Regardless what you may think about some car salesmen, I actually used to take pride in myself as being a four square and straight kind of seller. There are only two ways of to get anywhere in the motor trade long term… Firstly, there is the quick kill approach which works at first by steam rolling every prospective punter into a sale. This seldom gains the all-important referral or repeat business customer. The other way is to simply smile, be as honest as you can and sell yourself before the car – which takes longer, but pays long-term dividends so far as customer satisfaction and personal remuneration is concerned.
If I had a pound for every time I hear people moaning and complaining about the car dealers, I wouldn’t need to work any more and I would be typing this from my entirely mortgage-free cottage near the Norfolk Broads – maybe I ought to start charging for listening. My own experience tells me that, in many of the cases, it’s the customer who has brought their angst and grief upon themselves by lying, hiding the truth or trying to (usually failing) deceive the dealer. The reason sales staff can get away with it is because we are trained to and have that sixth sense when it comes to crunching numbers – it’s that plain.
I heard one close family friend recently playing hell about being accosted in a Ford showroom when he called in to look at a Mondeo. What the jingo did the man expect? Sales folk are sometimes paid a miserably poor basic in some cases as low as £8500 – so every penny on top comes in commission of the sale. Would you be surprised if you walked into a Pride of Lions and got mauled? Exactly! So, by walking into a car showroom packed with hungry salesmen pacing the floor eyeing you up and down sizing your threat, you are, in effect, showing an interest in buying – trust me, it’s a jungle out there and only the best survive.
The usual rebuffs customers throw at a salesman include: I’m only looking. It’s not for me; it’s for a friend, I’ll be back tomorrow or I don’t have the time right now etc. By far the most well-used “Get out of Jail” statement is the old classic ‘I’ll have to speak to the wife/partner’. To be fair, this one makes absolute perfect sense. After all, can you imagine the sparks and misery bestowed upon you after returning home when initially only popping out for a shower curtain and telling your loved one you’ve bought a brand new Audi as well? This is excuse, despite being seemingly cowardly, is understandable.
There is, of course, a way around this. My own take would be to invite them back as a couple or, better still, offer to take the car round to their house to be viewed on their turf. Should the customer still make excuses or go jittery upon suggestion, you know they are a messer. All you can do then, is staple your card to a brochure and sling them out into the car park. Harsh as it may sound, we’re not there to talk but there to sell, and all I ever expect is for customers to be honest and fair. You see, the problem is that many people like to waste time and stroke their own ego by feeling important, but sometimes that can backfire.
A prime example of this came in the form of a Mr Silverbrook who wandered in to my Vauxhall dealer a few years back and made a beeline for an Arden Blue Astra Sport Hatch that was right next to my desk. He spent the usual first few moments opening and closing doors and nodding to himself in approval before I made way over and introduced myself.
A few moments of conversation transpired he could be in the market to buy after stating his current car was finance free and he was a habitual Vauxhall buyer. His licence was copied for insurance purposes (an also a nifty way of gleaning personal contact info) and we took a test drive.
Another sure fire way of knowing your punter could be genuine was the mute silence during the drive – if they chatter away like a three year old toddler about anything and everything, it’s obvious they are not concentrating on the car and just killing time or thrill seeking. Silverbrook drove hard but safely, paying attention to items like the brakes and handling, he was bonding with the car – which is the key thing. I only speak when spoken to or to point out a key feature on a test drive. It makes the punter feel confident and besides, a good car will sell itself without your pressurising banter clouding their judgement.
Arriving back at the site, I went for a trial close and he went stone cold. Sitting back at my desk, he had a worried look on his face – was he a messer after all, I wondered. ‘Shall we look at some figures?’ I suggested and with some hesitation he nodded. The car in question was a long stocker (we needed rid) so a super slick ultra cheap deal for no part exchange was put on the table – how could he refuse? During my opening chat on first contact he made no reference to his wife/mother/insignificant other so I was a bit taken aback when he stumbled and stalled like an old van stating he would need to ‘speak to the wife.’
My showroom colleague had a red hot prospect on the same car so I was damned if this one was going to slip through my fingers. He wanted to chat to the wife about the deal and maybe pop back – no good, the car would genuinely go by the next day and this was explained to him and the customer became slightly fractious accusing me of pressuring him into buying. This was not the case; it genuinely would sell by the end of the weekend to someone else so I offered him the use of my telephone and some privacy while he spoke with her. An excuse came back so I offered to run him and the car round to his gaff – more excuses!
You see, he wanted the car badly but wanted to think about his consequences before he took the plunge – that’s all. Amazingly, he then talked about some further discount on the cost. Stopping him dead in his tracks I raised my hand and said ‘go home, if your wife okays it all, come right back and I’ll see what I can do’ – this provoked a response.
By now I was bored with him but he got a bit shirty claiming he didn’t need anyone’s permission to buy a car. With this I said let’s talk and he squeezed a free first service (in reality worth about 8p) signed an order and left a plump deposit for handover a few days later.
Pretty risky you might think? Well, yes, but, while we were sitting at my desk going through figures and so on, my manager had been checking his details on our system. He had bought a used car a little while back from one of our other dealers and his mother paid his deposit. In fact, he wasn’t married either he was still living with his mother paying a token amount to her no doubt while enjoying the fruits of his well paid civil service job.
Sometimes you have to apply a little pressure to get that sale!
Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications
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