How to Recognize The 3 Stages of The Purchase Journey

Changing up Your Sales Approach

One of Henry Ford’s most famous quotes about the Model T was, “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants, so long as it is black.”

That sentiment, though cheeky, has carried forward over a hundred years, establishing the marketing and sales’ techniques that we still see today.

After Henry Ford’s famous quote, cars started coming with different options. When a guy came to the lot, you’d ask him a little bit about his needs like what he was towing. You would review the four different cab sizes and the three bed sizes, three different engine options, two transmissions, and four rear differentials. You’d go through it all to figure out what they needed.

The process has changed with the advent of the internet.

We’ve said before that we need to assume a client has been referred to us through an internet source. That assumption makes it easier to suss out their needs and get to the heart of their deepest desires.

The meet and greet and qualification process happen online before you meet the client. YOU are actually the one going into the conversation blind. You don’t know whether they’re ready for a presentation or a test drive. It represents a monstrous shift that many salespeople haven’t caught up with, but have to if they wish to remain in the industry. 

As sophisticated salespeople however, we know there’s more to the story. Even though 80% of the clients that come into the dealership have visited the website, that doesn’t necessarily define WHERE they are on the buying cycle.

They’ve done the research online.

Stop qualifying the customers to your product. They’re in your dealership already. Don’t use the old qualifying questions because they often know exactly what they want.

We can’t just start by asking who the car is for, how they’re going to drive it, or even if they will be the primary driver. You need to more observant and identify where they are in the sale’s process.

3 positions on the sales process and how to identify them

1. Research

When considering your chances of selling a car to a client, this is the optimum stage for them to be in. When clients are higher in the funnel, you have a better chance of creating a solid rapport which will translate into a better chance of selling to them and making more on that sale.

These buyers will indicate they haven’t done much or any online research. They may have driven to the dealership with a different brand than those you sell and their questions will be more vague, unsure of the specific products that you sell or the competition for that matter. The body language from a client in this group will be more reserved, but curious. The demographic will likely be older as younger buyers have a longer time horizon for purchasing and do considerably more research.


2. Shop (middle)

You aren’t just buying your own clients’ data, you’re buying data from your competition too. That means that while it will be good for the first few hundred dealerships that sign up for the service, over time, the market is saturated to a point that it will no longer work.

In the end, your marketing will cost more and won’t go as far. Both Google Adwords and Facebook Marketing will cost more and more just to get in front of the same people because more dealerships will be looking to buy that data. In essence, collectively, every dealership that signs up for the service will be responsible for running up the price of that service like an auction with no limits.

3. Buying portion

The language used by someone in the bottom portion of the process is very direct and much faster. They will be asking about the specific details such as colour and trim or about specific promotions and time frames. They are legitimately prepared with cash in hand as long as you don’t screw it up. Look for cues like their wallet or cheque book in their hand or paperwork for a credit ap.

Adapt or fail

Research indicates that old sales techniques not only fail to produce results, but often push clients away. It isn’t just convenience that leads people to do their research online. Many feel pressured in a dealership when the salesperson jumps them further up the purchase process than they really are.


Source: Autotrader

As salespeople, our job is to change our qualifying questions to clearly define where they are on the journey so they feel the process is fair for them and for everyone. We can certainly assume they came from the internet, but we need to do some research by putting ourselves in their shoes and determining what info to present. We need to adapt our process to the buyer, speeding it up only as we determine where they are in the journey.


Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more content.

Jason Harris


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