It’s not easy to be a salesman in the world of the internet. Every customer knows everything, or rather, every customer thinks they know everything, long before you get to meet them.
Having returned to the UK from living in Qatar last year, I had thought I could live without a car in modern Britain. It didn’t take long to realise that I couldn’t: independence; lack of accessible public transport; enjoying being in my own space when travelling (I love my podcasts); singing as loud as I choose to; creature comforts …. and so on. So once I’d decided I wanted a car, I needed to do my research on which one, and fix the budget too. Simple huh! Erm, no.
Having worked for corporates most of my adult life, I was used to having a company car. For years I simply chose from a list and then “voila”, a number of weeks later, the car arrives – taxed and insured: happy days.
Brands, brands, brands
And now it’s all very different. First of all which car? Audi, BMW, Mercedes; the choice is fabulous when you aren’t restricted to a list. I’m of an age; I want a convertible. This is great; I’m really narrowing things down. I’m searching through What Car and Which to get an idea of the best ones on the market. I’ve decided I would prefer a hard top rather than a soft top, and the choice reduces again. And, now I’ve become really girly – I don’t want a black interior, I want a nice colour. That rules out the Audi.
OK, I’ve narrowed it down to two brands which I like. I’m getting lots of advice from friends at this stage which is really useful. Remind me to talk about brands another time – this is a favourite topic of mine; truly I am a brands girl.
I have my budget. I’ve sold my car in Qatar and thankfully the proceeds will buy me an okay one in the UK; it won’t be brand new, that’s for sure, but, hey, it’s all for the best I guess.
So armed with all this information – I know exactly what I want and how much I can spend – I’m thinking “okay” let’s do this.
So far, I have done a huge amount of work on my own. The internet is my trusty steed, or at least my best adviser, and I haven’t spoken to anyone in sales.
When do you talk to someone in sales?
This is not just a story about buying or selling a car. This is the reality of being a salesman in today’s world. Most buyers have done a huge amount of research long before they are ready to talk to the sales team. On a recent training course, I was told that, in one business, they reckon that the sales specialist comes into the buying process when the client is already 70% of the way through it. With so much of the groundwork already being undertaken by the buyer, the sale becomes far more transactional.
So now you’ll see why my story of buying a simple car simply ends up being a story of negotiation over price. What else could a seller tell me that I don’t already know? I’ve spent days pouring over the internet looking at the models which suit my style, budget and a hundred other little details. Now, it’s simply about finding the car I want and going to buy it for a price I can accept.
The lost art of negotiation
So I did. I’ve found a lovely blue convertible with cream leather interior and I’ve set my heart on it. It’s rather more than I wanted to pay but I feel sure I can negotiate with the garage.
Off I head to the garage 150 miles away. The receptionist even had to make an appointment for me to view the thing. I tell myself this sounds great; the car will be ready for me to look at and do the test drive.
Two and half hours later I arrive to see the car. And, no, it’s not ready. The sales guy actually doesn’t know much about the vehicle. I waited for them to fetch it and eventually took it for a test drive. Privately, I’d decided I wanted this car so now it was about negotiating the price. Actually it wasn’t the sales guy who you negotiate with these days, it’s the finance guy in the office and, of course, you have built no rapport with this one at all. Suffice to say there was no negotiation, you pay the price the car is listed at – take it or leave it.
Was it worth it?
To be honest, this was not a good customer experience. As a salesman, I’m perhaps a rarity. I love being sold to and this didn’t give me that warm feeling that you should get when buying an asset as big as this. It really made me think about the experience buyers get when buying from our companies. The salesman should have known more about the vehicle than me but perhaps worn out by people who had done their research he slipped simply into accompanying me on the test drive and leaving me to fix the price with an accountant. Would I return to that company or even recommend them? Frankly no. I don’t think so. When handing over such a large sum of money in cash, I want to walk out feeling happy and important. Instead, I left feeling vaguely irritated. I had made a transaction, not a deal.
I love my new car, but then, that’s because it’s a good car. I certainly won’t make any effort to go back to the dealer.