Last weekend a friend and I went car shopping. Having been in sales for over thirty years and where my favorite place to meet buyers is at an open house, I was curious to compare selling techniques. We visited three dealerships and had three very different experiences. My friend and I walked the lot at the first dealership instead of going into the show room. It took 14 minutes for someone to come out of their air conditioned show room and approach us. (I suspect new sales people are assigned ‘lot duty’). “We’re just browsing,” was our response to his question of what were we looking for. Then he asked what was our budget. When I responded I wasn’t sure, he said, ‘Oh, a million dollars, huh?’ We had dressed down deliberately but that off-hand remark was a definite put-off if not a put-down. I assume when working an open house that everyone is qualified to buy the home or otherwise they would not be wasting their valuable weekend time. A dollars and cents discussion comes only after a buyers wants and needs and the benefits of a new home. When we finally made it into the show room, no one offered us any refreshments although they were in plain view. I have to confess I’ve been negligent at my opens by not offering refreshments this year but you can count on them the next time you visit me at an open.

My primary selling belief is that all buyers are attracted to knowledge. The young man assigned to the lot ‘walk abouts’ was smart enough to understand that very basic premise and handed us over to a person who had been selling cars for over ten years. He knew every make and model in the show room. My friend was interested in a sedan and I soon figured out I wanted to stick with an SUV. Once I confessed my current car was ten years old, he pointed out all the new benefits, including all the safety features. However, I have to confess I was more interested in style and color and whether or not my current custom wheels would fit on a new model (they will). We left with his card and I did give him my contact info. I returned with my husband later in the day and he explained the safety features to him while I admired the color which he said was the ‘rarest’ of the line. He gave us a price and I said I would think about it. I haven’t heard from him since.

We moved on to the next dealership and were promptly met just outside the show room door. The young man introduced himself and shook our hands. He treated us respectfully and asked ‘What were the three most important items we were looking for in a car?’ I knew it was a line but a good one. We were vague and he asked us again while showing us around the lot. I agree you can ask a question twice but not three times. He knew his product. Every make and model which was impressive. When we said we didn’t like how big the front end was and it looked like a truck, he told us how popular the model was and some of its benefits but he accepted our comments and wasn’t defensive. My friend liked his approach. I preferred the first sales person but I also liked the car which probably influenced my ‘like’ factor.   

We drove by the third dealership and decided not to go in. The lot was cluttered and there was no place to park. Now, I know how buyers feel when open house realtors park in the driveway or in the garage which I have been guilty of on a cold winter day.

I still don’t have a new car because no one has called me back. Politeness, product knowledge and follow-up are the three keys to successful sales whether buying a car or a new home.