There is a tremendous change coming to the way that we retail vehicles and it has been building for some time now.                         

Killing the Golden Goose

31 August 18

Mark Kirkpatrick

The battle between showroom sales and remote selling

There is a tremendous change coming to the way that we retail vehicles and it has been building for some time now.

Many of the ‘old school’ retail motor trade console themselves with “the customer will always want to drive a car before buying”, but sadly they are wrong. The millennials drive their cars on YouTube or other similar sites. They don’t need to visit a showroom, and more importantly they don’t want to!

Let me share a recent purchase experience with you…

Dealerships: how not to do it

I usually have a four year lease but change after three. It works better for me this way because if I can’t get a deal I like I can always keep the car.

My usual dealership hadn’t contacted me and as I was driving past another of their branches I thought that I would drop in, tell them of my requirements and let them work on it.

That drop in became 1.5 hrs, rather than the 10 mins I expected. The reason is that the young salesman wanted to sell me a car there and then. I didn’t mind as he seemed to be nice enough and as an ex car salesman I have sympathy. After 1.5 hrs he was nowhere near, so I eventually left it with him.

I’m easy to deal with: I tell you what I’m prepared to pay per month and simply want some options of models. Dead easy eh? Apparently not!

The next day I got a call saying he was in my area (not too likely) and would like to show me a car. OK I thought, I like that he’s trying and as I said I am sympathetic.

He arrived with the car, and as I can’t drive at the moment due to a knee operation, he drove. I wasn’t happy with the car as it was a lower spec than the part exchange, but it would probably do if that was the best he could do.

However, he still wouldn’t give me any firm figures, rather he wanted me to commit to buying it before he would get it to my budget. Strange, as that is an important part of the decision-making criteria. I was starting to get annoyed with this ‘buy today’ approach.

That afternoon, the Business Manager phoned me and tried to get me to commit but still wouldn’t confirm the monthly cost. All I got was “we could probably do it, if you bought today”. I was starting to get really annoyed by this approach, one which I would never have adopted with my own customers.

A little later, the sales person phoned me and tried the same tactics, at this point I decided he would benefit from some advice from an ex salesperson and DP. He confessed that he was being told what to do and say by his managers.

Dealerships: the better way to treat at customer

I decided at that point to try someone else, so I phoned a salesperson who had been recommended to me but who was over 100 miles away.

This was a great experience. I told him my budget, he said he’d work out some figures and come back to me the next day with the best vehicle he could get in my budget. He then asked me, budget aside, what I would really like.

The next day he came back to me and offered me the vehicle I really liked and within my budget. I was delighted to get my ideal car and I gave a deposit over the phone and we are done. Very easy, very pleasant.

I thought that I ought to tell the other ‘showroom’ salesperson, I know that not many customers do that but that’s not my style. It did not go well, he was angry. I pointed out that he had exactly the same information and offered me a below spec car. He told me that it was “a kick in the teeth”. I decided never to deal with any of their dealerships again at that point.

The next day I got an email from him saying that he could beat the deal I’d bought a car on. I replied it was too late, maybe he could have done that in the first place. Then I got an email begging to give him a chance as “he wasn’t paid by the hour”.

I started thinking, that going into the showroom was a really bad idea as it had become an unpleasant experience even for a hardened motor trade veteran like me. What must the average person in the street feel being treated like that? Maybe they end up with a disappointing car and paying through the nose?

A lesson in selling – are we killing the Golden Goose?

Is this the reason that remote sales are increasing, and manufacturers are turning to ‘no pressure’ alternatives? Is this why people don’t want to visit showrooms?

What other retailers make it such an unpleasant experience? Maybe time share, double glazing or insurance? Surely buying a car should be fun and straight forward?

The point is we need to wake up, because we are ‘killing the Golden Goose’. The showroom should be a happy place where you can see the product and not be pressurised into a wrong decision. Otherwise eventually there will be no showrooms and no salespeople!

A week later, the same salesperson phoned me to tell me that he could do even better that weekend. I asked him why he was phoning as I had already told him several times that I had bought elsewhere. He said, “well I thought you might prefer to buy one from me”.

What do you think I said?

This experience clearly demonstrates that there is a right way and a wrong way to sell, and that without training in this and in customer service, the wrong way is going to win out.  At RTS we can help deliver that training for dealership sales teams, with our Profit Builder. Why not get in touch for a no obligation conversation?

Mark Kirkpatrick

Mark is senior learning and development consultant with RTS Group, designing and delivering programmes for many of our clients, to suit the training needs of their dealerships’ customer-facing staff. Working mainly with management, Mark is also a business consultant for Mazda dealerships.

Mark’s career began in music as a bass guitarist, but he joined the automotive industry through his father’s dealership, progressing his career to dealer principal for a number of different franchises. In 1996, he moved into training with Ford, and for six years was head of learning at the Henry Ford College, at Loughborough University. He joined us in 2009, left for a time to become a freelance consultant, but loved us so much he came back in 2014.

Married with two children and one grandchild, Mark still loves his music and in his spare time plays with bands and in studios.

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