I purchased my first car when I was 19. The research I did was extensive and with the assistance of my father co-signing the loan everything was in order. All I could think about was fast, two-door and sporty.

I looked at the Mazda RX7, Ford Mustang, Pontiac Fiero and others. The RX7 became my final decision and the paper work was in motion.

All I had to do was go to my bank and get the check. On my way to the bank I made one last stop at a Pontiac dealership and on the front of the lot was a shiny black Trans Am with a four-speed stick and T-bar roof. I thought taking the TA for a ride would just confirm my RX7 choice. But my choice was changing — as fast as a TA can go 0-60 mph.

When the sales person took off the roof my new decision was made. Hello Trans Am, goodbye RX7.

I called the bank and got a new bill of sale and check made. I also paid the asking price with no negotiation from the sales person.

I never questioned or thought twice about the price, until I got into the car business.

With this personal life experience I realized the importance of the demonstration drive or should I say trying something on. If you do not try it you probably will not buy it. Today's sales meeting will cover the importance of achieving mental ownership.

The more demos you can schedule, the more vehicles you will sell.

Seven steps to a professional demonstration drive

Step One: Never ask the customer if they would like to go for a test drive, because they might say, “No thanks, not today.”

When you have completed a professional vehicle presentation, excuse yourself from the customer by saying, “Please give me one minute I'll be right back.”

At this point you will go and get the dealer plate. You do not have to tell the customer where you are going, just go and do it.

Step Two: When you come back to the vehicle put the dealer plate on. Tell the customer, “I'll have to drive first for safety reasons, so if you would please like to get into the passenger seat.”

The demonstration drive should always start with the sales person driving first and never let the customer test drive the vehicle alone.

This is done for five reasons:

  1. Safety for you and the customer.

  2. It maintains the control established during the presentation.

  3. It shows the customer how the vehicle can be professionally driven.

  4. It allows the sales person to explain and answer any other questions about the vehicle.

  5. It does not give the customers a chance to talk themselves out of the vehicle.

Step Three: The test drive should be approximately 30 minutes and you must have a pre-planned route. This route must be thought out with a special driver switch spot, i.e. a golf course parking lot, a quiet side street or a park. When you get to that spot, get everyone out of the vehicle, stand back with the customer and ask, “How do you like the vehicle away from the dealership?”

When they have answered, let them drive. Make sure they are comfortable with the seat position, mirrors, steering wheel setting. You can sit in the back seat if you're with more than one person.

Step Four: When you were driving, you could talk as much as you want.

You can explain the warranty, turn on the stereo, talk about anything that you have not mentioned at the dealership. When the customer is driving do not speak unless you are giving directions or are asked a question. Let the customer enjoy the drive.

Step Five: When you are approaching the dealership ask the customer, “Do you like the ride and features of the vehicle?” This will enable you to determine if the vehicle selected is the right one. If it is not, start thinking of another vehicle before you park.

Step Six: When you get back to the dealership, do not park the vehicle in the same spot you took it from because that's like taking it away from the customer. This will decrease your goal of achieving mental ownership. Instead, park the vehicle in a “special area.” If your dealership does not have an after-demo drive spot, make one.

Ask the customer, “Could you please park in our ‘sold’ area?”

Telling the customers this may seem bold, but it will give you an excellent idea of how they feel. The customer is going to say one of three things:

  1. “I haven't bought it yet!” You say, “That's OK this is where we park all of our vehicles after a test drive, so that the lot person can clean it and put more gas in it.”

  2. “OK!”

  3. “OK, and make sure no one else drives it.”

Your response to 2 and 3: “Great, no problem.”

Step Seven: At the end of the demo when everyone is out of the vehicle, clarify that this is the correct vehicle. Ask the customer, “Did you like the features and the ride of the vehicle?”

If everything is OK, tell the customer, “Please follow me, I would like to share some more information with you.”

Do not ask them to come inside and work out some numbers and such. Proceed with selling the whole package (service department, history of your dealership etc.) and then sit them down and ask for the order. Refer to my story in the Ward's Dealer Business April 2001 issue for that. (If you misplaced your copy, go to www.wardsdealer.com's archives.)

Meeting wrap up

Three words to remember: “Achieve mental ownership.”

You must have a demonstration drive game plan. More test drives equals more sales and higher gross. Keep your shoulders square, slow down your back swing and keep your head down.

Darin B. George runs the Automotive Sales College that trains new and experienced sales people. He also conducts sales seminars for dealerships and manufacturers. He's at 1-888-681-7355 and ascanada@sprint.ca.