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Firsthand Sales Lessons from Tesla

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 I am going to take a little detour from my usual focus on commercial real estate and tips for maximizing commissions, productivity and general happiness. On second thought, I will probably touch on all three as I share my personal experience with one of Elon Musk’s innovations – the Tesla.

Recently, I came across some unanticipated extra cash. It was a combination of saving for years in case Kid#1 elected to go to private college. As it turns out, my daughter decided against the private school I was hoarding cash for and elected instead to go to a state school to pursue her dream major. Add the partial academic scholarship she received and eureka, there’s some cash I didn’t expect! Don’t get me wrong, I am overly proud of my daughter, and I still have Kid#2 to save for, but selfishly – yeah for me!

After driving my prior automobile, a 10-year-old SUV for hauling the family around, I was ready for a change. This would entail months of research, talking to friends and clients about what they drove, and ultimately test-driving several narrowed-down options. I wasn’t even sure if a car was for me. It had been over a decade since I drove a car and being low to the ground, compared to my throne from the driver’s seat of my SUV, was so foreign to me. In fact, I found myself gravitating to SUVs once again but was also interested in finding an option that would give me that “freedom of the road” feeling that I had prior to having children.

The first car I test drove was the new Lexus LC. It’s definitely the coolest-looking car I reviewed. It’s basically a 2-seat rocket ship with 4 wheels. If you follow Maxwell Finn on Facebook (he is a Facebook guru and son of RealNex’s Jeff Finn), you may have noticed that he recently purchased the Lexus LC. It was also the car highlighted in the movie The Black Panther.

During my test drive, the salesman – let’s call him Tom – expounded on all the features of the car:  the heated and cooled seats, the shift paddles and the suspension system that allowed me to take curves at ridiculous speeds.  He even shared that there’s an optional feature that is guaranteed to deflect radar. Tom suggested if I got this radar-deflection option, the company would defend me against any future speeding tickets I may collect during my hyperspeed journeys. Hmmm. That sounded too good to be true. As if on cue, on the way back to the Lexus showroom, Tom asked me to check my speed. I didn’t realize I was traveling close to 100 mph on I-40 and quickly shut down the boosters to a respectable 75 mph.

When we parked the car, Tom, expecting a very satisfying response, asked me what I thought. I shared with him that “it’s too much”. “Too much!” he loudly responded more in the form of an indictment that he just wasted his last 20 minutes with a prospect who could not afford the car as opposed to a query on why I felt that way.

I explained to him that the car, although the prettiest car I had seen in a long time, was “too much car”. Who the heck needs to go 100 mph on a regular basis?  Not me. Most of my trips consist of drives to the Y on rainy days when I cannot exercise outside, running errands for my wife or driving to the airport for a business trip.

Tom never qualified me or asked what I was looking for in a car. To him I was a living, breathing thing that wanted to test drive the newest gadget in the showroom. Heck, the car was priced at over $100,000 and yes, for me at least, that’s simply way too much to spend on a car. Don’t forget I still have to help Kid#2 with college.

My next stop was to check out our local Tesla dealership. I had first seen the Tesla up close as my friend and commercial real estate patriarch, Jerry Anderson of SVN Florida, had one and he may be their #1 fan. His is a beautiful, red Model S. Jerry also shared with me that Clientlook founder Michael Griffin also had a Tesla Model S, so I spoke with Michael in great detail about his experience. Both of these personal allies were raving fans of Tesla, so it was time for me to give it a shot.

I first wanted to test drive the car itself, knowing full well I would never buy a new model. I learned years ago that the best route for car buying, according to the book The Millionaire Next Door, is to buy a pre-owned, certified model. If you have not read this book, it’s still around and well worth the read. But I digress. I couldn’t test drive a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO), at least not in my town, so I figured I would simply test drive a new one.

Understand Tesla does not have “dealerships”. You actually have to make an appointment to test drive their cars. While you are making your appointment on www.tesla.com, you have the option of configuring your ideal car. Think about the sales approach behind this –

  • First, Tesla is collecting information on you and your preferences before you appear in their “showroom”
  • Days before you arrive, they are sending you reminder emails and even their latest newsletter
  • So even before I actually went to test drive the car, I was being made aware of the value of Tesla

 How educated are your prospects on the value of you before you hold your meetings?

Upon my arrival for my big test drive, the salesman – let’s call him Joe – introduced himself and quickly took me to a Model S and “summoned” the car automatically from the parking spot. He said, “You never know when someone is going to park right next to you and you need to struggle to open your door”.

Not only did Joe share a sample of the car’s automatic, non-driver summon, but he also highlighted the benefit of not having an issue when some jerk parks right next to you. Yes, the summon feature was “cool”, but that’s not why you buy a car. It was just one of the scores of benefits Joe would share with me over the next 45 minutes.

After the test drive, Salesman Joe sat me in front of a computer and began to ask me qualifying questions, all while demonstrating options that met my previously submitted preferences. I was transparent and shared with Joe that I was there to simply test drive the car, but I wanted to look at CPO options. Joe quickly brought up options on the computer. Again, he was prepared for any obstacle I would throw at him. I let him know I needed to sleep on it and do some research before pulling the trigger, but that I was genuinely interested. Joe put me in touch with their CPO division head, Stephen.

Subsequently, I probably made Stephen pull his hair out during my more than 2 months of research, more test drives and multiple requests for pictures and reports. You would never know from Stephen’s demeanor. He was always responsive and happy to assist me with my elongated decision process. Ultimately, Stephen found me a CPO model that was almost exactly what I was looking for. I committed to the purchase and we closed the sale within a week, inclusive of transporting the car from Florida to North Carolina.

The car had one minor issue, which Tesla quickly addressed by sending a mobile repair specialist to my house to solve the problem. That’s right, the after-sale experience was as strong as the sales experience itself. The repair specialist also took the time to answer my seemingly limitless questions on all the car’s bells and whistles.

I am now a proud owner of a 2015 Tesla S P85D. It may not be a rocket ship like the Lexus LC, but when I click the car into “insane” mode, it’s pretty damn fast. The auto-steering and live streaming are pretty cool, too.  However, it’s getting back to the freedom of the road that closed the sale.

Lessons learned:

  • Qualify your prospects
  • Focus on their needs
  • Emphasize the benefits of your solutions
  • Be patient and persistent with their demands

Ultimately, you will close more sales.


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2 Responses

  1. Yes,,,,service,,,service,,tesla has that,my sons friend went off the road10 pm in middle of major highway,left it there,thru there SDS an uber driver picked up the passages brought them to my home,meanwhile keeping the owner aware of the auto,towed to an tesla dealership that Friday night,whereas it was repaired that nextMORNING and I dropped off him an he was on his way by 1 pm the next day,,,WOW that is service

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