Buying a car – although a massive privilege – is a pivotal point in your life that speaks to your independence, passion, and goals. A car purchase may even be the largest you ever make, so it’s even more crucial that the entire experience is positive and memorable.

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So, earlier this year, my husband and I popped into an auto dealer to check out the latest models on the floor. Although at the time I was grappling with whether to refinance my car or trade it in, this spur-of-the-moment stop was just to have a look. 

The game was afoot

And I was having a great look until the clipboard-wielding salesperson walked up to my husband standing to one side, bumped elbows with him (you know, the pro-pandemic handshake) and asked what he was looking to buy. My husband laughed. “No, my wife is looking for a car.” The now wide-grinning salesperson replies: “But let me show you,” to my husband, directing him in another direction. I laughed. The salesperson stood there with an unmoving Ken doll-style grin, and I explained: “He doesn’t have a license. I’m looking for a car.”

At this point, I was thinking stating that my husband does not drive (he is a very proud supporter of taxi drivers everywhere) would direct the attention to me – the person who may be considering purchasing a vehicle from him. But alas, I was mistaken. This would only fuel the fire of selling a car to my husband.

Do we still doubt the knowledge of others?

Now, in the year 2021 when the world has seen a massive push toward equality and hundreds of thousands of people move against stereotyping and assumption, I’m still (even if naively so) surprised that the “women don’t know about cars” stereotype is still in existence.

I’d have thought – specifically in the big city – that we’ve moved forward. Especially as we’ve seen women collect, race, and even drive cars as taxi drivers, chauffeurs, and delivery people. But clearly, I thought wrong. However, all hope is not lost! We can always learn.

Do onto the buyer

In my previous article (link here), I had mentioned Uncle Henry – my longtime mechanic who once was a stranger looking at my car for the first time. And even though I’m far from clueless when it comes to mechanical knowledge, the experience of someone not making assumptions based on preconceived ideas or stereotypes made for a lasting and trusted relationship. Let me explain.

On our first meeting, Uncle Henry looked at me and said: what happened? I vaguely recall reliving the breakdown moment while waving my hands and channelling Michael Winslow (the sound-recreation voice acting icon from Police Academy). Uncle Henry nodded. And he asked: what do you think is wrong? I honestly can’t remember my answer, but his patience and systematically working with me to arrive at a diagnosis helped me understand the mechanical functions of the car’s engine. And over time, it built my confidence when things did go wrong years on.

At this point, I must add not everyone is Uncle Henry. Further, it’s nobody’s responsibility to build your confidence. I do, however, believe that there is a responsibility from the seller to not assume. You cannot preempt someone’s knowledge, capability, or priorities. If I’m buying a car to fit two prams and a baby seat in it, I am as valuable as the person purchasing the same car because they’re a fan of the engine specifications.

Where our car purchase goes from here

Now, as a salesperson (regardless of the sale), building trust with your potential customer is critical. An investment such as a car is not an easy choice and, for everyone, the considerations are vastly different. The winning recipe for a successful sale is to leverage the potential customer’s priorities. Do not downplay their knowledge or grab at stereotypes and assumptions. It will propel you onward.

Stay tuned for regular tips, snippets and feminist takes on the world of driving.