Let’s stop selling

The relationship between buyers of new or used vehicles and their car dealer has long been characterized by mistrust. Let’s be honest—even today, car salesmen don’t have a great reputation. And, truth be told, they’ve come to almost dread interactions with customers, who tend to be increasingly better informed and better equipped to take control of the conversation and the transaction.


“Consumers increasingly rely on digital, and especially mobile, to help with their car buying journeyto research, find deals and get real-time auto advice. For example, 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. watches auto content on YouTube once per month. Today, these digital interactions influence shoppers’ decisions as much as (and potentially even more than) the salesperson on-the-lot.”Think with Google


Technological advances, which could have simplified the process and brought buyers and sellers closer together, have instead driven them farther apart. Even seasoned car dealers will tell you that it’s becoming harder and harder to close a sale.

But why?

Price wars are nothing new. Vehicles are more reliable than ever, and innovative features have increased exponentially. But so too have consumers’ expectations.

Before, it was the car dealer who had all the information. But now, the buyer has just as much, if not more. Successful salespeople have adapted to this new reality and are able to convey their passion for the vehicle.


Passion above reason


I had the opportunity to spend a day with Luc, a Toyota dealership salesman. He is by far the top seller there, even though he only works three days a week.

In my uniform, I might have looked like a salesman—but my sales game was lacking. Despite getting some good advice, I spent the day testing my powers of persuasion and finally had to accept that I wasn’t going to make a single sale.

My new shirt did nothing to help. What I needed was experience.

Luc is on his second career. He’s a retired police officer with a real passion for cars, especially Toyotas. He’s had them all.

His latest baby is the Prius Prime. You just have to watch him talk about his new ride to an older couple to see the extent of his expertise. Luc has, of course, read the manual backwards and forwards. He knows the car inside and out. But what sets him apart are his stories.

Luc doesn’t sell—he shares his experience and personal anecdotes and, both literally and figuratively, invites customers to get on board with his lifestyle, a life with a Toyota vehicle. Passion well ahead of reason.

Luc reminds me of all those retirees who work at RONA. Passionate people, real DIYers who know what they’re talking about and who love to help others bring their projects to fruition, and sometimes even spark new passions.

And when the average transaction exceeds $20,000, it’s the salesperson’s level of engagement, passion and personality that make all the difference.

Buying a vehicle in 2018 is more of an emotional decision than a rational one.


Bye-bye, script

Every car dealer aspires to create unique moments with potential customers.

In their recent book, The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath explain the mechanisms behind certain life experiences that are more powerful than others. One of these mechanisms involves ignoring the script—in other words, breaking out of the normal flow of an experience for which there are way too many predetermined references and expectations.


“Our lives are filled with scripts: the script for how your family spends Sundays. The script for your team’s staff meetings. The script for a hotel check-in. To break the script, we’ve first got to understand the script.”


Each of our retail interactions involves a script, a sequence of predictable actions. If there’s one industry where the script has remained unchanged for years, it’s the automobile industry: a salesperson greets the customer, needs are evaluated, then there’s a test drive, a discussion about features, and a more or less aggressive proposal, followed by uncomfortable negotiations. We all know how it goes.

What Luc manages to do, without knowing it, is ignore the collective script. From the get-go, he creates a positive surprise for potential customers and allows them to have a unique experience that’s conducive to trust.

And there’s nothing magical about it. It’s a connection rather than a transaction, a discussion about shared passions rather than about a vehicle’s specs or a customer’s needs. Above all, it’s a salesman with authentic motives who seeks to improve the lives of others because Toyota has improved his. It’s that simple.


Simon Cazelais, Partner and President, Bleublancrouge Montreal