I’ve not written much about selling cars to women and couples that come to a dealership accompanied, or burdened, by their children. Once I started giving it thought in preparation for this month’s column, I just kept coming up with more and more that needed to be said and I realized that I won’t be able to cover it all in a single column.
Kids come in all sizes. Babies, toddlers, youngsters and teens deserve different consideration, as any parent knows. How to treat them, greet them, distract them and include them are all part of selling to families. Whatever you do, you cannot ignore them. The children are integral to the family and often represent controlling factors in the vehicle a family buys.
Sure, it determines the size of the vehicle, and many of the amenities and options the family will seek, but how the salesperson deals with the children, whether they are present or not, will also determine how smoothly the sale goes and sometimes whether it goes anywhere at all. I have some new insight into this subject as I have a two year old grandson who spends a lot of time in my care, accompanying me on many weekend shopping trips. I can tell you, as can any parent, that if it isn’t working for him, it generally isn’t working for me either.
When a couple comes to your showroom with a small child or small children, they are going to want to keep them in their sight. Somewhat older kids can be dispatched to play areas to be diverted by toys, games or TV. Offer them cookies, snacks or beverages with their parents’ permission, and ask them for their permission to talk to their parents for a while. Moms and dads are appreciative of any respect you give their children.
When it’s time to take a test drive, make sure you retrieve the kids. They will have opinions that matter, and the parents probably won’t feel comfortable leaving them behind. Studies show that comfortable customers buy more, and pay more.
If you don’t have them already, make sure your dealership has a complement of various sized child and baby seats for the children that need them. This is obviously a great time to demonstrate how to safely install and use them in that vehicle. It might even make sense to offer a selection of child seats as purchase options. Kids outgrow safety seats (I’m on my third) almost as fast as they outgrow clothes, so parents may choose to upgrade their seats when they upgrade their car.
Make the kids happy and you can make the parents happy too. It just requires a little more patience and tolerance sometimes.
A decade ago my husband and I were in the market for a new family van for ourselves and four daughters. By some chance we were all together for the dealer visit, probably on our way to or from somewhere else. The girls were all old enough to distract themselves, but when it came time for the test drive we all piled into the full sized van. The salesman joined the two youngest in the third row. He didn’t notice that one girl had set down her chocolate shake on the seat (despite about 10 available cup holders) and he promptly squashed it between his back and the seat. Instead of losing his cool, he cheerfully tolerated the cool ooze for the duration of the test.
His willingness to accept the challenges of dealing with our large and sometimes contentious family helped him seal the deal on that fully loaded van. He probably made a nice commission on it, enough to give him an excuse to run home and change his pants.