Smart….Not So Smart
Want to know how to turn off a potential customer, so much so that your product is no longer under consideration? Just be dumb…like Smart.
Mercedes Benz is actively selling the Smart in the U.S. and — since I drive a 2007 E320 CDi and love it — I was enamored with the Smart car and stopped by a local dealership this morning after dropping someone at the airport to check it out.
Often I hesitate to drive into car dealerships in my MB since salespeople make assumptions and swoop down hoping for a sale. The young woman who greeted me was pleasant, we looked at the Smart and she answered questions, and I knew a car with such a narrow wheelbase needed a test drive in order to determine if it was too bouncy to be in consideration as a commuter car for my bride (she leaves up to me the initial due diligence on cars and technology).
We’re six months or so out from making a new purchase and our first choice is a plugin hybrid and the 2009 Toyota Prius is the likely candidate, but this Smart car certainly seemed like quite a viable option and worthy of consideration.
Until my experience this morning at Smart Center Bloomington.
If you’ve shopped for new cars you know the game is this before a test drive: “We’ll need a copy of your driver’s license.” As a former sales head who had a rental car broken into nine years ago and been hyper-watchful of my identity ever since, I learned early on this was nothing but a lead generation and followup tool and I’ve always said, “No”. The security issue of identity theft used to work and savvy dealers now tell you, “You can watch us shred the photocopy of it when you return.” After they’ve entered in all your information into their database, that is. I’d still say no and walk away if pushed.
No question I’m able (usually) to convince a sales manager that it’s in his/her best interest to let me, the customer, be in control of the communications process. As someone who (is) and at least appears to be financially solvent and driving a car substantially more expensive than what they’re selling (and with a license plate clearly visible in case I steal their demo model) I’m not much of a risk.
Not only did the young woman manager push back she then inadvertently reinforced the reason to demand my driver’s license in exchange for a test drive, “Well then, you can give us your name, phone number and email would work“, their expressed 22 month lead time to deliver a Smart car allowed them to exhibit an attitude that expressed, “Tough noogies. They’ll be someone else walking through that door momentarily.” Funny thing is, I’ve seen this exact same attitude over-n-over-n-over again by clueless car dealer personnel who happen to have one of the hot models of the moment and that hotness always goes away.
My Mercedes dealer interactions — and all experiences I’ve had buying at Acura and Lexus, manufacturer’s who rigorously train their dealer personnel to avoid boneheaded moves like my experience today — demonstrate that this old, plaid-sport-coat way of lead generation must die since they long ago abandoned this meaningless exercise. So in one inflexible interaction this morning the Smart car is forever off of our list.
About Steve Borsch
Connecting the Dots Podcast
Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.