An open letter to anyone who is hoping to sell me a car in the next month

With the impending arrival of miniDiva/o, we’re in the market for a new car.  Our 2008 sedan Car_clipart-4just isn’t going to cut it anymore once we add a 2nd carseat.

I thought it would be most efficient to write a letter to anyone who might be interested in selling me this car to clarify a few things.

(If you’re just interested in the sales and marketing punchline, scroll past this list.  But I think it’s illustrative.)

1. My family lives in the city and we don’t drive a lot.  Let me say that again, my family lives in the city and we don’t drive a lot.  There are several corollaries to this, like (a) we don’t care that much about gas mileage, (b) we need something we can park in awkward and small places, (c) we don’t care about things that make it easy to get kids in and out of the car multiple times a day, because we don’t get kids in and out of the car multiple times a day.  We barely do it multiple times a week.

2. Our 2-year-old doesn’t watch any TV or other screen time yet.  Because I have no faith in humanity I will add that the new baby who arrives in June will likely not watch TV right away either.

In case those two sets of requirements were confusing, I’ll spell something else out.  We don’t want a minivan.  We’re not anti-minivan but we don’t need one because (see 1 and 2). Also, we live IN THE CITY, so car doors that can automatically slide open are not going to be of any use to us and in fact I don’t want my kids running down a CITY street getting in or out of the car.

3. We don’t need 3rd row seating.  Nobody comes in our car with us.  No we don’t anticipate a lot of carpooling because we live in the city and nobody we know drives.

4. We need heated, leather seats, and 4-wheel or all-wheel drive.  Yes, we know the difference.

5. My husband is tall, most of it in his legs.  A toddler who likes to kick or a fully-grown adult needs to be able to sit behind my husband in the car.

6. Safety ratings are not that important to me.  I am pretty comfortable with anything that says Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Volvo, Audi, Subaru, Volkswagen, or Hyundai without needing to hear about the safety awards you’ve won.

7. I can’t possibly decide whether to pay cash, finance, or lease, until you tell me what the rates are.  I don’t want to tell you what I can afford each month.  I want to negotiate the total price of the car.

8. Cubic cargo space is very helpful for those times when I’m planning to fill the car fully with Rubik’s cubes.  Otherwise, it’s not that useful for me.

For those of you who are not trying to sell me a car, but who read this blog for insights on sales and marketing, here goes.  Our customers are telling us what they want this clearly.  We are just not always listening.

Modern sales is complex.  Customers are more educated than ever, so the strategies for influencing them at the sales level has to change.  Take the car example; when I walk into the dealership, I might already know everything there is to know about the car – the cargo space, the packages, the safety ratings.  But if the dealer wants to sell me something, he or she needs to demonstrate some differentiation, or get me to think about something differently from how I have in the past.

But there is a difference between bulldozing me (“Everyone with kids wants a video screen – you may not think that you do, but wait until your next 7-hour drive,”) and educating me, (“I know you said that safety ratings aren’t important to you, but I’d like to explain which of those are most important to look at.”)  Or “You never know when 3rd row seating will come in handy” vs “I know you said you didn’t want 3rd row seating, but let me explain the relationship between the possibility of seating and total available cargo space.”

I love when my own consumer purchases teach me something about enterprise sales.


One thought on “An open letter to anyone who is hoping to sell me a car in the next month

  1. Noemi

    So we just “bought” a new car. I know exactly what you are saying. We knew what we wanted and what we didn’t want or cared about. Basically I came in with a number that I was willing to pay, based on trade in etc, and told them what I wanted for that and waited for them to agree. Before that when we were still looking, I had the experience of asking what I got with an upgrade and the sales person couldn’t give me a good answer, was annoyed actually at me asking. I also found that at these dealers often they expect the man to be negotiating and making the decision. It was almost uncomfortable for them to deal with me instead.


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