How to Compete With an Offer While the Customer Is in Your Dealership

May 1, 2024

A customer talking to a car dealer in a showroom

Negotiation is an art form. Mastering this craft is essential to keep your trade-in business optimized. From communication skills to pricing knowledge, a lot goes into creating a successful trade-in conversation with a new or existing customer. In this article, we will outline 7 tips to help you with in-person negotiations so you can work to bring your dealership to the next level. 

7 Tips for Negotiating With Customers in Your Dealership

1. Master Your Communication Skills

It’s important for the negotiation to feel like a two-way conversation, not a competition to “win” the discussion. Practice communication skills that are essential for the art of negotiating, including: 

  • Identifying your goals and non-negotiables/bottom line ahead of time so you know where you want the conversation to go.
  • Emphasizing your delivery—you should aim to be likable, kind, and friendly so the customer feels welcome.
  • Keeping a calm tone—don’t escalate your tone or voice.
  • Paying attention to the customer’s focus and tailoring the pitch so they feel their needs are being met.
  • Explaining why each point you make is important and showing what’s in it for them.1 

2. Leverage Data 

Do your research before you start putting numbers on the table. It’s important to present the customer with data-backed evidence that will support your pitch and valuation. Make use of various online appraisal tools, like ClearCar, and calculate the expected costs you will incur from repairs so you can factor those into the price you name. Customers today are entering negotiations with more information because they are able to look up appraisals online ahead of coming into the dealership. Expect that they will be more prepared to name a price in an accurate ballpark than they were in the past. 

3. Explain the Full Picture 

If you have to present a much lower number than the customer is asking for, be sure to go into detail about all of the reasons—without taking on a condescending or insulting tone. Outline the repair costs, business cycle at your location, market demand, and time you expect the vehicle to sit on the lot. With a complete set of background information, most customers are more accepting of the number you identify and will be willing to meet halfway on the offer.

4. Personalize Your Offer 

To demonstrate that you are truly listening to the customer, it’s important to personalize the offer to fit their needs. Are they planning on getting a new vehicle from your dealership? If so, be open to concessions around minor repairs or changes to get the best outcome for both of you, and consider offering perks, like a free oil change. Identify the customer’s priorities are and build your pitch around those details so everyone comes away feeling valued.2

5. Be Respectful 

When you are explaining the flaws with the customer’s vehicle, don’t go overboard. If the customer starts to feel insulted or undermined, they will likely seek to take their business elsewhere. Be sure to keep a positive outlook in the discussion, even while you are being realistic about the downfalls of their vehicle and the areas you will need to address in the repair process.

6. Acknowledge Unique Features 

As a way of balancing out the flaws you identify with the car, be sure to compliment the positive areas, such as a well-maintained interior or a unique or desirable exterior color. These compliments, and acknowledgment of the customer’s good intentions, will help build trust and a positive rapport that makes it more likely to land a sale.3

7. Ease Customers’ Concerns

Many people consider their vehicle to be one of their main assets, so it’s understandable that selling it can be a nerve-wracking experience. If customers have questions about the process, paperwork, or implications, be sure to answer them clearly, or take them to a colleague with the full set of information. This will also help customers have an overall positive experience and seek to work with your dealership in the future.2 

Take the Car Appraisal Process to the Next Level

ClearCar is a vehicle appraisal tool that dealers can add to their websites to make it easier for potential customers to get estimated trade-in values for their car. Clear Car sends trade-in customers a link to submit self-guided photos of their vehicle, capturing the true vehicle condition. This can help ease the negotiation process, as both parties will be starting with a common set of data for the pricing and vehicle condition. Schedule a demo to learn more today. 

  1. Accent on Business. “Top Six Communication Skills for Negotiation.” Accent on Business. Retrieved April 30, 2024. 
  2. Kelly Blue Book. 2023. “How to Compete With an Offer While the Customer is in Your Dealership.” Kelly Blue Book. Retrieved April 30, 2024.
  3. Carbly. “5 Common Dealership Mistakes When Appraising Cars.” Carbly. Retrieved April 29, 2024.