Last week I had an hour to kill between appointments and though that a long overdue visit to a car dealer was in order. I had been promising myself this for a long time, having heard many stories from both buyers and sellers alike. So I thought it was high time to test the experience first hand.
From everything I had heard, and from buyers particularly, I had a very clear expectation of what was about to happen. Endless qualification, name, e-mail address, postcode, current car, budget, finance, family, annual mileage, sexual preference and frequency… my colleagues told me to expect an interrogation worthy of MI5 prior to being given the honour of actually seeing a car. Two ears and one mouth – thats how we were taught to sell in the early days, by listening. How things must have changed. And brochures – taboo these days, it would be easier to walk out with a copy of the Codex Sinaiticus. So here was my challenge, get a sparkling glossy car brochure.
Dressed smartly and driving a high level sporty German saloon I decided to be as ‘authentic’ as possible and chose a BMW dealer, with the recently launched 8 series as my intended target.
Driving into the crowded car park reminded me of my early days in car sales, with the dreaded territory managers drilling into us the necessity of customer signage and parking spaces. Always a ball ache preparing for their inspection visits I immediately realised how right they were. Customer parking – where?
After a mini go kart circuit ride with the track perimeter made up of used car displays I eventually squeezed into an allocated customer slot, tight up against a Transit van and a freshly delivered 5 series straight off the transporter. Challenged to open my door sufficiently, I squeezed out with mobile in one hand and keys in the other and strolled confidently towards the entrance, wondering how quickly I would be pounced on by the commission crazed pack.
One admission that I must make here. I was nervous. Yes, me, nervous. Not phased by public speaking, confident in any boardroom presentation and there I was feeling apprehensive. Here we go…
The receptionists desk was impossible to pass without a greeting and I asked if I could have a look around. Certainly Sir, no problem.
What followed did surprise me though. The 8 series was the first car in the showroom so I easily did my own 6 step walk around. Sides, bonnet, boot, inside, all the obligatory angles. The 2 sales execs sat at a single desk and ignored my presence with Shakespearean skill. Hmmmm. What next.
Craning to look inside, and mildly interested how a car the size of HMS Queen Elizabeth could fail to seat 4 of the worlds tiniest people, I walked to the sales desk asking if it was ok to have a sit inside. ‘Of course, help yourself”. So I did.
The mock crystal gear selector looked nice. The lack of traditional instruments didn’t but I am sure with battery life the whole thing would have resembled the bridge of the Enterprise. So I sat. And sat. And sat.
Theres only so much fiddling that one can do in a show car so I took the bull by the horns. I got out, had one more walk around then approached the 2 at the desk. ‘Do you have a brochure for this please’? ‘Yes, there is one left in the display I think’. She did actually get up and go check with me. Great effort there. Pretty girl. Pretty uninterested in me. I’m getting used to that now though. There was indeed just one brochure left. And I took it. TOO easy I thought.
So, trophy brochure in my hand I strolled out to the comfort and familiarity of my almost impossible to find car and took literally 5 minutes reversing out of the tightened car slot after the arrival of a newly delivered car opposite.
So, what do I take from that? They viewed me as a waste of time? Well I am of the right age, build and car ownership demographic that should be their target. Perhaps they had sold their allocation already? Doubtful but good for them if so.
When I sold cars many years ago, regularly we were each selling and delivering 30+ cars per month. No one got past us. Also I personally was the ‘follow up king’ – only taking no for an answer when abused or ignored on the sales phone calls that I would religiously make between 6 and 7pm. Yet I marched into a showroom, sat in a £75k car for ten minutes and was resoundingly ignored. Not a chance of bothering my inbox, let alone a follow up call. Bizarre.
Did I learn anything? Only that the 8 series is a great looking 2 seater with room in the back for tissue boxes only. I will persevere though. Only fair to try another BMW showroom from a different dealer group. Surely sales processes haven’t changed so much in 25 years? If they have I’d love to pitch myself against these guys – just for a weekend.
Watch this space.
Author – David White – Autocoincars.com