Branding, Marketing and Selling
by Randy Gage
Every business in the world relies on branding, sales, marketing to different degrees. And not many that need all three as much as the car business. Yet after a couple days desperately trying to buy a couple of cars, I’m simply shocked at how many obstacles car dealerships put between you and the car you want to buy.
Take a look at these examples, and the lessons they provide to all businesses:
I went into a Volvo dealership and asked them to see the model that Jeremy Lin drives in their commercial. The salesman had no idea what model it was, even though Volvo is spending millions on the endorsement campaign.
A Hyundai dealership saves money on the electric bill by keeping most of the lot lights turned off at night, so 70 percent of the cars are in darkness.
One dealership quoted me $6,000 less than Blue Book for my trade-in. Don’t they know there’s this thing called “the Internet” customers can look this stuff up on these days?
I was willing to buy a car at one dealer, but I wanted aftermarket rims and to have them installed before I picked up the car. Even though I was willing to pay for them ahead of time, they didn’t want the paperwork, so they said no. (Can you imagine me driving a car around South Beach that wasn’t pimped out? People might think I was Pit Bull’s landscaper or something!)
There was a beautiful matte gray Range Rover Evoque in the showroom that instantly grabbed my attention. I asked the salesman what it was. His response was, “I don’t know. That just came in and it’s $40,000 more than the other models, so I don’t think it’s worth it.” I asked what else was different besides the paint and he had no idea. I went home I did a Google search: Turns out it’s the result of a special partnership Range Rover did with Victoria Beckham. It’s a special edition with only 200 made in the world. Once again, the manufacturer is spending millions to add some cache to their brand and the dealership invested in stocking a $96,000 car and placed it in the center of the showroom. Yet no one told the salesman a thing about it. (And to be fair, any salesperson worth a damn would have taken it upon themselves to learn.)
At four different dealerships I walked around the lot anywhere from five to 15 minutes. Not one of them had someone come out and greet me; I had to go inside and ask for a salesperson.
I went to the Volvo and Range Rover dealers on Saturday. In each case they didn’t have the color and option package I wanted. Both told me they couldn’t search availability until Monday. What kind of database doesn’t work weekends?
Meanwhile Monday has come and gone, and the Volvo guy never followed up with me. (Update: he just called me this morning, to say he didn’t call yesterday because the Volvo system was down all day.)
But here’s my favorite…
That Posh Beckham-designed Evoque haunted my dreams. Truth is, it’s mostly marketing swag: It comes with a hand-stitched owners manual personally signed by Victoria, a bespoke four-piece luggage set, etc. Frankly I couldn’t care less about that stuff. But the car just pops because of that flat gray paint, mohair carpet and the dope black rims. Is it really worth 40K more for that? Not really, but I want what I want. So I made an offer and said I could be there in an hour to close. The salesman told me the GM was off that day, and he was the only one who could review it.
Jim Ziegler, call your office…
Randy---your stories remind me about an episode I was told by Nido Qubein, in which he went into a Mercedes dealership showroom in NC some years ago. None of the sales people paid any attention to him; they were reading the sports pages of the newspaper, telling jokes, etc. Finally a young baby-faced salesman came in from the lot, saw Qubein and immediately came over, apologized profusely that no one was helping him, and offered his assistance. He seemed very well informed about all the cars in the showroom and within a few minutes Qubein had decided he wanted to test drive a Mercedes sports car.
The “Young Pup” went to get the keys and the sales manager gave him a hard time, not really wanting Qubein to take the car out of the showroom.
But the Young Pup prevailed and the two of them went for an exhilarating ride. All the while, the Pup was asking Qubein qualifying questions, but in the nicest, most discreet and nonchalant way.
By the time the drive was over and they had returned to the showroom, Qubein had decided to buy the car. The sales manager finally came over, said he would make out loan papers, etc. Qubein declined, pulled out his checkbook and said he would just pay cash. The sales manager’s eyes almost popped out of his head.
Meanwhile, Young Pup didn’t miss a beat. He asked Qubein to come out to the lot just to take a quick look at another car. Once they had gotten outside the Pup said something like this:
“Mr. Qubein, I can see that you are a very substantial and sophisticated man. Of course, you will tremendously enjoy driving your fine Mercedes sports car, putting the top down on a sunny day feeling the wind in your hair and loving the purr of the powerful engine under the hood.
“But as the substantial businessman you are, I think you also need this fine (he pointed) and sturdy Mercedes sedan. Imagine taking your clients for a drive in this superbly made vehicle, where they will ride in ultimate comfort and safety. You will then have a car for fun and an impressive, safe, dignified sedan for your very best clients. You might consider buying this car as well.”
At first Qubein was amazed and shocked that Pup would have the temerity to try to make a second sale right after the first. But he was very impressed with and liked Pup—and he liked both cars.
So they went back into the showroom where Qubein opened his checkbook and bought both cars on the spot.
True story…makes me wonder where Pup is today. And he’s obviously not a “pup” any more. He probably owns a chain of dealerships. But I’m sure the dealership you visited wasn’t one of them…
Is it "okay" for me to be jealous about this? I've gotta get my butt in gear! Ready your book "Risky is the new safe". I really have to educate myself on investing and saving money in a smart way that will also make me money.
Sweet.. Drove one of these when they first came out.. Love the look though I prefer the 4 door..also love how a Rover finally gets near 30 mpg too!
No Earnie I'm not just into Vipers. I like some variety in my garage. Joe, I'm expecting to get the new Viper any time now.
Randy, after reading your blog about the dismal quality of sales professionals, I got thinking about our profession and it was a painful reminder. So much poor training and quality control around the customer experience. Ouch! Your blog is a good parable for all of us.
I love the new rangy evo que as I call them (to the wife's annoyance!) Shame that is only in a three door..... oh well.... Sure the bling version will be nice, ploughing through mud holes on your next off-road trip! Enjoy! At least you got the right colour from the looks of it!
Randy, great blog entry and damn, these sales guys ought to be shot on site :D Nice ride to bling on the South Beach.
Hey Randy, could you please take a picture of your bookcase? So we can see what kind of books you read. Thanks!
@ PBX People make or break businesses.The Five Guys restaurant chain has succeeded mostly on word of mouth. Ayn Rand, whom Randy and myself gain inspiration from, sold The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged on word of mouth as a lot of the "experts" and critics had problems with her work.
Marketing #ElectricCars is even more difficult @BruceTurkel @CarCharging Read post by @Randy_Gage. http://t.co/kUxB0g7E3M
@Jerry_DurhamPT It's critical for all employees of a business to know what the company is communicating to clients and potential customers.
@Randy_Gage you provide blog app for IOS and Anroid but i use windows 8 OS . please provide blog app for windows 8 ,,thanks
This is appalling! Glad you finally got the car and hope you found a sales person willing to work at least a little bit for their commission on that level of a car purchase. Drive it to Ktown and come see us.
Today is my birthday. Please someone send me a car as a gift! :)p.s. You will have to to send it to Kazakhstan :)
@Zhannur tell me your address. i have a white Lamborghini that i don't drive i can give you that , and its special addition ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,and one more thing its specially design by hot wheels (toy Company ) ...............:)