Thursday, 30 June 2011

My Life as a Second Hand Car Salesman

Ok so that sounds like an unusual title for a post on a blog that generally talks about eCRM  - so bear with me a while

As part of my introduction at the Dutch Dialogue Marketing Associations Sexy Email Event, I gave brief history of how I ended up in eCRM. And naturally my previous incarnations as an Astrophysicist and Second Hand Car Salesman were mentioned

Although my first degree in Astrophysics wasn't exactly the best spring board into the world of marketing it actually has some synergies. It involved actually applying Physics and Data to the study of the universe. And in my eyes eCRM has data at it's core, but more importantly the application of that data to a better understanding of the customer.

Anyway, I digress.

Many moons ago a role in commerce with such a bizarre choice in degree was not that easy. So, looking to make some money I landed a role as a car salesman with Datsun, the predecessor to Nissan

Now it actually turns out that what I used to do in terms of identifying warm prospects and clinching the deal has some resonance with todays smarter use of behaviour based marketing

One of the key skills of any good car salesman the ability to spot a warm prospect and not just a tyre kicker. This was by no means a simple exercise and one that was not really developed without experience ( and in all fairness one skill that I never mastered even if only because I didn't last long in that role)

With time, the really good salesmen could spot the buying signals that the individual on the car lot would display by the amount of time they might spend round a particular model and the questions they would ask to gain more information. Sound like how we might use web data to understand a prospect on line?

Another key skill was the ability to personalise the deal - and I don't mean the free sunroof being offered by my colleague as he walked past the prospect at my desk brandishing a can opener! These days we can even personalise the content of a website without even knowing who the individual is, but just because we know where they came from in terms of search engine and the search terms they used.

Another frequent ploy was the 'my wife/brother drives one of these' comment that acted as a precursor to the recommendation/reviews of today.

Of course not all the tactics were of such a dubious nature. We would often genuinely try and help the prospect buy rather than sell them something by asking key questions about how many miles they would be driving in town or on the motorway, how many people they would carry etc etc. We might even offer to show them the brochure

The level of personalisation of course depended to a certain extent on how much we felt we could stretch the prospects budget. Metallic paint, comfort packs, headlight washers were all on offer and by asking a few questions we could quickly gauge what was appropriate . And of course the option to further cross sell up sell was never missed in particular if we could imply that having gone for the leather seat option the leather care scotch guard treatment was a must. Of course this is now very cleverly done in real time on line by making use of the web analytics available to create unique levels of personalisation for each visitor

And we even had our version of a re-marketing or cart abandonment program. If a customer decided that actually they weren't going to buy, we would give a clear signal to our General Manager who would accidentally bump into the customer as they were about to leave the showroom and either illicit a reason for the lack of a purchase and make an ofer that would counter that or actually just them make them an offer they couldn't refuse

In fact sometimes that offer would take place via follow up telephone call 48 hours later if we felt that worked best. Timing was key

Not all ideas are new. We just get to action them faster these days..and the salesmen are much more like an Algorithm than a Swiss Toni

Image courtesy of The BBC

1 comment:

  1. The ability to spot a prospective buyer is a skill a good salesman develops through the years. Good communication and social skills are also essential to carry out a successful sale. The objective is to reach out to the prospective buyer on a personal level and guide them through the process of deciding what kind of car is best for them.

    Stelle Courney