A few months ago, I decided an electric vehicle was in my future. My much-loved 2006 Subaru Forester is getting up there in age and mileage. I recently took a job at a sustainability nonprofit, which also makes me feel like living up to our mission.
To start checking for prices and deals, I filled out a few of those inquiry forms for two of the bigger dogs on the EV block – the Chevrolet Bolt and the Nissan Leaf. The Bolt is about $37k for the base model and gets about 250 miles of range, where the Nissan Leaf starts at $30k-ish and 150 miles. The previous generation of Leaf was available significantly cheaper, with a utility company offering a $10,000 discount on top of the $7,500 tax credit. But the 2017 Leaf and its discounts came at a penalty of less horsepower and range.
As you might expect, the local dealerships quickly identified me as a tasty morsel. The Chevy guys were especially aggressive, and particularly clueless. They failed on even the most basic principles of salesmanship. Every single Chevy salesperson who contacted me is woefully under-trained in product knowledge and in the basic steps of making a sale.
Here’s a perfect example: A salesman emailed me to see if I was still interested in a Bolt. I told him no – because it doesn’t have adaptive cruise control. He acted surprised in a follow up email, which tells me he either doesn’t know his product well (which is a cardinal sin) or he was hoping to deal with an uniformed rube (an even bigger cardinal sin). He sent me two more emails, with the last saying “I understand you really want the Adaptive Cruise Control option that is not offered on the Bolt. If you decide it is an option that you can live without I would love to have you come in to test drive the Bolt. Other than that option the Bolt is far superior in every way.”
That is a huge fail. It is literally impossible to know if a product is superior in every way for a customer if you don’t know what they’re going to do with it, and that statement says “your needs don’t matter – only our product matters.” The salesperson didn’t qualify me – he had no idea of what matters to me, what motivates me or what features interest me. He had a vague idea of his vehicle’s specs and a vague idea of his competitors’ specs. Salespeople who don’t know their stuff seem disinterested to me – and I’m not buying anything from a disinterested party.
Any of the salespeople who contacted me could’ve changed the game with two simple questions that would build goodwill, while also fulfilling the all-important step of qualifying the customer. NOTE: These are actually good questions to ask when making any type of sales pitch, but I believe they are especially important for the prospective EV owner. They may not sway a person who has decided on make and model, but they can help a salesperson swipe them from buying at another dealership.
Ask Why They’re Interested in an Electric Vehicle
This is a potential gold mine of information that will help you make a sale. You will be able to gauge their motivations based on their responses, which might include:
-I’m committed to being green.
-I love high-tech stuff.
-I’m sick of changing oil, replacing belts and wasting time filling up on gas.
-I LOVE torque.
-I hate engine noise.
-I wanna use the HOV lane.
-I want to save money on gas.
Had a salesperson asked me about any of these, they’d know that the low-maintenance aspect of EVs appeals to me – which means there’s no chance of moving me to a hybrid like the Volt.
Ask About Their Current Cars
This question is huge, and here’s why: If someone has a good-sized gas vehicle at home, they can probably get away with a shorter-range EV. They’ll likely use the EV for in-town trips, while the big internal-combustion vehicle will handle out-of-town trips. Range anxiety won’t matter as much, and they’ll be less likely to spend the extra money for longer range. If a Chevy dealership is making a case for a Bolt versus a Nissan Leaf, you’ll know that the range argument won’t help you make a sale. But you’ll know to shift to torque, horsepower or battery thermal management (thermal management is a major piece of leverage for the Bolt versus the Leaf).
And this lets you know what features they might like in their EV. A salesperson who asked me this question would know that I’m nuts about the EyeSight driver-assistance system on my wife’s 2017 Subaru Forester. Of course, that means it’s game-over for a Bolt trying to compete with even a mid-level Leaf. But at least you’ll know, which could lead you to a tactical switch that would overcome their objections.
Why Aren’t Salespeople Better at Selling?
I can’t emphasize enough that these questions are also great for any type of vehicle. And I can’t figure out why salespeople aren’t working this into their arsenal.
Salespeople, use these questions to get to know your customer. It is a sure way to get ahead of another dealership offering the same product at about the same price.