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Do I Look Like the Type to Drive a Mini-Van?

By Guest Blogger Lisa Lewis

Why don’t salespeople realize that all customers are not the same? I’ve spent the past two months unhappily car shopping with my husband and have been amazed by the lack of professionalism in the automotive sales world.

When we were younger and looking at mini-vans and SUVs with three kids in tow, it was apparent that we were a family of five and in need of a certain type of vehicle. Not true now when the two of us arrive on the car lot, obviously no longer young parents. Should the salesperson assume that we’re empty nesters, or should he/she ask us a few questions to see what our current needs are? Qualities like car color, number of doors, gas mileage and cost were very important to us. But most salespeople seemed to ignore our comments and race to show us what they thought we wanted.

Having had silver, black and white cars in the past, we were certain that we didn’t want silver, black or white. My husband would express his exact preference for colors such as blue, red or green, and they’d consistently show us silver, black or white cars which are currently in abundance. Price is also a consideration. However, the salespeople consistently assured us that the sticker price didn’t really matter…until we sat down to talk about price and were given the hard cold facts. The four hours would pass as we were handed off to sales managers and financial folks, only to leave empty handed and feeling taken advantage of.

A few qualifying questionsasked and remembered(!)would have made everyone’s life easier. Oftentimes we would express our needs, only to be led to other vehicles that were completely different from what we were looking for. I wouldn’t even have minded if sales people took notes since they see a parade of shoppers each day. And don’t even get me started on the sexism that exists in the automotive field. We would explain that the car was for my husband, but the sales people directed their attention to me when discussing color and safety. Any talk of engine size, turbo charging and performance, and the conversation was aimed back to my husband.

It used to be that I looked upon this process as sport. My husband was always the ‘good cop,’ and I have always been the ‘bad cop.’ He feels that when haggling for price, a couple of hundred dollars off isn’t such a big deal. I, on the other hand, choose a price and stick to it to my dying day. I guess I don’t mind this ‘game’ so much if we can reach an agreement, but it does get on my nerves when we’re being upsold, led to vehicles we have no interest in and treated like uniformed buyers. With the plethora of information available on our smart phones and computers, we were able to check blue book prices and go into negotiations very well informed. Why then, doesn’t the seller realize they can no longer pull the wool over the car buyer’s eyes?

Buyers are much more informed now, so it would serve the sales professional well to accept this fact and to work on determining what their customer needs. A few needs-based questions go a long way in closing the sale.

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