Monday, January 3, 2011

Why Do Customers Have Such a Negative Opinion of Car Salespeople?

My Guess: Training(or a lack thereof)
            I was sitting with strangers in my girlfriend's parents' house over the holidays and running out of casual observations about the Christmas lights, forecasted snow, people's travel plans etc... and just as the slight feeling of awkwardness crept over the ever silent room, one of my new found friends fell back on an old reliable line to break the silence, "So, What do you do for a living?"

Snapped back into the moment, I replied "Me? I train automotive salespeople."

My new friend's plan had worked.  The room erupted with conversation and questions about exactly what and how our company helps salespeople, leading to further discussion about the automotive business in general.  The older, veteran men in the group recounted old war stories from battles on car lots where they were up against the last commanders of old school sales tactics.  You know the stuff; sawdust in the transmission, rolling back the odometer, no truth in lending acts and more...

And despite the passing time, and the group's own acknowledgment that "that sort of thing happened along time ago", the scars haven't healed. 

The group goes on to tell me more about how much they dislike the car buying process, car salesmen, and other less than positive experiences they've had buying cars.  But when I would get my chance to reply,  and ask what specifically the salesperson did wrong, or why the purchase was so bad(purely for my own curiosity and training's sake), they actually had very few legitimate concerns. (I'm going to save the best reason they gave me for another topic entirely because it's a very interesting argument.)  But the final question and answer went something like this:

Me "So if I hear you guys right, you've had some bad experiences along time ago, and while all of you don't know exactly what rubbed you the wrong way and all the reasons why, you all dislike the car buying process?"

And the Chorus of "Yes".

I had closed them on the idea, but I didn't even have to, they all came in that night with a negative opinion of the automotive buying process.  Why?

Anyone reading will probably agree that customer's have a bad impression because they have to deal with a typical salesperson at the typical dealership.  I assume the reason they couldn't tell me everything specifically that had gone wrong with their experience was because they stopped counting.  And the sad thing is, most all of the salespeople that messed up, are good people stuck in mediocrity, or worse, because they haven't been empowered with the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to be professional.   
They haven't been properly trained and supported.
So even though most of the old tricks are gone, and the last of the sawdust has long cleared from the air of the automotive industry, our reputation has barely improved, if at all.  It's because the salespeople still aren't GREAT and it's due to a lack of training. If you're running a store, managing or selling, I want you to be conscious of this and use this to your advantage.  I didn't write this just to bash the automotive industry, and there's a few tips in here for you salespeople to use....

Use your bad reputation amongst many to show that you're nothing like the rest.

 I could write a long list, but I'm just going to give you 5 things I do, to be conscious of, and set myself apart from the majority of others.

1.  Ask The Customer Why (not every time, but let them know you're genuinely interested in helping them make the right choice to fit their specific needs.  Don't just give yeah, uh-huh, ok, responses during your investigation(you do one right))

2.  Keep Them Posted (never disappear or make the customer wait without notice)

3.  Don't Ever Lie (so many salespeople blow deals with customers because they fake the facts. Most customers don't like confrontation and don't say anything, they just don't buy from you either.  People have done research and often come in trying to see if you are dishonest or not, and like to do a little fact checking.)

4.  Watch Your Mouth (a dealership showroom mirrors the acoustics of a small concert venue, sound echoes, and customers hear things you wouldn't want them to.  Don't be rude and blow your or someone's deal. Be professional at work.  Whatever you do, don't talk anything observational about customer's while they are there.  They can hear you!)

5.  Crash The Party (nothing looks worse than a bunch of car guys standing around, joking it up, eating, smoking etc... while the customer is there trying to complete one of the biggest and most serious purchases of their life. Have the courtesy to break the huddle and go try to make your own play while other salespeople are with customers.  

These things may seem incredibly simple, but do them on a routine basis and watch the results.

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