March 8, 2011


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It's time for a new vehicle. Here's how to save money. I decided after a single visit to Audi and BMW on Friday and Mercedes on Monday. I did no other research. My family refused to accompany me because of the horrible experience last time.

The Showrooms

Audi had the scrunchiest showroom. The A6 wasn't even on display. There was very little parking. No one at reception directed visitors. Finding a sales rep took several minutes. That's a poor first impression. There were no noticeable improvements from three years ago.

This suburban BMW showroom is under expansion. That's good because the facility looked poorly designed when it opened in 2005. The waiting room was confined and congested. Our Toyota dealership looked better. They finally offer complimentary loaners and pickup-at-home service. That's good but reactive.
BMW Buy Back letter - click to read
BMW makes excellent vehicles and holds unmatched events like The Innovation Drive. It's too bad their dealers mar the experience. This same dealership keeps giving reasons to be cynical. Last week, I received a letter about the fake vehicle exchange event --- now extended. The letter had the same mistakes as the email.

Next time, I'm tempted to go to BMW's gorgeous company-owned flagship in downtown Toronto.

The Mercedes-Benz dealership felt right. Located in downtown Toronto, there's an upscale feel and a large selection on display. There's also an ideal test drive route that covers highway, city streets, gravel, railway tracks and a parking lot. Suburbia eliminates this variety.

The sales rep drove the car first to demonstrate capabilities such as sudden lane changes on the highway, rapid braking and high speed curves. No one else did this. I bought here.

The Sales Reps

Each sales rep was good but all three answered phone calls while I was there. That's fine because the interruptions were brief.

The Audi rep had only two years of experience and could not explain the advantages of his brand. He acknowledged that BMW is known for performance and Mercedes for luxury. He felt Audi had the best interiors but that's hardly a compelling reason to buy.

The BMW and Mercedes reps had 10+ years. The extra experience helped them get to the key points faster.

No one disparaged any other brand directly but hinted at shortcomings.

The Process

Here's what happened at MB Toronto. The sales rep didn't do the paperwork, which gives them more time with clients. That's a wise decision. Using a specialist means less waiting time, fewer mistakes and less pressure to add pricey add-ons.


My rep did the delivery three days later. The vehicle was clean but not gleaming. Last time, even the seat belts glowed. This time, only the tires gleamed. I didn't notice as much of the "new car" scent but maybe I had a touch of a cold. I didn't mind any of this but did notice.

My rep gave a proper explanation of the warranty, which has never happened before. I got a thorough explanation of how to use the vehicle's features. There's lots to learn but I knew the basics from my previous Mercedes. I was surprised at how many improvements were made over the last three years: voice commands, blind spot warnings, faster GPS navigation (now on a hard drive rather than on a DVD).

A Modest Proposal

Client expectations keep increasing and even a dentist can raise them.

Here's an idea I haven't seen anyone use: shoot photos of the client taking delivery. The vehicle will never look better. The client will never look happier.

These photos could be emailed to the client. A nicer touch would be to mail a framed photo. Isn't that good marketing too? Wouldn't the client be more likely to give a testimonial and referrals?

Going further, the rep could (with permission) display the photos in a digital frame. A wall of photos would be better unless reps share their desks. Photos might work in your business too. They're an example of the fifth universal principle of influence: consensus.

The Irony

I appreciated the buying experience more because of the contrast with last time.

Maybe you're amazing too, but how would your clients know unless they felt mistreated elsewhere? If your clients think you're average, they may be more willing to leave you for insignificant reasons. If they run into problems elsewhere (say buying a car), can they undo the transaction and return to you? Better to wow them now and stay in touch.


PS Keep reading to see how the next experience goes in 2014. Maybe dealerships will open on Sundays by then?

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