Sell, sell, sell! Five lessons in how not to sell from interactions with car salespeople


Recently, I have been on a quest to find a car, and have been frustrated every step of the way by car salespeople.

Their lack of sales skills in one-on-one encounters and their persistence to get me to buy have really left a bad impression.

So I figured I could make this an opportunity for other people to learn from, namely us business owners, as often the downsides of our encounters in the real world can teach us valuable lessons about how to treat and sell to potential customers.

Here are the five mistakes that I encountered that entrepreneurs can learn from.

1. Listen to your customer

Most car salespeople never listen to their customer’s needs. They just want to sell them the latest model.

If there’s ever been a hallmark of classic car salespeople behaviour, it’s that they’ll maybe take in a total of two words you say.

As soon as you walk in and tell them that you’re looking to purchase a car, they’ll haul you over to all of the latest and greatest models available.

Their interest is solely in making the highest commission as possible off of the transaction, and that’s why car dealers are typically viewed negatively by consumers. 

The key is that the customer doesn’t like being coerced into a deal they don’t want. 

Businesses might find more success if they take the time to hear out customers and figure out exactly what they are asking for then tailor a solution that is designed just for them.

2. Always follow up

‘Out of sight and out of mind’ is a common saying that perfectly encapsulates the attitude of car salespeople.

You might stop by a dealership and talk to an associate and never hear back from them again. They might not even recognise you when you walk back into the store.

Customers like to feel like dealers are making an effort to form relationships with them, and to take some of the accountability of the purchase.

Constantly following up with potential customers is a great way to not only keep business fresh in their minds but also to build bridges and develop more investment in what you are trying to sell.

3. No one likes to be sold to

Car salespeople are notorious for stressing a sale, even when it’s taking advantage of a customer.

They’ll often tell you: ‘Someone was looking at this earlier! It’ll probably be gone by tomorrow.’ Or: ‘This is a once in a lifetime deal that won’t last long.’

Deals are great for customers, but it’s also incredibly deceitful to use their potential necessity against them to drive sales. 

People have enough on their plate as it is. It doesn’t help anybody when there is artificial stress put on a sale that doesn’t need to be there.

If anything, it’s better to respect your customer and not push boundaries. 

If your service and product are great, then it’s likely that they’ll come back for more if and when they want to. It’s all about being patient with the customers and allowing them to have the space they need to form a positive opinion.

4. Know your product inside and out

Often, car salespeople don’t know what is included or what’s not.

If you’re going to sell something, you better have answers to any questions customers might ask.

Car salespeople are infamous for equating expensive with better, when in reality, a car half the price of the one they’re trying to sell might match your needs more.

And if they manage to get you into that sale, well then you’re just left with a car that might not address any of your needs or preferences.

Businesses must know the following:

  1. What the intended use of their product is;
  2. What other potential uses are there; and
  3. The top things customers want from the product. 

Take McDonald’s employees as an example. They know their menu like the back of their hands and can remember everything that goes into them.

If a customer wants to remove a topping, add something, or has a question about the product, they are ready and able to lend their expertise for the customer’s benefit. 

5. Be courteous if a customer doesn’t decide to buy 

Customers are often indecisive, and sometimes they won’t purchase despite your best efforts.

Car dealers will often brush them off and move on to the next person in line, but the key to this type of interaction is to encourage them to contact you if they decide to make a purchase.

If your interaction was positive and they feel like they can trust your expertise and opinion, they will likely come to you if they have any further questions or enquiries.

That is the staple of a long-standing relationship you can develop with a customer. If you manage to build a positive relationship with a consumer, despite if they decide to get a product, they are likely to come back if they ever need to.

Regardless of whether or not you’re actually buying a car, there is a lot that company owners can observe from car salespeople that offer lessons to be learnt.

The key is that while your job is important, your customers’ needs also should be considered.

People are not just a sale or a means of revenue. They want to feel like their needs are met through your product.

So I hope you can learn from these five common mistakes, and strive for better consumer relationships in your business.


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