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You may be quick to point out every faux pas a customer makes during a test drive but how is your test drive etiquette?
“Guy pulls out of the lot, crosses four lanes, smacks the curb on the opposite side of the highway. Bends the left front tire under the car — it’s like dragging along, grinding. He says ‘Wow, you think I should stop, or should we just complete the test drive?’” – Anonymous Volkswagen salesperson on Car and Driver
The test drive: It’s the moment that can make or break the entire sales process. Car salespeople love to share test drive horror stories that involve customers’ poor test drive etiquette and making some crazy decisions on the road. From making dangerous maneuvers, to running personal errands, potential buyers can take salespeople on the ride of their lives.
“I once went for a ride with a drug dealer in Oakland who took me on a test drive to collect drug money,” said David Teves, a salesperson in California who writes the blog post Confessions of a Car Man. “Any test drive when you come back alive is a successful test drive.”
Some auto salespeople, however, spend so much time focusing on what the buyer is doing “wrong” that they forget to prioritize their own test drive etiquette. Are you one of the countless car salespeople that consistently makes the same test drive mistakes? Mistakes that can totally derail the entire deal?
Before you schedule your next customer test drive, take the time to read this quick list of bad habits you may have that could be affecting your commission every month.
Auto salespeople: How’s your test drive etiquette?
Etiquette isn’t just about knowing which utensil to use next at a fancy dinner, or sending a thank you note after receiving a gift. Etiquette is about polite behavior and following specific rules of conduct — and it can apply in all areas of your life, including at work.
When you take a customer out on a test drive, your priority is providing a pleasant driving experience; making the sale is secondary, and can happen naturally if the test drive goes well.
Where do salespeople often go wrong when it comes to test drive etiquette? Here are five common blunders:
1. Talking the entire time
You know the old stereotype that most salespeople love to talk? It’s true in most cases. Truly successful car salespeople, though, know when it’s time to shut up — the test drive is one of those times.
You certainly don’t want to be completely silent, but the purpose of a test drive is to let a potential buyer get a feel for what it’s like to drive the vehicle. Encourage them to use their imaginations — “Can’t you imagine driving to the beach in the summer with the sunroof open and this fantastic stereo system playing?” — and then zip it.
2. Sitting in the driver’s seat while explaining the controls
Before you hit the road, it’s common to give the customer a run down of all the bells and whistles on the dashboard. When you sit in the driver’s seat to show them the controls, however, you’re taking away that moment they need to experience it firsthand. Have them get in the seat, and then either explain from the passenger seat, or the back seat (if there’s another passenger). On that note, if there’s another passenger, like a spouse, let them sit in the passenger’s seat.
3. Letting the customer have full control over where they drive
Different dealerships have varying opinions and rules when it comes to test drive routes, but there’s usually a happy medium for both salesperson and customer. When you get in the car and tell the customer, “Just drive wherever you want!” they spend additional mental energy on deciding where to go, rather than just experiencing the car.
Pre-plan a route ahead of time that lets them experience different driving conditions. Explain those conditions ahead of time and why you planned the route the way you did. However, you don’t want the person to feel totally stifled, so tell them they can keep driving after if they feel the need to.
4. Not knowing the vehicle inside out
You were so psyched a customer requested a test drive that you forgot you aren’t familiar with this particular model. Now, they’re asking in-depth questions during the test drive, and you’re a little short on answers. Know your inventory inside and out because customers will ask a lot of questions during the test drive.
5. Pressuring someone who isn’t ready to buy
Yes, your job is to sell cars. Some salespeople, though, become laser-focused on closing a deal immediately and make things awkward during the test drive. The truth is that some people are just trying to figure out which car they want to buy in the future. They are planning to purchase a car eventually, but they’re attempting to make the right choice and test drive a few different vehicles.
Don’t spend the entire test drive putting on the heavy sales pitch when the person has made it abundantly clear that he or she will not be buying that day. Instead, concentrate on providing a pleasant experience so that when they do purchase a car, they come to you because they appreciate your approach and good test drive etiquette.
Your customers aren’t always going to have excellent test drive etiquette, but that’s okay because it’s not their job — but it is yours. Prioritize the buyer’s needs over yours, and you may just see a boost in your paycheck and customer referrals.