Car dealers… love ’em or hate ’em, they do an essential job despite sometimes having an image problem. Having spent many happy hours behind the desk, I can honestly say that a great deal of customer problems arise where the customer is either ill informed or poorly prepared for what awaits them. Buying a new car these days is a whole lot more easier and safer thanks to FCA ruling, strict guidelines and much more transparent pricing. Go back twenty years and it wasn’t uncommon for the salesperson to be earning twice as much as the dealer principle such were the backhanders and dodgy tactics.
During this lockdown period, now is a good time to do your sums and research. This will enable you to have a good idea about rough figures and prices before you even set one foot out of the house. Rest assured, all the dealer groups are going to be falling over each other to start the tills ringing the moment the doors are unlocked signalling the start of business. You as a potential customer will be at an advantage here as every franchise and showroom will be fighting for your business. With just a little bit of inside knowledge you will be able to spot when you are being pushed, rushed or side-tracked into a scenario you might not be fully aware of.
On a purely personal level, buying a car via the web isn’t the way I would go. The reason being that a car is an investment of your money and often the biggest financial transaction this side of buying your first house. When I am handing over or arranging transfer of major funds, I want to feel the warmth of their palm in mine and see the whites of their teeth and eyes as you (hopefully) conclude a stress free and enjoyable experience. After you have read the following – ALLWAYS remember that the showroom door opens both ways and you’re never locked in. If you don’t like what you see, hear or experience, just stand up, turn around and walk away – it really is as simple as that.
Its my first time at a showroom, what’s going to happen?
Without barely noticing it, you will be risk assessed, questioned and qualified by the salesperson. Its his / her job to make a calculated decision if you are potentially in the market for a new car or just their to pass the time by wasting theirs. If the sales staff are all over you like a curry stain before you have even walked through the door – be warned that this may well be a high pressure site.
A good tip is to park your own car and have a walk around the vehicles parked outside for a few minutes. This way you will get a feel for the “vibe” of the premises. No doubt someone will come over to you and engage in conversational chit-chat. If the member of staff is doing their job correctly they will endeavour to get you inside the premises or at the very least get your name and an idea of what you are visiting for.
How they actually come over and greet you can sometimes be the very first part of a well rehearsed and orchestrated sales technique. For example… a lazy or complacent salesperson will ask you a closed question – one that can be answered with a yes or no. Like this:
“hello there, can I help you with anything?”
Answering with a yes engages and kicks off a conversation but answering with a no normally closes that avenue of opportunity off. Usually the salesperson shuffles away asking you to come and find him if you need help. Customers often have their guard up from the first moment, so any opportunity to get the sales staff out of their personal space will be taken. However, a more professional and better trained member of staff will greet you in such a way that it will be more difficult for you to get rid of them by simply muttering “no thanks” without seeming slightly rude. Here is a similar method that I used to use…
“Hello there and thanks for popping by (with hand offered for friendly shake) welcome to ABC Motors. I’m Mike and your name is? Good to meet you. So, what’s brought you down to see us today?”
With this latter greeting the sales staff has a far higher chance of getting information from you. Information like your name and reason for passing by turns a straight yes or no into some form of conversation that the staff member can mentally use for their qualification of you – the potential customer despite how upbeat and cheery it may sound to the untrained ear.
If you are genuinely just browsing out of curiosity tell them so and avoid wasting their time. Equally, if you are looking to potentially buy be wary of the information you give, and don’t lie, salespeople have a superb memory when they need to. If you want to be left in peace to browse at your leisure familiarise yourself with their name and firmly but politely state you are just browsing for the moment but will seek them if you need any further assistance. In most cases this is enough to suffice and give you back your personal space to look and browse.
In the next part, I’ll take you into the spiders web, or in other words, the showroom!
Franchise – The brand of new car the showroom sells. Some sites are multi-franchise and operate as what some call motor-parks or motor-villages. Multi-franchise sites that have more than one marque tend to operate to a higher pressure than single brand showrooms.
High Pressure – It speaks for itself really but generally how pushy the staff are to get you to agree to a test drive, look at pricing figures and agree to buy a car from them.
Qualification – The points scoring system a salesperson will mentally use to figure out of you are in the market for a new car, can actually afford a new car or just there to drink the coffee and waste time. This is done by asking specific questions about you, your car, your financial situation and lifestyle.