Ill-informed sales advisors spoil the car-buying experience

Based on my interactions with salespersons of brands like Tata, Hyundai, Kia, Ford, etc., a lot of questions always go unanswered.

BHPian Varun_G recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

I was out for buying a car and have TD several cars from different brands in the past year. The hunt still continues as now I am doing the same for my sister in Hyderabad. One observation that has been really frustrating or irritating is the limited knowledge of SAs about the cars in their showrooms. I am not sure if it's just a limited knowledge factor or outright ignorance but the same isn't limited to any specific brand but is valid across multiple instances and cities.

One recent example, we had TD the MG Astor 1.3L AT in Bangalore and were fairly impressed with the car. Now, my sister wanted to TD the CVT version before making a final decision and decided to go ahead with the CVT version booking. Astor offers a few interior options for Sharp variants and she wanted to book the DT Iconic Ivory. However, the SA claimed that right now only Sangria Red is available for booking (extra 10k). Being a TBHP member, I had done my homework and informed her that the Astor Sharp 1.5L CVT variant has only one interior option - DT Iconic Ivory and she went ahead with the booking.

Such experiences not only misguide potential customers but also put them off to a certain extent. As mentioned earlier, this is not an isolated incident but based on my interaction with SAs of Tata, Hyundai, Kia, Ford, etc. In the past year, there has always been a lot of unanswered questions/misguided information about the features of a car which forced me to do the required research at my end before finalising a car!

I understand that brands are dealing with multiple launches every year but how difficult is it to keep yourself updated about all the cars in your showroom especially when that is a part of your job description. Would love to understand the thoughts of fellow BHPians and their experiences on this observation. Looking forward to an interesting discussion!

Here’s what GTO had to say about the matter:

May I drop a link to an old iconic thread started by Sidindica (Comedy of Errors at Indian Dealerships)? Read it page-by-page this weekend and you will be rolling on the floor.

Here's what BHPian aargee had to say about the matter:

Basically, such things are bound in any vertical regardless of whom we deal with, it's the knowledge & experience of the person whom we deal with.

Being a BHPian, obviously, our knowledge on automobiles is significantly higher than the commuter-generic population in which most folks basically care for are:

  • Whether my car is bigger than my neighbor's
  • Whether my car yields the highest possible FE
  • Whether the AC makes us shiver
  • Whether the car & color attract everyone on the road
  • Whether the service costs are affordable

While some of the enthusiasts here care a little less about the above while giving importance to factors such a P2WR, GC, Torque, ASC reliability, tire & engine spec - basically, sales vs ownership. We're able to think beyond the sale & look into the larger pie of ownership life which is what separates us from the crowd. Also, we're a mob who learns out of sheer enthusiasm, while most folks at ASC learn because they're employed. So that should obviously put us much ahead of most folks there.

Ever talked to a mechanic working inside the ASC? I'm more than positive we would learn a thing or two very positively every time we meet them. The reason is, their hands-on experience is far superior to our hands-on keyboard experience. And anytime we meet an engineer from the manufacturer itself, they'll blow our minds. The point being, it depends on whom we meet at a car dealership.

Last but not the least, we might think the person at ASC is dumb enough to not know about the cars/bikes/scooters they're selling or the competitors, however, if we try to look beyond the role of his/her job, they should actually be a PhD in some other vertical where we're not even qualified in kindergarten.

But yes, I get your point, people who're employed are supposed to know more & better than customers visiting them, but then, are we average customers?

Here's what BHPian RavSam had to say about the matter:

Since I previously worked at a dealership in sales, here are a few pointers:

Did I have good knowledge of cars, variants, technology and features? - Yes, because I used to just ace their half-yearly product knowledge tests.

Was I able to sell tonnes of cars due to my knowledge? - No! In fact, almost all the other salespersons (yes, I'm ashamed) who had just the basic knowledge were able to sell a lot of them. Much more than I could, at least.

The women sales advisors had more conversion rates too. I am not joking! I have literally seen people/buyers not being able to reject a model because the female SA was good-looking and a pro at people skills. (Imperial Blue soundtrack plays in the background)

What were they good at? People skills! Convincing them that THIS is the best car and there is NOTHING else like it.

Saar, this is the best car! Best horsepower. Best features! This is the Best Brand! You will look like a king in this. Best accessories, best lowest loan interest. And all that stuff! They would go as far as giving them some cheap accessories from their own pockets for free if there were no freebies available.

I just couldn't do that. If a customer asked me a sane comparison question I would actually give them correct answers whether our product was better than their other considerations or not. I don't ever remember giving false info or just saying "our cars are the best". Maybe that's why they weren't sold.

If I were in some other upmarket dealership perhaps like Mercedes, BMW or anything else that's premium, I am still not sure that my car knowledge would translate to sales.

The bottom line is, those salespersons are there to make sales and explain to you the "basic features". Not technical features. They do try to learn horsepower and torque numbers by heart but that's about it!

Asking very company-specific questions like why did X company not provide this and why they share platform and that is like asking a school teacher why certain chapters are included and some not in your kid's syllabus. The teachers don't write their own school books and like that, the SAs don't manufacture it and neither they would convey your specific query to the company. Max they can do (if they can at all) is when they have a meet, they may say why customer rejected a certain product due to a feature. For other specific queries and requests, one can only use such portals or email and other things.

OTOH, the used car evaluators were just excellent in this! They know each and everything there is to know because they are buying cars from you and giving you money and hence, such mediocre knowledge would lead to losses.

So when visiting a dealership, don't expect the sales advisors to be very knowledgeable (I am not saying all of them are not). Most probably, the product manager (not the sales manager or team leader either) will know more about the vehicles. Get the knowledge and info from the web, go to the showroom with someone who knows cars well for product feel, TD, loan and accessories. That's it.

People and enthusiasts like us will only get irritated when SAs give out wrong info about something you already know correctly. Don't test them like you are a quiz competition host.

When I was buying my own car, I was just counting the time till the SA stopped giving me info about what I already know. Well, even then he told me 2-3 things which I did not know or could not have discovered on my own. Peace!

Here's what BHPian Reinhard had to say about the matter:

For starters, I have to confess I misunderstood the thread title when I opened it. By SA I typically assume "Service Advisor", so thought this is about technically unaware service advisors when visiting the ASC.

The sales teams - I believe are "Sales Executives"? And when it comes to these sales teams - I feel it's not really a recent trend at all. They have been this way more or less for quite a long while now. It's just that now the cars have started getting too many variants, too many features (and the mix-and-match between variants) across brands. The automakers also constantly revise/refresh their car trim configurations throughout the year. Previously, cars were sold as-is for literally years. With time the sales execs used to get sufficient knowledge.

Today they appear more confused (add to that their own job hops across brands) and get totally bewildered with more aware customers asking questions with prior knowledge via the internet. They tend to respond rather indifferently then and get into that "buy it if you want, I'm done reading my standard lines" attitude soon.

Here's what BHPian Dwaipayan26 had to say about the matter:

Well, Sir,

I would like to add an experience. I was at the Nexa Kolkata showroom to have a look at the Ciaz and the S Cross.

Me: The car is nice, but if the 1.6 diesel was still in production, would go right ahead and buy this car right now.

SA: Sir, for your yearly usage, you don't really need a diesel. Also Sir, S Cross only had a 1.3 diesel, not a 1.6.

Me: Umm, I am pretty sure that it had a 1.6 that was known for its power and 320 Nm of torque.

SA: Sir, even the 1.5 l petrol (which is currently the only engine in the S Cross) is extremely powerful.

Me: What's the horsepower figure?

SA: 177 BHP

Me: Oh, Ok.

I leave the showroom and start going through the brochure. Turns out that the real horsepower figure is only 77 BHP.

Quite a funny experience. Never expected the SA to be this uninformed.

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