How Dealership Sales Staff Can Make a Great First Impression

Three considerations that will put customers at ease and accelerate the sales process.

From the moment a potential customer walks through your front door, the selling process begins and the contact you have with that customer will determine the chance of a sale. Like building a house on a cracked foundation, it’s a lot more difficult to have a positive sales experience if you don’t start out on the right foot.

Based on the initial greeting, impressions will be formed quickly, a tone will develop, chemistry will or won’t develop, and the foundation for the rest of your interactions with the customer will be established. We all form almost instantaneous, subjective judgments about people we meet. Once those judgments are formed, they are hard to change. This is bad news if your first impressions are weak, but great news if they are strong. Follow these tips for a strong first impression.

It’s all about science

Without knowing it, your grade school science teacher taught you one of the most important things about making a strong first impression when she taught you that light travels faster than sound. To translate that into selling terms, it means that people see you before they hear you. Your appearance has more impact on the first moments of the selling process than anything else you do. The clothes you wear and how you wear them begin to make a customer feel like you are someone they can or can’t trust. 

My rule-of-thumb for the salespeople I train is, “Dress like you are your customer’s advisor.” I am a big believer in uniforms for dealers for several reasons, but I don’t want my salespeople to look like my service people. I like white or off-white shirts with the dealership's logo on them. I think that even today it gives salespeople a more professional look. If I am going to hand over several thousand dollars of my hard-earned money, I want to hand it to someone I feel is a pro. Also remember that a smile is part of the uniform, and also the first thing a prospect should see when you make eye contact.

It’s time to relax

As customers enter your dealership, your goal is to create an environment that makes them feel comfortable. Comfort is the key to creating a strong, positive first impression.

Don’t approach customers too quickly. Let them have a moment to acclimate themselves to your showroom, and then approach them and say something like, “Welcome to our dealership. My name is Bob. I work here. If you have any questions or I can help you in any way, just let me know. I will be over here.” Point to the spot or area where you will be, pause for a moment, and give them a chance to respond. If they say “thanks,” leave them alone for a while—they are not ready to interact with you. Give them time to settle in. On the other hand, if they ask a question, engage them and begin the qualification process.

Pay attention

As you approach customers in the greeting process, pay particular attention to their facial expressions. If a customer enters your dealership and you notice that their eyebrows are down and mouth is tight, the customer is on a mission and wants to get in and get out. Move fast and get to the point.

On the other hand, if a customer comes in with eyebrows up and a nice smile or grin, that person is more of a relational buyer and will appreciate a slower approach and the opportunity to move at his or her own pace. Once the customer settles in, your goal is to re-engage them and begin the transition from greeting to the next phase of the selling process, which should lead you into the close.