Why does buying a vehicle have to be such a disappointment? My last two car shopping experiences have been less than pleasurable.
Three years ago my Acura TL was coming off lease and it was time to start shopping for a new car. Since my previous two vehicles had been Acura’s, I was ready for something different. My experience with Acura had always been top notch, so I guess you could say I was spoiled.
I had the itch for a convertible and decided one Saturday morning to stop by a Ford dealership. I told the salesman who greeted me that I was interested in checking out a GT convertible. He proceeded to walk me outside where he pointed out several on the lot. I informed him I would like to drive one to get a feel for the car and see if it was something I really wanted. We went back inside and he ventured off to the sales tower. When he came back he informed me that they did not have any to drive since the three they had were sold. I told him it didn’t have to be a convertible; a hard top would at least let me get a feel for the car. Back to the sales tower he went, when he returned I was informed the GT’s were sold out as well. I told him, “thanks anyways” and left. Needless to say, I was not happy about that experience.
The following Monday I ventured off to another Ford dealership in an attempt to get a proper demonstration of the Mustang. This time I got an eager salesperson willing to take me on a test drive. If what I am about to share with you does not sell you on the value of a test drive, then I don’t know what will! As I turned out of the dealership driveway I noticed the brute power of the car, it felt good! The sound of the engine was intoxicating. As I shifted through the gears, I envisioned myself driving the car down the road on a warm summer day with the top down. I was convinced even before returning to the dealership that this was the car I wanted to own. I sat down, worked out a deal that I was happy with and took delivery three days later.
I thought back to my prior experience at the other dealership and decided to write the owner a letter. I had hoped that they could learn from my experience and provide future prospects with a better experience. Three weeks went by and I heard nothing. Then one day I got a call from the GM of that Ford store. He proceeds to quiz me. One of his questions: “why didn’t you tell my sales representative that you wanted to buy one?” I told him that I didn’t know I wanted to buy the car until I drove it and fell in love with it. Then I explained to him that a customer shouldn’t have to inform the salesperson that they want to buy a car in order to be taken on a test drive. I was then verbally assaulted on the phone, which resulted in me hanging up on him. How that store remained in business as long as it did is beyond me. I am however pleased to inform you that they were forced to sell to a competing dealer who is well known for her excellent customer service.
This now brings us to the present and pending lease expiration on my Mustang. Six weeks ago I had to bring my car in for an inspection sticker. While I was waiting, I made my way to the show room to check out the new ones. To my surprise the salesperson who had sold me the car was still there. Of course I had not heard from him but once since I took delivery. I told him my lease was going to be up soon and that I would be interested in possibly leasing another one. Since he was getting ready to do a delivery, he told me he would work up some numbers and call me back later that day. After two days with no phone call I picked up the phone and called him. He apologized and said he was extremely busy and promised he would call me back shortly. Later that day he called me back and informed me that Ford was no longer leasing the Mustang. He told me that he thought they would be coming out with a program shortly and he would call me back. You guessed it, I have not heard from him since.
Last week I decided to check out the Infiniti G37 Convertible. The sales manager who runs the store was somebody I had worked with prior to becoming a trainer, so no issues with getting excellent service. They took me on a test drive and gave me a quote that was reasonable. Not being 100% sold on the car, I decided to think about it. One of the things that I did not like was the sound of the engine when operating in the higher RPM range. It sounded nothing like the Mustang which was what I was accustomed to.
After thinking about it for a few days, I decided to go with the Infiniti. On my way back to the Infiniti dealer a funny thing happened, my car somehow drove itself to a Ford dealership two miles from the Infiniti dealership. I should also mention that this Ford dealership was the one that previously owned the other Ford store where I had my prior bad experience.
I entered the showroom and after five minutes of standing around by myself, I decide to walk outside and look at a car in the front row. Another five minutes go by and still nobody to speak with. At this point I am now thinking this was a bad idea visiting this particular dealership. I started walking back to my car, but the lure of the Mustang pulled me back to the showroom. Finally somebody greets me; I proceed to tell the sales rep that my Mustang is coming off lease and that I might be interested in leasing another one. I inquired if Ford was leasing again and he was unable to answer my question. How can a Ford sales rep not know what’s going on — this is ridiculous! He has me sit down at his desk while he inquires. He comes back and tells me “no” but we do have zero percent financing with some really nice rebates, why don’t we work you up a payment on a purchase. I agreed to consider a purchase even though I’ve grown accustomed to leasing. He then asks me to fill out a form; I notice it’s a credit application. My reply: “why would you have me fill this out, I haven’t agreed to anything yet?” He tells me he needs to run my credit to figure a payment. I then told him he was @#%$&@ nuts if he thought I was going to let him run my credit before agreeing upon a deal. He then proceeds to inquire about my needs, which of course is a good plan. I tell him what I would consider for options and off he goes to see his manager. I am guessing he’s having his manager run some payments for me, but not this joker; nope, he’s off running a vehicle locater for Mustangs. So he comes back with a few vehicles which don’t even come close to what I am looking for. I then tell him “don’t you think we should agree on a price before you waste your time looking for a vehicle?”
While he’s off touching base with his manager again, I notice a Joe Verde training manual sitting on the floor behind his desk. I have to chuckle since this proves my theory that all the training in the world won’t make you a better salesperson. It takes discipline and commitment to want to get better. If there’s no accountability or measurement device in place, there’s no way you can expect improvement.
Upon his return he actually gives me what I am looking for, and surprisingly it was an attractive offer. Now he’s got my attention, I am actually thinking it’s going to be the Mustang and not the G37.
The Mustang’s had been changed a little since I bought mine, so I figured I had better drive one and see what’s new and improved. One of the things I had always disliked about my current Mustang was that the hood flexed and twisted when driving at higher speeds on the highway. The car did not have very good aero dynamics. It appears Ford fixed this issue with the newer models.
Well you’ll never guess what this guy tells me when I inform him that I wanted to drive one? Are you ready for this? “We don’t let customers drive the GT’s until they agree to buy one.” I should have just got up and walked out right then and there, but I wanted to beat some sense into this knuckle head, so I proceeded to share the story about my past experience at his sister store which they no longer owned. He then folded and agreed to take me for a test drive. When are these salespeople and managers going to realize that the test drives sell the car? Once again, I felt the strong desire to own one after the demo.
Now I had to decide, would it be the Mustang or the G37? The only thing keeping the G37 in the picture was the fact that I liked the lines and luxurious feel of the car. Cons, there was no room to store my golf clubs with the top down. Also, I wasn’t overly crazy about the sound of the engine when accelerating aggressively.
Part of me wanted to go back and drive the G37 again, but I decided to explore the Mustang more. I was close to pulling the trigger. I told the rep to see if he could get me the color combination I wanted. He came back and told me there were no cars available in black or candy apple red with a tan interior. I truly believe they were trying to sell me the car in stock which I did not want. I told him to call me if he found one and then left the dealership. I would have bought the car right then and there had they come back and told me they could get me the one I wanted. He called me ten minutes later and asked if I would consider another color and I suggested he keep looking. It’s been four days since that happened and I’ve yet to hear back from him. I don’t think he realized how close he was to selling me a car.
If he ever calls me back he’s going to get the, “you did” call since I ended up going back to the Infiniti dealer later that day and purchased the G37.
What should you take away from my experience?
- Treat customers with respect!
- Strongly suggest a demo, don’t wait for your customer to ask you.
- Do not skip steps! Sell the value in yourself, your dealership and the vehicle before quoting price!
- Do everything in your power to sell the customer while they are in your dealership.
– Managers, TO your customer before they leave since your sales rep might not always be telling you the whole story.
– Customers are often at the “tipping point” and a gifted sales team will find a way to tip the customer in their direction.
- Always follow-up with your customers no matter what you think. What you are thinking and what the customer is thinking are quite often two completely different thoughts. Bridge that gap with a follow-up conversation.
Do you have a similar experience to share? — when did you realize the test drive was crucial to the sales?