I’ve had the interesting and simultaneously annoying experience of car shopping recently.
A couple of months ago I was running errands — trying to find copies of The E-Myth at various bookstores around Denver since I had waited until the last minute to decide to use the book for our Regional Developer Training. While we waited to turn left into a Barnes & Noble parking lot, an otherwise nice 18-year-old, recent graduate gunned his SUV while looking for songs on his iPod. He failed to notice my car’s blinking turn signal and rammed into my Mercedes at probably 35 mph and accelerating.
His SUV looked like it had been in a war. His ‘deer catcher’s’ front end was torn off. Smoke was emitting from the engine. His front bumper was gone, hood crumpled. His SUV wasn’t drivable in the slightest. In my case, my Mercedes had a dent in the rear quarter panel; the bumper was unharmed, except the plastic cover, which snapped back into position. Myself, Rob, and the young man waited for the police, and during that time, I consoled the young man.
The Economy Sucks?
Afterward, I proceeded to purchase a couple more copies of the book and drove to our next errand. Well, the insurance company also totaled my car, giving us approximately $10,000 more than the repair estimate. Mercedes parts can cost more than expected, and some of the electronics can increase the price by a lot. So, now I’m looking for a replacement car of course; I needed it to get to places.
It’s interesting because I know those car companies, dealerships, and salespeople have been whining for a year now about how bad their industry has become because the economy sucks. Anyway, on to my point. We’ve been visiting many BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus dealerships, looking for a mid-size, 4-door sedan with an all-wheel drive. As we were looking for a specific type of car, this then narrows the choices down to a Lexus GS 350 AWD, BMW 5-Series (BMW 535ix) and another Mercedes E Series (E500 4-Matic).
After visiting a bunch of dealerships, you would think these guys are semi-retired and really would prefer to collect the cars rather than sell them. What do I mean? Well, Jodi (my now ex), seems determined to get the BMW 535ix. (The totaled Mercedes was originally her car; I primarily drove the Porsche Turbo). We went to a huge new dealership in South Denver. It has a huge inventory and a multi-million-dollar facility in a location between Cherry Creek and Highlands Ranch (a rich area of town).
Or are there Missed Opportunities?
We’ve been to that dealership three times now. Each time, we’ve visited, we’ve dealt with salespeople who did the following:
- Kept us waiting for what seemed like hours (in reality, we probably waited around 15-20 minutes before being helped by them).
- Had no idea what inventory they had.
- Had no idea how the features and functions of the cars they were selling worked.
- Spent one to three hours with us, including test-drives in at least one car.
After all the above, none of the three salesmen asked for my name, address, phone number or email. No one asked any standard background questions, i.e., what I do for a living or why we were shopping now. None of them even asked what car we wanted specifically so they could find it for us. There was no follow up afterward. It was clear the company had no system or method in place to follow up with their customers to see if they were interested in a car from their dealership. This dealership must have millions of dollars invested in its facility, huge overhead, and a huge inventory.
Most of the time, its salespeople were hanging out in the dealership. (Several of them played with my daughter’s new puppy during one trip.) I’m sure the dealership owners were sitting in their offices, bitching about how the economy sucks, and worrying about the inevitable downturn.
I’m betting he spent 100 times more money on the facility in comparison to the service and sales training for the staff members. Indeed, this was an incredibly stupid move on his part. We needed a new car and walked into the dealership with a check in my pocket; ready to buy. We were as ‘live’ a prospect as exists.
Getting It Right
Anyway, we visited another dealership. The salesperson was a retired chief from the Air Force. He asked background questions and did his best to determine exactly what Jodi wanted (not that I could recognize the difference of the three she hadn’t liked. The wood trim on the door was the wrong color or orientation, or some such thing).
This salesperson followed up after we had left the dealership. He researched new and used inventory which was on its way to the dealership. He called whenever a new car was headed for prep, as well as generally built rapport with us, followed up and has essentially done his job extremely well.
I’ll tell you sincerely even if it’s not exactly the car we wanted, I still wanted to buy it from him. If the other dealership has exactly the right car at the right price, then I’d be disappointed and frustrated to buy it from there.
How does this apply to you?
Well, your customers are more persuaded by your follow-up, sincerity, competence, and care for them than your technical proficiency — certainly more than price. At the first dealership, I’d haggle for every penny. At the second, I’d want to be quoted a reasonable price, but wouldn’t be pushing for every penny.
Oh, and at the second dealer, the salesperson has had several cars arrive just this week, and they were sold before we had time to look at them. Are you sure the economy sucks?