Guided Selling: Use GPS to Steer Your Customers Into Buying

Aug. 23, 2018

The late Wayne Williams was passionate about sharing his industry knowledge and selling skills with independent tire dealers to help them attain success. In his final Counter Intelligence column, he stepped Modern Tire Dealer readers through the GPS method of selling to today’s tire buyer.

Remember the saying “use your words”? I recall the first time I heard this term used by a parent and a pre-school teacher. It seemed to make so much sense to me; three simple words used to gain understanding. I thought it was genius.

At the time, I was a wholesale tire and wheel salesman.

I simply had to adopt the concept of (short) direct prompts that led to additional understanding. Wow! In short (pun intended), words have meaning. The right words add more meaning, and the right words used in the right order lead to greater understanding. If your job at a tire store is selling (and almost everybody’s is), then the proper use of words that increase understanding and earn trust are invaluable.

This article is about an increasingly important skill set, the ability to guide, prompt, and sell products and services. First, a few short, simple definitions.

  • Guide: one who directs another providing helpful information.
  • Prompt: to assist by asking questions or suggesting.
  • Sell: to influence toward a course of action or the acceptance of the value of something.

Early in my sales career, I read books on selling, and through observation learned from some key mentors. Today, selling is still selling, but successful selling requires more finesse, better listening, more patience, and a more honed presentation.One of the key reasons we need better presentations is our customers have done their research (and more of it than in the past). They have heard words and gained understanding (good and bad) from those sources. This research adds to their understanding both positively and negatively, which they don’t understand. Time and again when we talk with customers, it’s clear they lack real understanding about tires and service and, again, their research hasn’t helped.

Sometimes I just want to say to people, “Listen to my words.” Well, that approach is usually too direct for most people (even family), so we must guide, prompt and sell. In short, I call it GPS.

When we use the GPS method of guiding, prompting and selling, it allows us to frame our presentation. By “frame our presentation,” I mean that we are confident in our knowledge (product and presentation), and confident that we can determine where the customer is coming from so we can use the GPS method to successfully conclude a sale and provide a pleasant experience for the customer.

I have found that a truly educated customer (although rare) with a level of familiarity with the products or services is usually easier to dialog with. I’ve also found that most customers are agnostic when it comes to tire and service, which is precisely why the GPS method works. Studies show that customers want friendly and helpful information from someone they can trust.

Let’s look at a few simple guiding statements and prompt­ing-type questions that may help in your day-to-day selling. The GPS method opens with questions like, “Have you been doing any research for tires?” The customer’s response is typically, “Well, yeah, a little,” to which you could reply, “Do you have any questions or have you seen something interesting?” Not that the average customer is going to rattle off a bunch of accurate information, but you can make a quick evaluation regarding their knowledge and interest level.

Now, an enthusiast may come back with some good questions and interests that help you understand where they’re at. You can then offer a comment or prompt that helps align the conversation. You may want to agree with their findings and prompt them with a suggestion or question saying, “I’ve sold those tires before on several vehicles with good success.”

I always like to get to a point of agreement early in the conversa­tion whenever possible. Once you have established agreement, it’s easier to guide using another prompt such as, “Have you heard about the new ‘Big Bubba 350’ by WizBang Tire Co.?” Prompts are easy to present, and when presented well (use your words), they increase customer confidence which, of course, leads to higher conversions.

New studies show that up to 75% of customers gather information from multiple sources (duh). You need to know what they know and what they have learned during their recent research. A lot about selling is the same and a lot has changed. Today, however, we have both more educated customers and customers who only think they are more educated because they read something online. Our job is to sell these customers daily. The GPS method will help!

Winners prompt and prompters win. ?

Wayne Williams was president of Wayne Williams Marketing, a marketing and branding company with emphasis on retail “counter intelligence” located in La Habra, Calif. He had been writing for MTD since 2010.

To read past Counter Intelligence articles, see:

'Go Online,' They Said, "It's Easier': We're Caught in the Transformational Global Vortex

Branding Is a Beacon: The TIme Is Right for You to Rethink and Rebrand

We Are Retailers: We Must Keep an Eye on the Details in Retail

Simple Truths in Retailing that Never Change

About the Author

Wayne Williams

Tire retailing expert Wayne Williams was president of ExSell Marketing Inc. and longtime author of MTD’s popular “Counter Intelligence” column. He died in July 2018.