Car dealerships and the high cost of apathetic sales people

Oh dear, hot on the heels of our story the other day about the car dealer who hit back (literally) and the customer who carried out a dirty protest at the dealership comes the following tale of woe from an honest punter who just wanted to, believe it or not, buy a car.

We have remarked recently about how hard certain salespeople are going to have to work a lot harder for their money once the scrappage scheme finally ends and a few, like the low life’s in this story, will probably be seeking employment in an alternative industry, hopefully one that doesn’t involve dealing with the public.

Our protagonist this time is a Mr White (name changed of course) who is in the market for a new family saloon and had set his heart on a German model which ticked all his boxes. A frankly quite excited Mr White put aside a day to visit some dealerships, take a look at some models and arrange some test drives.

Filled with the joys of spring and with a definite spring in his step our Mr White ventured out to the first dealership on his list. He wandered around the large selection of used cars outside the showroom and, after a while thought it was a bit odd that no one approached him despite his feeling sure he was giving off subconscious buying signals. Undeterred he walked into the impressive glass showroom and walked over to the brochures, picked up a couple and started looking around the models on display. After he’d been looking around for a while he started to feel a bit uneasy because absolutely no one had engaged with him whatsoever. The receptionist was busy with some paperwork and the people dotted around the showroom where either on the phone or appeared to be equally busy doing something else.

Believe it or not Mr White had been in the showroom for more than half an hour and not one person had engaged with him. Figuring that perhaps this particular dealership was having a bad day Mr White decided to give up and move on and walked, completely unhindered, out the door.

Feeling somewhat deflated by this experience he decided that in the next dealership if he wasn’t approached he would speak to the receptionist. Sadly it was a similar story at the next showroom only he couldn’t approach the receptionist because, well, there was no one there.

Mr White was starting to feel a bit angry now and once again left without having spoken to anyone. Still annoyed after a half an hour drive to the next dealership he walked into the showroom and straight up to the reception desk and, unfortunately was a little brusque with the girl behind the counter, sarcastically asking if there was anyone there who might want to sell a car if they weren’t too busy.

Sadly for Mr White because of the way his day was going, he now appeared to be, as they say in the trade, a “rucker”, someone who just wants a fight and is probably not very likely to buy a car. Of course in this case it was far from the truth as Mr White very much did want to buy a car but he was not going to get one today.

Phones were quickly picked up and eyes were averted as the receptionist scanned the room. Nobody wanted to deal with Mr White because they perceived him to be a waste of their time so once again he left empty handed although he did manage to make an appointment which he probably won’t keep. When he got home he wrote us a very strongly worded email about how the automotive industry was destined to decline and, basically deserved everything it gets.

Is Mr White correct? Are things really as bad as he tells us they are? Or was he just unlucky and the Gods conspired against him?

Well in our experience he is right and his sorry tale speaks volumes about the state of car retailing at the moment, especially in the franchised dealer networks.

This sort of thing is happening every day. You may find this hard to believe but sales staff will pick up the phone or avoid eye contact in order that they don’t have to engage with a customer for fear that it might be a waste of time. These types of people are commonly known as “sales prevention officers” and the trade is literally littered with them at the moment. These people only really do what they are paid to do when a prospective buyer comes in wearing a sandwich board declaring their intention to buy a car and with their hand in the air waving a credit card

Due to the massively increased choice and specification range, not to mention the wealth of add-on products available it probably comes down to a need for training or at the very least some basic product knowledge. This is a fundamental requirement in order to convey some kind of confidence to a customer and just as importantly to the salesperson them self.

Just imagine if a customer wants to by a top of the range Audi for example and encounters Harry Halfwit as his salesman, this could jeopardise them ever buying an Audi, regardless of where it’s sold due to the negative encounter. Car dealerships need to realise that times have changed and often the car buyer can be far more knowledgeable about a particular model than the person whose job it is to sell it.

We are talking vast sums of money here, not the pick and mix sweetie section in the now defunct Woolworths. The real problem is although the product is very expensive the percentage of profit made on the car itself is very little against the outlay and therefore the salespersons commission is even smaller. So like the peanuts and monkeys analogy this is where we have ended up with people like Mr White confused, disappointed and incredulous that no one will take him seriously unless he makes it very easy for the salesperson and does most of the work himself.

This is definitely not an isolated incident, this is reality and it needs to change and quickly or you might just as well not have showrooms but virtual reality versions where you pick your car off the shelf and speak to a saleperson through an online avatar.

At least that way you can avoid the lethargy of a salesperson that is not motivated or professional enough to treat every enquiry as if it was their last


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