They say the automobile, coveted or much coveted, is sold during the course of the test drive itself. The salesperson is typically on overdrive, wooing the ‘prospect’, who s/he thinks will either during the course or at the end of the test drive make that crucial decision. But how often does it happen? Or shall we say how could we possibly will the probabilities into clear and present possibilities? The prospect, who may not yet be willing to be seduced, is however waiting to be seduced. What works…
It is common belief that automobile sales happen during the test drive.
Because it is during the test drive that the salesperson must ask the prospect if he or she is feeling the same way as they had expected or dreamt. It is also a good time to demonstrate all those things that the keen, hungry, and ever-so observant salesperson had uncovered as part of the prospect’s wish list.
Before a test drive it is well nigh impossible to sell the car. And after the test drive the prospect is no longer on the same high as he was when gripping the steering wheel, stepping on the accelerator, or breathing in the warm, fresh leather and listening to the engine that is ever so silent, almost as if it wasn’t running.
The moment of truth is indeed the test drive.
I am sitting in the lounge of this very stylish car dealership. I am supposedly the adviser to the team that handles the sale of this high-profile brand. There must have been a million times that I would have told all these young men and women to keep their questions ready, to smoothly ask the prospect just seconds before sliding into the plush interior of the particular model of automobile being tested on the road today by a very eager prospect. Please note, I keep saying prospect. He or she becomes a customer only when the automobile is delivered, either at the showroom or in the prospect’s parking lot.
Today’s prospect for 4 pm arrives in his old jaunty jalopy. He is greeted warmly by this young sales professional who I have had the pleasure of putting through the paces. The young man asks the visitor if he would like some tea or coffee or a cold drink before getting into the car that is right there, ready to be taken out. The prospect says he prefers to carry out the activity he has come here for.
The young man nods in agreement and they both go out, get into the car and off they go for what I hope and pray is another successful demo, another smooth test drive, and another notch on the salesperson’s list of successful sales for the month. All this while, I have my nose inside a magazine, as I sit in the lounge, not wanting to be noticed by the visitors, or be introduced as the sales coach.
About three quarters of an hour later, the trio returns. The prospect, our salesperson, and this beautiful piece of artwork called the automobile. A quick look from behind my magazine tells me that the sale hasn’t taken place. The body language of both of them tells me so. I now wait to see what this salesperson is going to do, in a last-ditch bid to save or resurrect the deal.
The young man asks the visitor to relax on the sofa in the lounge, saying that even though the prospect hasn’t said ‘yes’, and has probably not decided in favour of this brand and this model, there is a gift from the company for him. The young man goes into the store room adjoining the lounge, opens the refrigerator and pulls out an ice cream family pack. He brings the dessert pack to the visitor and graciously offers it to the visitor saying that it was a small gesture from the company for his family. He also adds that he hopes that the visitor will bring the family back to the showroom soon and once again test drive the car, this time with his wife and son.
The visitor thanks the salesperson and walks to his own jaunty jalopy, and drives away.
After waving the visitor away with a big smile, our young salesperson struts back into the lounge, and with a swagger asks me how the whole transaction was. I cannot disguise my anguish at this missed opportunity to sell, and I make my feelings absolutely clear to the young man.
I wonder why the salesperson didn’t give the prospect a beautiful coffee table book about the brand. I wonder why he didn’t give him a stylish key chain with the shape of the particular model of car that he was trying to sell. I wonder why he didn’t gift the prospect a jazzy T-shirt with the prospect’s face juxtaposed with a picture of the car that he had driven just a while ago. Such gifts are so easy to prepare and hand over these days.
He smiles broadly and with a look that says “I know what I am doing” tells me something. His chest swells with pride as he tells me this. I listen carefully to him as he unravels his idea, his analysis, and his conclusion. I slump on the plush sofa with a silent thud, and swear and say that this is incredible.
I know one thing for sure. The visitor is going home for sure. And he is giving all the other car dealerships a miss (don’t forget, all car dealerships are in a neighbourhood, and within 5 to 6 kms of each other, aren’t they?).
At least for today, and maybe for a few years.
Tell me, my reader friend. What did the young man tell me with such confidence and assurance? What did the prospect do?
(Achal Rangaswamy, a former President, Marketing, Bell Ceramics Ltd, and Strategic Business Unit Head, EIPL, is an alumnus of St. Stephen’s College and a TedX speaker. Rangaswamy, who is a much sought-after CxO Corporate Coach, specialises in training business executives in leadership and transformation, empowerment, sales and marketing, and time management. He says sales is life itself.)