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Promises, Promises…

Young Car Salesman polishing a car

I should’ve seen the signs. In fact, I probably did, but should’ve paid more attention to them.

I had gone camping with the family over the Christmas break and as usual, the kids were complaining about the lack of space in the car – we tend to camp with everything bar the kitchen sink (and I reckon my wife would pack the kitchen sink if she could) – and my wife and I were commenting on how the car was getting on a bit.

Nek minnit, as the younger folk say, we’re in a dealership looking at an upgrade. Given that this was in Country New South Wales, it was always intended to be a bit of tyre kicking and sussing out the specs but not actually making a purchase. The best intentions of mice and men, etc…

The sales consultant was nice enough, but like so many salespeople, a bit loose on details. I was curious, however, and had to ask the question “given I live in Melbourne and you guys are here in the middle of nowhere, why should I buy from you and not from a metropolitan dealer?”

And he was off. “We provide better customer service and really go out of the way to look after you… we will personally deliver the car to you at your home so you don’t need to worry about anything… if there are any issues we’ll come sort it out for you… when you want to trade in, we’ll pick it up… it’s all about minimising the hassles for you – we go all out to look after you...”

Alarm bells should’ve been ringing. But they were drowned out by excited kids desperate for a newer, bigger car. (As a side note – never, and I mean never, bring kids along if you want to buy a car. Worst. Rookie. Mistake. Ever.)

To cut a long story short, we got suckered into it.

A month later, we’re still waiting for the car to be delivered. Apparently “going out of the way” doesn’t include going to Melbourne. Nor does it include returning calls when you’re trying to work out what’s going on. And personally deliver means booking a car delivery service to bring it to you, but they can’t guarantee when it will be delivered. Worse is the feeling that you are actually being a nuisance for asking when YOUR purchase will be delivered.

Talk about over-promising and under-delivering.

It’s easy to look at an episode like this and think “well, he is a car salesman, what do you expect?” and there is an element of buyer-beware. When I look at how my own team operates and sells, and how other sectors do business, it’s alarming how often a salesperson reverts to promising the moon and the stars to close a sale. Yes, particularly towards the end of the month.

But at what cost?

There is no way I would be going back to this dealership again. It has left enough of a bad taste in my mouth for me to write about it, and that’s saying something. But I say again, how often do our people do this? And at what cost?

If Mr Car Salesman wasn’t prepared to follow through on his pre-sales promise, then all he’s doing is focusing on one thing – the transaction in front of him. Not the future. When I walked out of the dealership, I have to admit, I felt positive. I was going to tell everyone how we stumbled across this gem in the middle of nowhere, where they actually have ‘old fashioned country values’ and will really look after you. I would’ve been a huge advocate. Instead, I’m a detractor.

My message – it is better to be honest and say what you mean to do, rather than make something up. It may lose you the odd sale, but in the long run, you’ll gain more. Better yet, if you say you can deliver the moon, make sure you do it. Talk, as they say, is cheap.

Got to go now. I think I hear a truck out front – hopefully our car is on it.

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