Here’s why this whole debacle came about:
The lease on my current car is expiring and I’m not interested in continuing it. I’ve been exploring my options for the year 2020 by doing Google searches on the “Top cars of 2020”, “Cars to look out for in 2020” and so on. And you know what happens when you search for things to buy on Google – you get hit with ads, ads, and more ads. From Facebook to Instagram, all I see are ads for cars. Consequently, I ended up filling in a few forms – one for Maserati’s “Test drive” ad campaign and one for Porsche’s. It’s been a week since I contacted Maserati and 3 days since I sent in one to Porsche – no calls, emails, or texts just yet.
Now, what’s interesting is that these are big companies with substantial budgets for marketing and a significant number on their sales team to deal with the influx of daily inbounds. The marketing team has done a great job targeting potential clients through their ads but the sales team has failed to follow up. How do you sell cars that are worth almost as much as houses if you do not chase every lead that comes through your funnel?
LO AND BEHOLD, there is a part two to this!
After a birthday party over the weekend, I found myself at the edge of the Kuala Lumpur city center. This got me thinking, “Why don’t I go and check out the nearby showrooms?”. I headed to one and I rolled up to a Porsche showroom in my wife’s Peugeot hatchback (my car was in the workshop). I parked right next to the entrance and I walked in. At first sight, there were five to six different salespeople huddled around the reception counter. Out of the group, not one approached me. Two reasons ran through my mind:
- Have they qualified me simply by the car that I drove in?
- Are they ignoring my presence as it is now 5 PM and they close at 6 PM?
Not wanting to waste the time spent traveling to get there by leaving straight away, I walked around the showroom to look at the cars they had. Still, no one approached me. By now, the salesman in me was boiling with dislike – this is not how you sell cars! I went up to the counter to ask them about one of the models they had on display (the Porsche Panamera). Only then did they acknowledge my presence and then asked me to register my details. However, they did not understand my needs from the get-go.
What a good car salesman would start with:
- “Welcome/ Good morning / Good evening. My name is XXX. How shall I address you?”:
This is general. Build rapport and a connection with your customer. 63% of consumers expect personalization as a standard of service so when you know how to address your customer, you will be able to create a more personalized experience rather than using the generic “Sir/Ma’am” greetings.
- “Is this your first visit to this dealership?”:
Through this basic question, you will be able to figure out if they’ve already spoken to someone on your team and if they are here to address other, previously missed out objections.
They could take it one step further by asking:
- “What features are you looking for in your vehicle?”:
This is where you can do two things: narrow down their needs and show off your product knowledge. By asking what they like and what they don’t, you are showing your interest in learning about them, not in schooling them on something you think they need. If they are not particular or do not offer specifications that they like, you can then offer options such as, “Do you prefer a car with two or four doors? Do you need it to have a built-in GPS, a sunroof, leather seats? Is this for business, personal, or family use?”
After I stopped myself from rolling my eyes at them, I asked for one of them to explain the Panamera to me. We walked over to the car on display.
This is what they failed to do:
- Qualify and check for needs:
Not once was I asked why I needed a new car, what I use my car for most, how far I usually commute, and so on. They could have also asked if it was an upgrade that I was looking for (a nicer, less offensive way of checking my current car status). There was no analysis done to suggest the best option based on my needs.
- Have product knowledge:
When I asked for the car’s specifications, the response I got was, “Uh…wait ah…. I check first”. This made me lose confidence in the product provider (in this case the Porsche showroom) and broke whatever little connection they had made with me through conversation. The salesperson stumbled through the introduction of the car and could not answer my more technical questions.
When I mentioned that I liked to drive while controlling my music and podcasts with my Android via voice control, the salesman answered, “Oh, yes. You can’t do that with this care because it is using slightly older technology”. And… his answer ended there. No solution to the objection, no follow-up with another more attractive feature to offset the issue. Needless to say, I left without making any purchases or reservations. What’s more, I have yet to receive a follow-up call or message with regards to my visit.
Living in a small town with very few prospects in sight for a good job, Girard worked hard from the young age of 9 onwards in multiple jobs (usually more than one at a time). He found his calling in selling cars and sold six cars a day, every day throughout his career in the car sales industry. This amounts to 13,001 cars and is sometimes more than any dealership can sell in total. He was awarded the Guinness Book of Records title for “World’s Greatest Retail Salesman” for 12 years straight. His tip? Build a connection with your customers. He is well known for sending 13 cards a year to all his customers and prospects – one a month and one extra for birthdays. This meant that every month, they would be reminded of him and his cars that were on sale. It’s even easier to do this now with emails, Whatsapp blasts, Facebook, and so on. The question is, are you willing to make the effort?
It’s not all doom and gloom, here’s an example of good service:
After my difficult time at the Porsche showroom, I stopped at a random car dealer in Sungai Besi (you know the ones that don’t specialize but instead have different brands under one roof). As I slowed down to ease into a parking spot, the manager waved at me from afar before making his way towards me. The minute I got out of the car, he introduced himself and asked if I had a specific car brand or model in mind. He then directed me to his car salesman.
Here are the things they did right:
- They approached me before I approached them = Proactivity.
- The manager introduced himself confidently and asked for my name before addressing me as such = Creating rapport.
- They asked me what I was looking for = Qualifying and checking my needs.
- I was directed to the relevant salesman = Ensuring quality service.
- The salesman knew his products = Excellent product knowledge.
Their service was what you would expect from big-brand car dealerships. They had an expansive knowledge of their products, they were able to provide different options with similar features, could tell me the pros and cons of different models, and – the most important point – they cared enough to sell to my needs rather than focusing on selling products. The sales cycle for cars is a long one and can only be shortened by constant follow-ups and good service. Customers would hate to think that they are buying the car from you and spending a huge sum of money only to be able to expect after-sales service as bad as it was before the sale. It is highly unlikely that you will get the deal if this was the case.