The Kiss Method
Car dealers may use many types of sales strategies to control their customers. However, the most common is known as the “KISS” Method.
“K.I.S.S” is an acronym for “Keep It Simple Stupid.” When the salesman employs this method, he will behave as if he is too stupid to answer the customer’s questions. In other words, by acting stupid, he won’t have to answer any questions that he doesn’t wish to answer.
This allows him to move though a predefined “step by step” sales process without getting sidetracked.These steps of the sales process are to be performed in a specific order; one step must be completed before the next is attempted.
For example, the salesman may be at a step during the sale that requires the customer to test-drive the car and the salesman has been instructed by his salesmanager that he is not allowed to discuss the price until this “test-drive” step is completed.
Unfortunately, the customer asks “What’s the monthly payment on this car?” Using the “KISS” method, the salesman will respond by acting stupid, saying “I can’t calculate monthly payments in my head. If I could, I probably would be the manager...First, let’s take the car for a test-drive and I will get that information for you when we get back.”
In the scenario above, the salesman has avoided answering the customer’s question by acting like a simpleton and has successfully kept the customer moving to the next step. Eventually, they will reach a step where they will talk about the price, but they want negotiations to occur in a controlled environment after they have performed the test drive.
The dealer uses “KISS” to better manage its sales force. Look at it this way: it is easier to teach a salesman to perform the “seven steps to a sale” than to tell them to “go sell a car.” You can read about the “car salesmen’s sevens steps” here.
The Columbo Act
The “Colombo Act” is a popular variation of the “KISS” method and is often used during price negotiations. This is when salesmen model themselves after the bumbling television character “Colombo.” In other words, they will act incompetent while actually controlling the pace and direction of the conversation.The salesman maintains control of the customer by acting as if he doesn’t possess the capacity to answer exotic questions about price and payment. Further, the salesman’s act of incompetence may give the customer a feeling of superiority that may lead him to believe falsely that he is in control. Often, customers will witness this “Colombo act” during the first part of the price negotiation step.
The “Colombo act” goes something like this: After the customer has submitted an offer, the salesman will leave the room briefly and then return immediately, scratching his head with a confused look on his face. Then he will say to the customer, “Let me get this straight, you would like to keep your payments at two hundred fifty dollars…but with only two thousand dollars down? Is that right?” By acting confused, the salesman attempts to get the customer to doubt the chances that his offer will be accepted. This in turn makes it easier for the salesman to get a monthly payment “Bump” later in the negotiations.
Another common variation of “KISS” is when the salesperson explains that he is “new” to the business and is still learning the ropes. Many veteran car salemen will tell their customers they are “brand new”. If the salesman acts like a “green-pea,” his novice abilities will entitle him to be uninformed and not required to answer any tough questions.
There are many advantages for a salesman to act as though he is a “green-pea.” For instance, when a salesman is “new,” customers tend to be empathetic and may feel compelled to help the salesman succeed. During the negotiation, the customer will witness the “brand new” salesperson battling the sales manager, trying very hard to get the buyer a good deal. This may motivate customers to increase their offers. In other words, they want to help the “new” salesman get his first sale!
Another “green pea” strategy is to obligate the customer. This goes hand-in-hand with the “KISS” method. An example of this is when the salesperson will be running back and forth and doing “whatever it takes to make a deal.” Because the salesperson is theoretically “new,” he will appear to have to work much harder to accomplish these challenges. Again, the customer then may feel obligated to the salesman because of the time and effort he has spent.
Keep in mind that most dealerships prefer to have their salespeople act “brand new” and perform limited roles. Historically, it can be a disadvantage to have salespeople who can answer all of the customer’s questions readily. Dealers know from experience that if customers can get all of their questions answered quickly, chances are they will go home to think about their purchase. The salesperson wants to sell a car on the first visit. This requires him to have control of the customers and sometimes acting simple and stupid is the best way to accomplish that.