My wife’s car was on the brink of death and we needed to find a new car fast. This is the story of why used car salesman have a bad stigma attached to them and what I learned from the experience.
“Used car dealers can’t be that bad” we thought, plus we will get to trade in our own car instead of selling it”
So we did what the salesman (let’s call him Ben) advised on the phone and came down to the dealership.
First Impressions Count
Ben was with another customer at the time so someone else had a look over our old car and we perused the lot. As we were looking around and looking in the boot of a Mazda 3 Ben walked pasted us while with some other customers.
His first words to us were “How much are you going to give me for that car?”
I was taken aback. What response was he seriously expecting? Was I going to make an offer as he walked past talking to other customers?
The lesson: First impressions give you an opportunity to get someone’s back up or help them let their guard down
Too Much Information
Then finally came our turn. He sat down with us and asked us what we wanted.
We discussed our desire for an SUV and our budget of $5,000. When we discussed the fact we had kids Ben went into a rant about his family, even though he probably only talked for 60 seconds it seemed like forever.
The thing was I really didn’t care. What I wanted was his help in sourcing a suitable car in our price range.
The lesson: Engaging in excessive small talk can actually damage your reputation not build it.
Not What We Wanted
Ben then went on to discuss purchasing a car outside our price range with financing. We were adamant not to do financing and we had the cash we needed to buy a car outright
He then proceeded to show us around the car yard despite the fact all the cars there were out of our price range.
One of the reasons we state we didn’t want to do financing was because we want to start saving for a house after this. He tried to convince us that if we want to buy a house we need to acquire car debt first…as if it was a stepping stone to house debt.
I could tell he was wasting our time so I brought it to a head.
Question: “Do you have anything in our price range here”
Question: “Do you have any cars suitable for us available off site”
Answer: “No, but I will keep a look out and text you if one became available”
In the end they didn’t have what we wanted. The thing that annoyed me was we had already discussed our desires on the phone and in person and it was almost like he wasn’t listening.
What I really wanted was a suitable SUV from a dealer that had a warranty so I had little risk of buying a dud. What he tried to sell me was a $20,000 car I didn’t want on financing I couldn’t afford.
The lesson: Find out what customers really want and find a way to sell them that. If you don’t have an offering for them see if they are open to other options. If not send them on their way, don’t waste their time trying to sell them something they don’t want.
A Difficult Customer
Maybe I was being a difficult customer. But I wasn’t trying to be unreasonable and I was trying to be honest.
The difficulty was that me and my wife had done a lot of Internet research. We came knowing what car we wanted and the price range that car was in.
Our problem: We didn’t want to buy privately due to risk of problems with the car and we were having trouble finding the car we wanted in our area.
The Lesson: Try to determine whether your customer has done research and knows what they want and get them to tell you what they need help with and what hurdles you need to overcome so they buy from you
In The End
In the end we bought a car privately (an old Range Rover) and are very happy. We are up for an extra $1,500 in servicing to fix the aircon in the car, but I am overall please with the purchased.
As for a used car dealer I now know unless I want to spend $20,000 or more it isn’t really worth it.
Even with the risk of buying a dud I would almost always go private over a dealer now.