Under the old scripted system, a customer asking what a trade was worth might have been required to test drive a vehicle first, Kramer said. Or an employee would be required to fill out paperwork before a customer could visit the F&I office.
But that system went haywire when a customer was buying a vehicle online. Staffers taught to adhere to a script would find themselves unsure of their next steps. Dave O'Brien, president of Quantum5, a training company that worked with the dealership to address the issue, gave the example of a customer who wanted to jump straight to buying a car without a test drive.
"COVID really kind of finalized blowing up steps and processes and scripts," O'Brien said.
Customers wanted to buy a vehicle their way, so Kramer tapped O'Brien for a new strategy, yielding the unscripted approach.
Dealership staff were taught how to think instead of what to do, Kramer said. The store's general sales manager has described it as, "They just talk to human beings like a human being."
Transactions proceed on the customer's lead. If a customer wants to know the interest rate, the dealership will oblige, Kramer said.
There's a reason buyers want to take a particular step — such as a trade appraisal or credit application — at a certain point in the transaction, he noted.
After meeting customers on their terms, O'Brien said, sales staffers now focus on five elements: developing trust; learning the customer's motivation; presenting value; addressing objections, but in more frictionless and smarter ways than in the past; and building value.
Kramer said that, in retrospect, the dealership should always have proceeded in this organic fashion rather than follow word tracks. The old technique endured out of routine, passed down to him without closer examination.
"I don't think that it was ever the best way," Kramer said.
The new technique has worked both in sales and in the F&I office.