about their current vehicle or situation. You should begin with asking basic vehicle information questions, such as:

  • Year, Make, Model
  • Trim Level
  • Milage
  • Exterior Color, Interior Color, and Interior Type
  • Body Type, Engine Size, Transmission, & Drivetrain

This is all basic non-personal information. Asking basic questions like these will help the customer become comfortable answering your questions. The more comfortable they are answering your questions, the more “additional” information they will volunteer.

Moving into more personal questions about their vehicle that include:

  • Is there any special equipment or options that add value to this vehicle?
  • Did you purchase any additional protection packages? (VSC, GAP, Sealants, Etc.)
  • What was the last service done? What was done? By who?
  • What do you like about this vehicle?
  • What don’t you like about it, or what would you change about it?
  • If you were to sell it to a friend or relative, what would be the first three things you would fix?
  • Who is the primary driver?
  • Any secondary drivers?
  • Did you purchase the vehicle new or used?
  • From dealer or private party?
  • Is there a lienholder on the vehicle?
  • What is the approximate balance?
  • When is the next payment due?
  • How much is that payment?

Now this is by no means a definitive list of questions to ask your customers, however they are a great start to building your Customer’s Profile. However, the key to these questions effectiveness is not only asking the question, but also knowing what you plan to do with the information once you have it. The answers to these questions will give you the information needed to select, present, demonstrate, and sell the right vehicle.

DO IT TODAY Tip: Just like Columbo used his catch phrase, “just one more thing,” to draw out the most important information, you need to have that “one more thing” type questions. These are what I like to call add on questions. They won’t show up on any appraisal form or application you use to evaluate a vehicle. These add-on questions are going to give you the greatest insights into your customer.

Here is an example of this:

Salesperson: “Did you purchase your vehicle from a dealer or a private party?”

Customer: “I purchased it from a dealership, ABC Motors.”

Salesperson: “Oh I have heard good things about them. How was your experience?” (Add-on Question)

Customer: “It was good. The salesperson was very attentive, and they made sure the car was filled with gas when I took delivery.”

Salesperson: “That’s great. I am sure you will find me as attentive, and I will also make sure your new vehicle comes with a full tank of gas. Was there anything that happened at ABC Motors, that you didn’t like?” (Add-on Question)

Customer: “Oh yeah. I remember it took forever to complete the paperwork. I can still remember how frustrating that was.”

Salesperson: “That is unfortunate, and I can guarantee you will not have that experience here. We understand that your time is valuable, and our process is designed to help you complete your purchase in the shortest amount of time possible. Sounds better than your last experience, doesn’t it?” (Value Confirmation Question)

Customer: “Sure does.”

This series of add-on questions provides the salesperson with a lot of valuable information, such as:

  • The customer wants a salesperson that is attentive to their wants and needs
  • The customer expects a new car to have a full tank of gas
  • The customer values their time and had a previously bad experience at a dealership wasting their time – The salesperson can amplify the pain points experience and build value in themselves and the dealership by showing the customer time savings.

You do not need to wear a beige overcoat to be a great detective or salesperson. You only need to know the right questions to ask, know what the answers mean, and then use the information. If you just ask the customer the right questions, they will tell you everything you need to know to sell them their next car.



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