I have spent the last few weeks as an observer in several car showrooms during various sales events. I was asked by the MD of a business to independently identify the good and the bad in their showrooms and highlight examples of best practice which could be shared and hopefully improve the buying experience for customers and increase volume and profitability for the business.
No pressure then!
But being on the front line is where most car people will tell you they would like to be.
I went to my first appointment, where I was already known to most of the guys, and happily joined in with the pre-sale breakfast of greasy bacon roll and a hot mug of tea while listening to the management team whip the sales execs into a frenzy.
It was very much hype and passion and making sure that no customer left the showroom unless absolutely everything had been done to sell them a car on the day. As the Sales Manager said “I don’t want anyone in here signing the ‘be back book’” which of course is the standard answer of the unsure customer; that they will be back to buy the car. “If they don’t deal when they are hot they usually don’t deal” he added.
The incentives for both customer and sales exec were re-iterated and the big hitters verbally squared up to each other in order to gain some kind of advantage towards being top dog and take home the big prize. The “big prize” in this case was an all expenses paid weekend for two in a posh hotel. A cool prize but which, of course, could only be won if the whole team achieved the pre-set target.
So the site was dressed for battle, the massive savings stickers were everywhere and the appointments were all confirmed.
It should come as no surprise that the sales guys with most enthusiasm and energy seemed to have the most success and the customers always seemed to be sitting at their desks but it was the sheer hype and excitement which convinced me of the success of this promotion. Although there were big hitters and steady eddies in the sales team everyone seemed to enjoy it and they managed to sell 18 cars on day one of their promotion. From what I could see most customers seemed happy with the cars they had bought and the deals they had negotiated.
There was of course those buyers who, no matter what the advertised discount was, always asked for more and it struck me that today’s car buyer seems far more empowered and confident when negotiating a deal than I remember. Although not all got what they wanted many drove a hard bargain and enjoyed even bigger savings as a result, which proved the old adage it doesn’t cost anything to ask as the worse that can be said is no!
My experience of a modern day car sale was not a great deal different to how it used to be, except the sales people are younger and dress a bit smarter and are probably more customer aware and process driven. But the basics were the same, keep it simple make it fun, provide lots of choices and offer genuine savings and people buy lots of cars. The only problem, as the sales manager remarked whilst we were enjoying our post match pint, was that it was such a great day shouldn’t we have a sale every week.
Of course too many sales events mean they get boring and ultimately non-effective as a “Super” sales event is then required and so on and so on.
Then again try telling that to DFS!