How To Sell A Car To A Woman

How To Sell A Car To A WomanI continue to be amazed that in 2008, marketers and car dealership salesman remain clueless about how to sell a car to a woman, or at least how to sell cars to women like me. My recent experiences in searching for a car I want and intend to buy, one that fits the description of what at least some women want when buying a car, has left me feeling rather frustrated.

I’ve done my homework, and I know what type of car I want vs. what I don’t want. See, it’s my turn this time around. I’ve spent much of my life driving the typical family cars, station wagons, mini-vans and SUVs that have plenty of room for a large family.

Well, the kids are grown and gone now and I’m on a mission to buy a car that is not only sporty and fun to drive, one that won’t give me sticker shock when I fill up the gas tank (like my current vehicle), but a car that also gets good gas mileage. I’ve come to terms with the fact that gas prices will continue to rise, and the cost of filling the gas tank isn’t likely to drop anytime soon, with predictions of $7.00 per gallon being expected in the very near future.

There’s a lot of talk about the pro’s and con’s of buying a hybrid, with hybrid cars and SUVs costing a few thousand dollars more than gas engine cars, and how gas savings can take years to recoup the additional cost of buying a hybrid vehicle. Problem is, there isn’t a single hybrid vehicle that appeals to me in the least, so I’m not even considering buying a hybrid.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve carefully researched and test-driven these 7 cars:

  • Mazda Miata
  • Mazda RX-8
  • Nissan 350Z
  • Nissan Altima Coupe
  • Saturn Sky Roadster
  • Toyota Camry Solara Convertible
  • Pontiac Solstice Roadster

It should be quite obvious that an important feature for the car I am going to buy is revolutions per minute (RPM). After test-driving each of these cars, I’ve eliminated the Mazda Miata and RX-8 from my list of possibilities because neither car offered an upgraded stereo system, cd-changer or anything else that might remotely appeal to a woman like me.

According to a poll of 9,800 women conducted in 2006 by CarMax, Inc. (NYSE: KMX), Buying a Car Remains a Hassle For Women, with poll results showing no improvement in women’s biggest gripes from previous years in which the poll was conducted. “What was most lacking when you bought your last car?”

Criteria Response in 2007 Response in 2006

  • A quick, effortless transaction 21% 21%
  • A salesperson I liked and trusted 16% 15%
  • Lowest, fair pricing 14% 14%
  • A fair trade-in value 13% 14%
  • Respect for/attention to my wants
    and needs 13% 13%
  • A fair, reasonable finance rate 7% 6%
  • Understandable paperwork 4% 4%
  • Other factors 12% 12%

Donna Wassel, regional vice president for CarMax says, “That’s why it is important to find a car retailer that focuses on providing a transparent, customer-friendly, and easy car buying process.” She sure got that right! Maybe that’s why car-buying women bring a man or their husband with them!

The problem I have with it is that, while women need to do their homework when looking to buy a car, customer service at many (if not most) car dealerships are lacking basic communication skills when trying to sell cars to women in particular.

While test-driving the Mazda Miata and RX-8, the salesman talked on his cell phone the entire time I was driving each vehicle, only using finger motions to indicate to me when he wanted me to make a left-turn or right-turn to circle back to the dealership.

Once back at the dealership, he finally got off his cell phone and asked me if I had any questions about the cars (while looking at his cell phone). I certainly did have questions!, but I wasn’t going to waste my time with a salesman who didn’t have the courtesy to focus his attention on me, the customer, so I just walked away and left.

Of all the car dealerships and salesman that I’ve come across thus far in my search for my next vehicle purchase, the salesman at the Saturn dealership and the Toyota salesman were the most courteous and respectful towards me. They focused all of their attention on me as their customer, patiently answering all of my questions to my satisfaction, not once acting as though I was wasting their precious time.

Is there not a How To Sell A Car To A Women Manual for salesman? Perhaps a How To Sell Cars To Women 101 Course? If not, there should be. Here is what I’d strongly recommend be included in any such course or manual, and if you have any other suggestions, please do leave a comment and let your wishes be known:

  • Ask for and use my name. My name is not sweetie, honey, lovely lady, baby or any other similar nonsense. Regardless of what kind of car I express interest in test-driving or buying, at no time does it give you (the salesman) the right to patronize me by saying “You’ll look really good in this car”. Those words were not spoken when I bought my Chevy Silverado Pickup Truck, so don’t give me that garbage now that I’m looking at sports cars.
  • Use direct eye contact. Look at me when I’m speaking to you, and look at me (not your cell phone) when you are talking to me. And remember, my eyes are up here, not down there.
  • Listen to me carefully. When I, or any other woman, tells you exactly what they’re wanting in a car, write it down if necessary. When I ask questions, be patient and respectful when answering, and don’t talk so fast. Talking too fast is the quickest way to get me to ask you the same questions again just to make a point. When you talk too fast, it gives the appearance (at least to me) that you’re trying the ol’ bait-and-switch game, which I don’t have any patience for.
  • Cell phone use. Being on your cell phone when waiting on a customer is downright rude. Either put your phone on silent or vibrate, or simply turn it off when dealing with customers directly. When receiving a call on your cell phone, your customer should be your first priority. Let your caller go to voicemail and take care of your customer, then check your voicemail messages. Don’t talk on your cell phone when taking customers on a test-drive. Doing so just might cost you a hefty commission.

Are you a woman that has experienced similar situations when trying to buy a car? Got a personal story of how you were treated by a car dealership salesman? Share your story or further suggestions for salesman by leaving a comment below.

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20 Responses to “How To Sell A Car To A Woman”

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  1. Shannon Page says:

    I’ve seen it happen many times.
    Have you checked out askpatty.com?

  2. Lin says:

    Hi Shannon! Yes, I have checked out askpatty.com several times. It’s a very informative site for women in particular, whether about wanting to buy a car or all sorts of great stuff about the mechanicals aspects of cars. Tons of info there.

  3. Shouldn’t all customers be treated with respect? My suggestion to car sellers is that lists like the one above and sites such as buyacarguide.co.uk (the home of Gals’ Car Guide…offering car buying advice to women) are rendered unnecessary because it is ridiculous to continue gender divisions such as this.

    Perhaps buying online from sites such as carsite.co.uk is the best way to ensure that all customers are treated equally. A computer can’t modify the price based on your gender because it doesn’t know what it is.

  4. Lin says:

    I don’t believe it’s ridiculous at all to discuss car-buying problems women have. Those sites you’ve listed are good for women living in the U.K., but since I happen to live in the U.S., the Carmax Survey and the survey results are relevant to me and other women living in the U.S.

    It is true that treating customers with respect should include both male buyers and women buyers, but women car buyers have complained for many years how they are treated differently than men customers, including but not limited to the price of the vehicle. I look forward to the next Carmax survey to come out and you can bet I’ll take the time to complete the survey per my experiences.

  5. Hi Lin, yes you are right women are treated awfully when buying a car. A recent UK survey by What Car revealed that women get charged on average £544 more than a man for the same car. How bad is that? And the fact that women feel they need to bring a man along with them to buy a car is not good. I was simply dreaming of a world in which talking in such terms would become ridiculous because such problems would cease to exist. I guess we are still a long way away from this…

  6. Lin says:

    As unfortunate as it is, I can’t help but believe we are many years away from the time when women car buyers will be treated the same way men buyers are treated. And unfortunately, many women will continue to feel that they have to bring a man along when trying to buy a car in order to feel they weren’t given a bad deal for their car.

    I also believe that women would do well to do their homework when looking for a car, getting as much detailed information (online especially) about the cars they’re interested prior to stepping foot in any dealerships. And if it’s possible to actually purchase the car online through a reputable dealership and simply show up in person to pick up their new or used car, then that not only saves time and maybe even some money, but men and women don’t have to deal with the numerous problems of trying to find and buy a car.

    That is very likely what I personally will be doing, after I’ve test-driven any other cars I may be interested in, and then handle all the paperwork and purchase online without the headache-inducing haggling nonsense.

  7. I think that you are right Lin – this is definitley the way forward for car buying.

  8. It astounds us too that car salespeople don’t get how to sell to women. But worse, they are at the unconscious incompetence level of understanding. They don’t know what they don’t know. They think they know how to sell to men; therefore, they can use the same strategies for women.

    We’ve got over 20 years’experience teaching sales people how to sell to women. We’ve got books and web-based training that take salespeople step-by-step through the sales process, pointing out gender differences at each step. We’d love to have every car salesperson learn the skills. Unfortunately, they don’t see that they need to. So, women keep having the experiences you do. In these tough economic times, you’d think they’d be motivated to tap into the 52% of the population that influences over 80% of sales decisions. Go figure.

  9. Lin says:

    Kathy, I may be wrong since I’ve never been a car saleswoman but, it seems to me that anyone applying to get a job at a car dealership to be a car salesman should be required to take very specific courses in how to best relate to customers.

    I realize that salesman are looking to make a sale, because that’s how they make their commission, but it seems to me that there is tremendous lack of knowledge and skills that would better address the needs of car buyers.

    I’d really like to know how some of these salesman manage to get the job in the first place. Just fill out a job application, have an interview or two and presto you’re hired and unleashed on the public?

    I seems to me that much much more needs to be done to educate those working in dealerships currently, and anyone who wishes to get a job selling cars.

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