The word control is used in many sales meetings and seminars in car retailing and for sales people it is a vital ingredient to ensuring that customers ‘do it their way’ and if correctly used can actually be good for both parties. With so much information available and so many different opinions, not to mention the eye watering list of potential models and specs on offer it is easy for sales people and buyers to become confused and frustrated when trying to reach a common ground.
Even though a large amount of research can be undertaken on line, without the need to engage with a dealer, the whole process of buying a car can now take many hours. However because of the choices on offer it is vital for the customer to encounter a salesperson who is both knowledgeable about the products he is selling but capable of ensuring the car buyer actually buys one that suits their needs.
We often hear examples of customers who buy a car only to realise they have made a massive mistake because it was not, after all, what they wanted or perhaps could afford, but because the correct conversations did not take place during the sales process.
These unnecessary and costly mistakes only serve to increase resentment from buyers about car dealers in general. Of course empowering oneself before committing to a large financial outlay is vital and should be obvious, so why do so many people get it wrong? Why are they so often sold the wrong car with the wrong spec at the wrong price?
A theory is that because customers are asked for so much information now they become inpatient and just want to get the thing over and done with and drive away in their new car. Sales people have a responsibility to ensure that customers are in full possession of all the facts, including total cost and funding solutions, before they put pen to paper. But buyers also have a responsibility to make sure they are happy with all the answers.
We often talk of the “sales process” and every car dealer will have their own interpretation of it to ensure staff give themselves the best chance of making a sale, but if customers believe it is part of a sales ploy and are not comfortable with where the process is taking them they will often give misleading answers in order to get away from the showroom without being sold to.
For example if a salesperson is discussing a monthly payment and they say to a customer “how much are you comfortable paying per month?”, a customer may say £200 and the reply from the salesperson will often be ‘up to?’ Basically this is a technique used as a way of getting the customer to increase it by say £20 which could then enable the sale person to get a more profitable deal. Now £20 more doesn’t sound a lot but over 36 months it’s over £700!
Also when a salesperson says “If I can get you that deal, will you sign up today?” It is not necessarily wrong but can make some customers feel uncomfortable around this kind of selling tactic.
Control can also be positive. When a buyers needs are qualified the ground rules are established and whilst leading questions may be asked, they should always be designed to give the buyer a choice and not make them commit to something they may not really want.
One of the long term problems in the car business has been short term thinking, and the way targets are set builds pressure on everyone to deliver often at the expense of ensuring the customer gets the best car for his money.
The other thing to consider, of course, is that unlike many businesses there is the unique ability to be able to haggle on price the way you couldn’t in Tesco’s and for customers who enjoy driving a hard bargain and a determination to win at all costs the car business is a great platform.
What we need is some balance and a controlled yet flexible selling environment ensuring that for every step of the process customers are happy with where it’s going and if they want to go from A to Z and miss out E, F, G and H and they are fully aware of the consequences of doing so, then that should be fine
If a salesperson wants to make sure that a car buyer is 100% happy with the choice they are going to make and the price they are likely to pay, it could save many more examples, of which there are hundreds every week, of customers being sold the wrong car.