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Test Drive? Why the salesman is always in control

For the vast majority of people buying a new car is a significant purchase with a certain amount of ritual involved. Setting aside car collectors and people purchasing a lifestyle accessory for many it matters that the car caters for the needs of the buyer, rather than wants and, for this reason the salesperson has the whip hand.

The process starts with a little investigation by the buyer, aided nowadays by the internet. But that was not always the case so a trip to a local dealership to look at the cars, grab some brochures and talk to knowledgeable people. All of which we can now achieve, and more, from the comfort of the buyers home, or the desk at work. Today buyers are armed with more knowledge and can do much greater levels of research in advance of the test drive ritual.

Ritual dictates that, having shortlisted a number of vehicles the prospective purchaser arrives at the dealership, on a dry and sunny day, full of enthusiasm to drive the new car. This absolutely works in the sellers favour. However, if it's not the sunniest, driest of days it just means the salesperson has to work a little harder!

The car needs to be very well presented and parked in the perfect location for an easy getaway with plenty of room all round. Preferably a wider-than-normal parking space. The salesman should ask specific questions, not at all to find out what the buyer wants but to reinforce the positives of the product. If it has a small boot don't ask the buyer if they have much luggage. However, a car with a large boot ask about their last holiday with a tilt at luggage but fundamentally to get the buyer into a happy mental state following their idyllic two weeks in the Med. The salesperson is not trying to help at all in these pre-test drive questions. The entire process is to reinforce the good bits, get the buyer in a happy state of mind and build the anticipation of the all-exciting test drive!

The route selected has be on some billiard-table smooth roads along some wide avenues and sweeping bends. All very idyllic. The conversation will hark back to earlier comments and only focus on the bits the salesperson wants the buyer to hear, not at all what they need from the car.

A test drive is a great way to promote and sell based on the strengths of the product, not the buyers need. Structuring the conversation to the product strengths is key. Ultimately letting the buyer take control of the specifics in the conversation is going to make it a tough sale!


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