When there were few financing options it was relatively easy to purchase a car: you bickered over the price and when you reached an agreement you either wrote a check or went to the bank for financing. Now, auto dealerships are in the financing business and the process is far more complicated.
There must be a training course that teaches auto dealer sales managers and salesmen to never divulge the price of a car. I decided that I wanted to purchase one of two vehicles. Armed with online research as to models, options and cost, I drove into the first dealership. Before I got out of the car, a salesman was handing me his card and telling me about their month-end specials. I quickly informed him of the model I wanted to look at and after a test drive asked him to call me the next day with the price of the car.
Of course, I didn’t hear from him, so a couple of days later I returned to the dealership. When I drove up there were six salesmen standing in a group talking. As I got out of the car, I told them they looked like a group of vultures waiting for something to die and asked if the guy I had dealt with earlier was around. One of the vultures stepped forward and told me that the salesman I had spoken with was no longer with the dealership but had told him about me. Knowing that the part about the first salesman mentioning me was pure B.S. but appreciating his initiative, I showed him the car I wanted and asked him to work up a bottom-line price.
He agreed and promised to call me by noon the following day; which he did with a quote on a 36-month lease. I was now getting irritated, so I again explained that what I wanted was the sales price of the car and told him I would stop by the next morning.
The salesman greeted me when I walked in the next morning, shook my hand and mentioned that he would be right back as he turned and walked away. A couple of minutes later he returned, with another man who he introduced as the general manager. We talked football, politics and food for a couple of minutes before the general manager told me that he personally had been working on my deal and had an offer that he thought I would like. He shook my hand, slapped me on the shoulder and as he walked off admonished the sales rep to take good care of me. The rep then smiled, looked me in the eye, stated that they could finance the purchase for 36 months at a zero percent interest rate and asked me to sign a privacy notice.
I thought about it for a moment and then decided to back my way into the price of the vehicle by asking what the payments would be. Again, he disappeared, this time to the finance manager’s office and in a few minutes returned with a monthly payment amount, which, when using my handy Iphone calculator, came out to be the sticker price of the car plus $1,000. I told him I needed to think about it, drove to another automobile manufacturer’s dealership, where I cut a deal.
I gave the car salesman two tasks: develop a bottom-line price and call me with it. Instead, he decided or was taught, to play the maximum margin game of quoting terms not price. At the end of the day, he and his company’s intransigence about divulging the price drove me to purchase elsewhere.
Companies have the right to decide with whom and how they want to do business. Credit guidelines, terms and shipping requirements are examples of policies designed to winnow out undesirable customers. The problem and challenge is in training and empowering salespeople to use them selectively. If I had been a 20-year-old worried about financial survival, then monthly cost would have been the deciding factor; however, that isn’t me. The salesman and his general manager failed to understand that sales success comes from recognizing that all customers are different with divergent needs and requirements.
In the late 19th century, when employed by the Marshall Field department store, Harry G. Selfridge is quoted with coining the phrase, “the customer is always right.” Because the customer decides where and on what he or she will purchase, that sentiment is as true today as it was 100 years ago.
“In business you get what you want by giving other people what they want.” – Alice Macdougall
“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.” – Peter Drucker
“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” – Walt Disney