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How to Identify (and Avoid!) Tire Kickers in Your Dealership

The term “Tire Kicker” has been adopted by virtually anyone that sells any type of product or service. Today, we are bringing that term back to its origin… The auto dealer’s showroom.

We’ve all been there. A prospect arrives and spends a while peering into vehicles on the lot, checking out different models, and yes, kicking tires. You give them the best possible sales experience, and they still walk away empty handed. Why does this happen, and how can you avoid wasting your valuable time?

In order to know which prospects are worthwhile, you first need to identify which ones are not.

What is the definition of a Tire Kicker?

Buying Intent + Decision Making Power = Good Prospect

Without both, it’s a tire kicker

How is a Tire Kicker damaging to the sales process?

  • They drain your resources

  • They waste your time

  • They clog up your sales funnel


The Top 5 Types of Tire Kickers, and How to Identify Them:

1. The Researcher - A Glorified Fact-Finder

This person has a LOT of questions.They seem to be making a mental Pros & Cons list during your meetings, but never get around to making a decision. Perhaps they don't have the authority to make the decision in the first place, but they are going to bring back their research to the person who does.

The best way to avoid investing too much time with a “Researcher” is to do your own fact-finding early on. Ask if they’re buying on behalf of a company, or if their spouse needs to weigh-in on this financial decision. Unless your prospect has the authority to sign on their own, save your pitch for the actual decision-makers. It will never have the same impact after it has gone through the filter of a Researcher.

Try saying, “It looks like we’re on the right track with what you’re looking for. Let’s set up a time for you and _____________ to come back, and then we can get you into something that fits all your needs.”

2. The Early Bird - Not Ready to Buy, But Happy to Look

This type of prospect is looking to weigh their options long before they have to make a decision. Maybe they have several months left on their lease; or perhaps they are still saving for their next vehicle. Whatever the case may be, the “Early Bird” can’t, and won’t, make a purchase today.

Avoid investing a lot of your time with this person, but do keep in mind that when they ARE ready to buy, you want them coming back to you -- not to your competition. Instead, add them to an automated email list. Hit them with frequent points of contact that will nurture the relationship, without wasting your time.

Try saying, “I know it’s a little early right now, but I think we are on the right track! I’ll get you my card, and when you’re ready to take a more serious look, I’ll be happy to meet with you again.”

3. The Hobbyist - Buying the Car is the Fun Part

This person has zero urgency. They love the process of shopping, and may even consider sales appointments to be a fun little hobby to do on a Saturday afternoon. They love to chat, and they LOVE a good test drive, but when it’s nearing the end of the appointment, they ask to come back again. Similar to the “Early Bird”, the “Hobbyist” may buy in the future, but they will take their time doing it.

This type of Tire Kicker is not the worst. They clearly love the car-buying experience, and probably start shopping the moment they lose that new-car-smell. Customer retention is key, and you will want to nurture this client relationship as best you can. However, you will still want to avoid spending so much time that the value of their sale diminishes.

To best handle this type of prospect, you must show friendly strength. Be respectful, but don’t allow them to use up too much time kicking at tires. Try saying, “I think we’ve found a great couple of options for you to consider. When you’re ready to get into something new, give me a call!” This is a great way to avoid booking another lengthy sales appointment before they are ready to make a purchase.

4. The Cheapskate - Kicking Tires and Pinching Pennies

Probably the most common of all Tire-Kickers, these customers will hem and haw over every detail, trying to find the best possible deal. Gotta love a bargain hunter… The challenge here is deciphering whether or not your prospect has been shopping elsewhere, and if they are simply using your offer as leverage with other stores.

These customers will ask a lot of price-centred questions, perhaps before even seeing the vehicle in mind. They will continually ask what you can “do for them” to bring the price down. Be considerate of their budget, but be aware that if they are not valuing your product, or your time as a professional, the lead may be a dead-end. Don’t feel guilty shutting it down, if you only anticipate more wasted time.

Try saying, “With your current budget in mind, I think we have looked at all the options I can offer you at this time. If you would like to take some time to think about it, I’d be glad to revisit your options in the future.”

5. The Beginner - Unsure what they want, and how to get it

This person is likely not very familiar with the process of buying a vehicle. They might need you to hold their hand and help them figure out what they need. Often, they will bring along a trusted friend as “back-up”, who will try to work against you in many ways.

Here are some tips to turn the “Beginner” into a paying customer:

  • Asking open-ended questions that help you learn what they need.

  • Be upfront about cost. The “Beginner” may not know what to expect, and the last thing you want is sticker shock at the end of a long sales appointment.

  • Give them the best experience possible. Taking a scary experience, and making it easy and comfortable, is a surefire way to create lasting relationships.

Approaching sales appointments with an honest, realistic mindset:

With time and practice, a skilled salesperson will be able to identify the various types of Tire Kickers within minutes. You’ll know which prospects are likely to waste your time, and which ones are worthwhile. The sooner you can remove a hopeless prospect from your pipeline, the sooner you will close a deal with a more qualified lead.

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