Listening Skills

October 30, 2013 / Automotive, Dealership, Sales /
Listening - Strong Automotive

A very smart dealer once told me that selling cars was the easiest thing he had ever done in his career and owning a dealership was the hardest.  His trick was listening to the customers. He would let the husband describe what he wanted in a car while the wife explained what she didn’t want. After hearing both sides he could make a deal.

People forget that the art of selling starts by understanding the art of listening.

I thought about this while in a dealership the other day. The general manager and the used car manager were discussing  a deal they couldn’t close with a customer. What struck me were their phrases. “We should stick them in this.” “Why didn’t you try to roll them in that?”

As I listened to the reasons why the customers didn’t end up buying a car I laughed to myself and thought, “No wonder they didn’t buy a car, you didn’t listen to what they wanted. You just told them what they should buy.”

The managers said things like, “The wife didn’t want this one because it didn’t have enough room, and the husband wanted all-wheel drive.” I was totally amazed at how little attention senior management was paying to the actual concerns of a customer.

There is far less one-on-one communication that goes on between a salesperson and a customer today vs. 30 years ago. The salespeople (both floor and Internet) need to remember to listen and learn what they don’t know before they tell customers what they know.  It doesn’t matter how customers communicate with you. You are still selling to the customer, and that is the most important thing.

The two people in the room were not successful in making a deal because they didn’t listen to what the customer wanted before they tried to tell them what they needed.


About the author

John Paul Strong: For someone who spends an average of 135 days outside of the office meeting with clients, John Paul Strong remains the driving force behind his Birmingham-based advertising agency, Strong Automotive Merchandising. Strong began his career as a fresh-faced account executive at Martin Advertising. Learning much, but never satisfied, he convinced his father to partner with him in reopening their own advertising agency in 2004, catering exclusively to the automotive industry. The company started strong but humble. The original roster of 10 employees and eight clients has exploded today, growing to 100 full-time employees and more than 220 automotive dealers. And it hasn’t gone without notice. Along the way, Strong Automotive Merchandising has been recognized as a perennial winner in Birmingham’s Best Places to Work contest and as a Top 20 Agency among Google’s National Ad Partners. Yet, Strong still finds time to share what he’s learned along the way. As an avid writer, he has published two books in the Next Day Traffic series, along with more than 1,000 automotive-focused blog posts. He is also a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, and his success has been recognized in the Birmingham Business Journal’s 2013 “Top 40 Under 40” feature and the 2017 CEO Awards. The foundation for Strong’s career began at the University of Montevallo where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and advanced public speaking. Always staying ahead of the competition, Strong later went on to study in Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program. Amid all of his endeavors, Strong always makes time for what matters most – his family. He is a proud husband to Amy, and father to Lilly Grace, Anne Charlotte, Hudson, and Ford.