By David Kain, Kain Automotive

One of the most common questions we encounter with our training has to do with whether it is best to price in your first response to each online vehicle request.

The advice you receive sometimes depends on who is providing it. For example, many automakers and lead provider reps recommend dealers provide pricing immediately in the first email response to a customer.

This often leads to a low-ball strategy that frustrates the customer and the dealer and can sour a relationship right off the bat. To understand why some manufacturers and lead generators recommend this strategy, you need to explore their incentive for this advice.

If every dealer that receives a lead provides a price immediately, then the manufacturer and lead source will likely have one of the many dealers who receive the lead sell a vehicle.

Sometimes the sale occurs at a lower gross than the dealer wishes because of the all-or-nothing strategy, even if a lower gross is not an intended outcome. This allows automakers and lead sources to claim a high close rate even if the dealer does not benefit as much financially.

The manufacturer and the lead source pocket their income from the dealer for the vehicle and for the lead respectively, then go about their business generating more prospects.

This is not a conspiracy to drive down gross for dealers but a market reality that we witness each day when this strategy is used.

So, if you want to sell more cars for less money, provide a price first and foremost. If you want to sell more cars for more money (or a fair profit), consider some alternative approaches.

When considering those, think of what is best for the online automotive shopper. Although it is tempting to suggest that the lowest price is always best for the consumer, there are plenty of times when this is not the case.

For instance, if you decided to rappel down a steep cliff with the lowest-price rope or sky dive with the cheapest parachute you would want to make sure that the company behind the products had an exceptional reputation and the products were high-quality but being offered, for whatever reason, at an exceptional price.

But if you as a buyer decide reputation is not important and price is all that matters, this may provide comfort until the product fails.

Perhaps what an online shopper really needs is someone who takes a personal interest in what they need and helps them make a great purchase decision.

Automotive professionals (hopefully that’s what you consider yourself) take pride in assisting customers in the purchase of a vehicle versus just selling them a vehicle.

Another important consideration from a tactical standpoint is that you should always try to call the prospect first before you send an email so you are able to learn in a live conversation what motivates them.

This allows you to quickly determine how you can best help. I think you will be happily surprised to learn that price takes a back seat when you genuinely try to help people.

Never would I want you to hide from price; in fact, you should be proud of the price you provide, especially when combined with the great level of service you can offer.

In any case, there is never an “always-right” or “always-wrong” approach.

The best approach is to size up the request, be empathetic with the prospect and work hard to separate yourself from the pack by providing what customers need — a caring and knowledgeable sales professional offering a well-built, well-backed and competitively priced vehicle that they can enjoy for as long as they possess it.

This article reprinted with permission from Kain Automotive.