3 Harsh Truths That Salespeople Need To Hear!

who-cares“Who cares, shut up, ask questions!” That’s what my wife of 12 years said after we walked away from the third salesperson who was trying to convince us we should buy from them. We were at The Home Improvement Expo at the Metrodome in Minneapolis and we left there with a stack of business cards, some brochures and a mild headache. I wonder how many times that happens at your store? A customer comes in excited (like we did at the expo) and leaves with a business card, brochure and a headache. I’m writing this for all the dealers, managers, and salespeople who visit my site to prevent this from continuing to happen to innocent car shoppers at your store.

This blog post is unique compared to anything I’ve written in the past because my wife not only inspired me to write it; she co-authored it. She asked, “Don’t salespeople know that nobody cares what they think or like! They need to shut up and ask questions!” She then added, “I hope the people you train know better.”

Although many of you know me as the car sales trainer who teaches psychology you may not know that my wife has her master’s degree in psychology. She has known me as a salesperson for 14 years and she has empathy for what we (salespeople) go through. So it is with my wife’s advice in mind I want to share three harsh truths that we all need to be reminded of. These truths will make the difference between exciting and exasperating your next customer.

Harsh Truth #1 – Who cares!

Obviously, product knowledge is important and so is knowledge of your company. Stories about previous customers can be powerful, too. BUT… “who” cares? It’s the “who” part I want to focus on. My wife was not frustrated that these salesmen knew their product or that they were proud of their company, or even that they had satisfied customers. It was that none of those things mattered to her. She didn’t care! Not yet anyway! It wasn’t until she felt that they understood where she was coming from that she then cared where they were coming from.

When you’re selling, you need to know “who” you are selling, so you can know “what” to sell, and “how” to sell them. “Who” cares about the cubic centimeters and variable valve timing a sit relates to power and the blah, blah, blah. “Who” cares that you just sold a car similar to this one but it had slightly different options and they were trading in a blah, blah, blah – you get the point. The truth is someone out there does care about this or that specific fact and someone else might not. And there are even some out there who might eventually care; but just not yet.

How can you find out “who” cares:

Find out who you are talking to by asking them questions and try really, really, really hard not to assume you know anything. Ask questions don’t assume!

I believe we should ask customers all kinds of questions in order to better understand “who” we are dealing with:

  • What are some things I should be aware of in helping you select the perfect vehicle?
  • What is going to be most important to you in choosing a vehicle for your family?
  • As you’re shopping around, have you had any really good or bad experiences yet?
  • If you don’t mind sharing, what can we do to make this a comfortable experience for you?
  • In your opinion, what makes a good salesperson to you?

– There will be silence after some of these questions are asked… It’s okay. Give them time to think and then listen very carefully to their answer!

Average salespeople don’t ask questions like these, so your customer is not likely to have been asked these things before. That’s okay. You’re not average, RIGHT? Not only will you ask them unique questions, you will let the customer answer them so that you know “who” they are, “what” to sell them, and “how” to do it!

Harsh Truth #2 – Shut up!

(I don’t mean to be rude with the expression “Shut up”; just need you to feel the frustration!)

Here is the next big key to selling success and one I personally struggled with. Shut up! After you ask the customer a question, shut up! Be okay with awkward silence for at least 10 – 15 seconds. If you are not okay with silence… learn to be okay with it. After you get them behind the wheel for the test drive, shut up! It’s hard for the customer to take “mental ownership” of a vehicle with you jabbering on about stuff. You need to be quiet and let the car do the selling. That’s why all true sales professionals drive the car first so they can “demo” while they drive, and “rest” while they ride.

Do any of these sound familiar? “What would we need to do?”, “Is there anything else we can do?”, “Where do we need to be?”, “Let me go check with my manager about something.” And the always popular, “What would it take to earn your business?” Try presenting the numbers, asking the customer for their business, and being comfortable with the silence. Don’t panic and throw up “verbal vomit” on them. A truly professional salesperson knows that silence is part of selling. When used appropriately, silence conveys incredible

How and when to “Shut up”:

As I mentioned above you need to learn to let people process their thoughts and share them and not always fill every moment of silence with your opinion.

Practical opportunities to be quiet:

  1. After you have asked an important question. (like the examples in this post)
  2. After you have given them control of the car on the demo drive. Let them know you want to let them experience the car the way they normally would. So unless they have questions, “SHUT UP” and let them drive.
  3. After you have done a great job, presented the numbers, and asked them to buy the vehicle from you; you should reach out your hand and say something like, “I appreciate your business.” Then, with your hand outstretched, look them in the eye and SHUT UP!

Harsh Truth #3 – Ask questions.

After our headache-inducing experience at the expo, my wife asked me, “Why don’t salespeople first ask questions? Don’t they need to find out what we want and why we want it before suggesting solutions and options?” I explained that salespeople often assume that they know what people want and what motivates people based on their own personal desires and motivations.

If a salesperson likes a particular vehicle he will often assert that to the customer. Have you ever heard a salesperson say any of the following to a customer: “I really like this color”, “This is a really safe car”, “This has great fuel economy”, “You’re going to love the way this handles”.

Or maybe, in an attempt to gain agreement, you end up simply asserting your opinion and possibly getting a “false positive” at the same time.

What’s a “false positive”? – A “yes” that is really a “no” or “maybe”.

While shopping for her latest vehicle my wife and I were on the lot standing next to a new, leather interior, ivory metallic coupe. The salesman walked up to us and said, “That sure is a beautiful color isn’t it?” My wife being a polite person said “Yes.” (false positive). To which the salesman proceeded, “I love white, my wife’s car is white and I drive a silver one. We love the lighter colors because they are easier to keep clean and, because of visibility, they are known to be safer on the road too. Also, lighter color cars are more popular and so they have a higher resale value. Let me go get the keys to this one and open it up. I’ll be right back!”

You can probably image where this story is going. My wife (who is normally a very sympathetic lady) turned to me with a look that said, “What an idiot.” What the salesman didn’t know (because he got a false positive) is that the two colors my wife was interested in were red or dark grey and the only color she was not willing to consider – was white. She was only standing next the white one because it was closest in equipment to what she would be interested in. The salesman was so busy talking about his preferences that he started “selling” without knowing her preferences. Needless to say, we didn’t buy from him and when I suggested that we could just switch salesman so we didn’t have to start all over at another store she said, “That would just be too awkward.” So not only did the salesman lose the deal the whole store lost the deal!

The moral of this story and the lesson we hope you learn:

I believe the ultimate “secret” (if there is one) to selling lies in the ability to know what questions to ask and how to ask them. This is one of the biggest distinctions between average and professional salespeople I work with. During an in-house training session I gave the class the following exercise. There are four areas to practice in order to develop strong investigation skills: their current car, the new car, the customer, and the experience.

  1. Ask questions about the vehicle they are driving now – As an exercise try to write 25 questions you could ask a customer about their current car.
  2. Ask questions about what they are looking for – Again, practice by writing 25 questions that don’t sound the same.
  3. Ask questions to build rapport about the customer, their job, their background – 25 questions but stay away from financial pre-qualifiers i.e., How much do you want to pay?
  4. Ask questions about their shopping experience(s) – 25 unique questions that will uncover the good, the bad, and the ugly about buying a car from their perspective.

If you complete the exercise (by the way most salespeople can’t complete it – not that they won’t try –which is also true, but actually can’t come up with 100 questions) you can use them to build relationship and rapport. Time yourself to see how long it takes to come up with them. An average salesperson can’t do the exercise given 15 minutes per category, while you should be able to in 5 minutes per category. The salesperson with the most comprehensive “tool bag” can fix more situations and solve more problems!

I hope this advice is useful. If you like what you read, share it with someone you think will enjoy it. I would also appreciate any feedback, constructive criticism, and questions.


  1. Eric Tcuker on April 23, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    This is a great blog. After reading this I realized that I have done these myself. I ask questions but not to that extent. I would ask questions find something that we had in common about the car and harp on that so to speak, neglecting to ask more questions that would help me close the deal later. I am going to try harder to implement more questions into my info gathering. Thanks for the tip.

  2. Andrew Melamed on September 30, 2016 at 8:36 am

    The truth hurts. Get over it and kick some butt. Another great post. Thank You!

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