A visit to the ‘Autosalon’ – observing the differences in sales techniques

So yesterday I visited the annual ‘Autosalon’, or the 89th edition of the European Motorshow Brussels to be exact, at Brussels Expo. I went alone, because it’s simply the fastest and most efficient way if you go there to actually shop for a new car, rather than get to know different brands and models across the car, motorcycle and truck categories and gaze at vehicles you’ll never own anyway (which can be quite entertaining too, of course).

I wasn’t planning to, but I had a lot of fun observing the differences in sales techniques applied by the plethora of car salesmen (and women) at their respective stands at the show.

This is just anecdotal, of course, as I didn’t visit every booth, and it’s hard to draw comparisons between brands based on the person you interact with. That said, I always asked the same questions and tried to raise the same expectations, with different results.

Best experience I had was with Ford.

My conversation with the female advisor went something like this:

“Hi my name is Brenda, can I help you? I see, so you’re looking to replace your car with a new one because you and your wife are expecting a baby. Is it your first? Wonderful, I have kids too, so I can tell you what to look for, and what to be mindful of. Let’s take a look at this one, if that’s what you’re looking for? Great, this is the basic configuration, but I believe you could use these options as well, right? Right. 

These are our catalog prices, but I’ll have a dealer near your home contact you tomorrow to talk pricing, as I’m sure he can give you much better information regarding pricing and financing than I can. I’ll just whip out my iPad so I can quickly note your contact details and add any remarks you just made in our conversation.

Would this dealer suit you? Wonderful. Thanks for your visit, mr. Wauters, and best of luck with the newborn.”

Ten minutes later, I got a text message from Ford thanking me for my visit.

I also visited Opel, as I was charmed by the new Insignia, although it’s not really a family car per se. The salesguy I talked to for half an hour was nice and helpful, but clearly didn’t respond to my needs and ended up preparing me a quote which went a grand total of 10,000 euros over my budget, so I felt my time was wasted. I.e. not a horrible experience, but not one that would in any way make me want to make a purchase.

Evidently, I visited a bunch more car maker booths, but most of the conversations I had there weren’t worthy of mentioning here. They mostly came down to them getting my contact details as fast as possible, and then being able to move on, the both of us.

Hint: the Autosalon isn’t about selling or buying cars, it’s a trade show – which means the end goal is to get potential customers to their local dealerships as fast as possible, not convince people to buy a car or motorcycle on the spot.

Worst experience I had was with Seat. First of all, I had to seriously look for someone to answer my questions, and when I finally found someone the guy asked what type of Seat I would want to buy. I said I didn’t know the different models all that well and that he had to explain to me which one I’d be most interested in based on my apparent needs. He then showed me a car, talked about some stuff and options I clearly wasn’t interested in and handed me a brochure after 2 minutes or so. 

Didn’t note my contact details, didn’t ask after my budget, didn’t seem to care if I’d buy a Seat in any way. In fact, when I asked if the brochure also had a list of local dealers, he said no and instead handed me a huge map of Belgium, indicating where I could find dealerships.

Yeah, but no.

I still haven’t made up my mind about which car I’m buying, but Ford just shot up the list, and Seat and Opel just fell off. That’s the way it goes.

2 thoughts on “A visit to the ‘Autosalon’ – observing the differences in sales techniques

  1. I have always been a bit iffy about Opel and Ford cars in Belgium and have always been very happy with the Volkswagen cars I have driven. I am sure you’ve done your research and have no idea what your budget is, but assuming you are looking at the S-MAX I’d also consider the VW Touran or even the smaller Mercedes B-class which is very nice and still spacious enough for the baby’s pram 🙂

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