How do you safely sell safety?

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The story goes that some early automakers didn’t want to put seatbelts in their vehicles, because it might give people the idea the car was inherently unsafe.

Today, of course, high-tech safety and driver-assist technologies are a selling point. Understanding the features your customers want will get them into the vehicles that are properly equipped for them.

Conversely, some technologies have been oversold to the public – perhaps through their names, or what’s circulating around the Internet – and people may be expecting more than what’s available right now, such as a car that can completely drive itself. You need to confirm that the vehicle you’re selling doesn’t have whatever amazing new technology they desire, and that’s because no one offers it yet. 

In the walkaround, describing the vehicle’s safety features should give you an idea of your customer’s familiarity with what’s out there, and how to sell them on it.

Some people aren’t aware of what’s standard equipment. If someone hasn’t purchased a new vehicle in a while, they may not know a rear backup camera is now mandatory, for example. And some equipment has been around for so long – such as anti-lock brakes or stability control – that it seldom gets mentioned and some may think it’s missing. If they’re cross-shopping and another dealership shows off features like that backup camera, that might sell them on it because they think your vehicle doesn’t have it.

Highlight how your systems work. Not all driver technologies are created equal, and salespeople need to be aware of exactly what is included in each model. Not all adaptive cruise control has stop-and-go ability; not all rear-view cameras are high-definition; some vehicles warn if you’re straying out of your lane, while others go a step beyond and help guide the driver back and out of trouble. These may be important enough to a customer to move to a higher trim if that’s what it takes to get them.

Families may have extra needs. All vehicles come with child seat tether anchors, but some are easier to use than others – and ones that are difficult could result in a child seat that isn’t properly installed. Show customers how they work, and if it’s a model that’s easier than most, be sure to tell them that. The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests vehicles for ease-of-use of their tethers. Research the models you’re selling, and highlight any top ratings to your customers.

Be honest about what a feature can’t do. This can be a big deal with highway driving assist technologies, because there are many different types. Some simply maintain their distance from traffic ahead; many stay centred in their lane; some can change lanes when the turn signal is activated; and the most sophisticated ones, under the right conditions, can operate hands-free and even get around slower traffic by themselves. What any system can’t do is just as important as what it can – and because customers may have only seen highlights in thirty-second advertisements, they may have expectations that you can’t fulfill. A realistic approach will help avoid disappointment.

Understand recalls. Many people panic when they hear there’s a recall on their vehicle. Some can be serious, but many are relatively minor – for example, a warning sticker that isn’t in both French and English can result in a recall. Salespeople should be able to answer any questions about recalls. These include:

- Recalls are VIN-specific. When recalls make the news, it’s simply reported as affecting a certain model. Often a problem is related to one batch of parts, or a manufacturing error that was solved during production, and the recall doesn’t necessarily affect every vehicle. If a customer says, “My friend has the same car, and got a recall notice and I didn’t,” ask for the VIN and look it up.

-Many are done as a precaution. A vehicle may fall under the recall but not actually have the issue. In some cases, the technician examines the vehicle and only replaces parts if the issue is present. Automakers may also replace parts as a precaution, not because they are currently faulty.

- Make sure your customers are on file. When selling a used vehicle, file the new owner’s name and address with the automaker – and if it isn’t your brand, do it as a courtesy and make sure your customer knows. This will ensure that any recall notices get mailed to the right person.

Emphasize maintenance as a safety issue. Driver-assist technologies work best when the vehicle is in good condition, with well-maintained brakes, tires, steering components, and other items. Your prepaid maintenance plans aren’t just for peace of mind. They can be vital for safety as well, so sell them on that as well.