Yesterday’s Sales Tactics Vs. Today’s Buyers


businessman pushing unhappy mood button

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There is a huge disconnect between today’s car salesperson and today’s car buyer, and I have just experienced it. I’m looking for a specific car –a 1996 Chevy Impala SS in good condition. I found one on a local dealer’s website, and the note on the listing said that it was in the body shop for paint. I used the contact form to email the dealer, and in it I said specifically which car I am interested in (including the stock number), and asking them to let me know when it would be out of the body shop. That’s when my trouble started.

In the half-day since emailing, I’ve received two emails from salespeople and three calls (all from different salespeople, none of whom seemed aware of others calling me). None were able to answer my question; in fact, none even seemed to be aware of my specific interest or my email comments. However, all were anxious to get me to “come in and have a look around.” I recognize that tactic; I used it in the early 90s when I sold cars. The trouble is that it doesn’t work with today’s car buyer.

Today’s car buyer has probably done their research before contacting you. They know what you have on the lot, they know what car they are specifically interested in, and they probably know the retail and wholesale values of the car(s). I thought I was the perfect buyer for this dealership: I’m paying cash, I know specifically what car I want, I know that I like those cars, and if the actual car represents acceptable value, I’d planned on buying. But the experience of dealing with the salespeople has put me off. Today’s buyer demands more. Here’s what today’s more educated car buyer expects:

  • Be professional.

    The ultimate in unprofessionalism is to have a prospect bombarded with calls from different salespeople who are racing to get them into the dealer (the same goes for salespeople who fight for the next “up” at the showroom door).

  • Be respectful of the customer’s time.

    These salespeople wasted my time by not acknowledging my specific needs. Whether that is the fault of whoever passed the lead on or the salespeople not reading the email, I have no idea.

  • Listen to the customer.

    Again, today’s customer is far more knowledgeable and specific than the ones I sold to in the 90s. Listen to them.

  • Answer the darned questions!

    None of these salespeople answered or even acknowledged my questions. That’s amazingly disrespectful.



This doesn’t happen in other industries, folks; salespeople in most other industries understand how to have a direct, respectful dialogue with customers. I should also point out that I’ve seen these same issues in numerous other dealerships, it’s an industry wide problem. Today’s car salespeople need to be trained to deal with today’s customer, instead of the customer of the 1970s.

The conclusion of my story is this: I will buy an Impala SS, but I won’t buy the one at the local dealer, period. I refuse to deal with people who can’t simply have a straight conversation. Your customers feel the same way.

Troy Harrison is the author of “Sell Like You Mean It!” and a Speaker, Consultant, and Sales Navigator. He helps companies build more profitable and productive sales forces with his cutting-edge sales training and methodologies. For information on booking speaking/training engagements, consulting, or to sign up for his weekly E-zine, call 913-645-3603, email tharrison@dealermark.com, or visit www.TroyHarrison.com.

Michael Bowen

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