I’m in the process of buying a new car, and I’m trying to apply everything I’ve learned from my research into software negotiation towards getting a good deal. I’m noticing many of the irritating behaviors from the dealers’ sales staff that Forrester’s sourcing and vendor management clients encounter regularly from their software reps. Here is my list of the worst ones, but I’d love to hear other people’s suggestions:

  1. Refusing to give me a price. “Obviously” (the repeated use of that word nearly made the list btw) “I can’t give you a price until you’ve made your decision and finalized the spec.” Even though I’ve said exactly what model and options I want, the rep wants to avoid competing against another dealer, so he’s trying to delay starting price negotiation until I’m committed to his brand. I’m not playing ball, insisting that I like two cars almost equally, so price will be a decision criterion.
  2. Bundling in overpriced options. Car buyers and software buyers should both be wary of anything with the word ‘pack’ in the title, such as ‘dynamic handling pack’ or ‘database tuning pack.’ Don’t be fooled by the compelling discount you can get on these extras — that merely means their list price is too high for the value customers get from them. For example, why would I want the ‘navigation multimedia pack’, which is merely a £300 SatNav system that they’re trying to sell for £2,000. Oh, and it also gives a warning noise if you’re driving too close to the car in front. I’ve had something similar sat next to me for the last 25 years — I affectionately call her ‘Sat Nag.’
  3. Calling me ‘yourself’ instead of ‘you’. For instance: “Is the car just for yourself, or will your wife be driving it as well?” Ugh, this is so irritating, but all reps do it so they must teach it in rep school. What’s wrong with the word ‘you’? Incidentally, my answer was “not nearly as well, but she will be driving it.” The salesman thought that was witty, even if my wife didn’t.
  4. Getting the pricing rules wrong. I’ve studied the price list, and apparently I know it better than Jamie, the Mercedes sales guy. I've lost count of how many times I’ve had to correct him on the detail of what comes as standard with each model and what options are available. Software pricing is far more complex than car pricing, so it’s unsurprising that sales reps often give buyers incorrect information. They do so with such self-assurance that it’s hard to tell when they’re lying or guessing. If in doubt, make them show you the official policy statement in a published document — an ad hoc email is insufficient.
  5. Keeping me away from the sales manager. I know he’s the person who approves all the offers, so why can’t I negotiate directly with him? Because Jamie wants to be able to say, “Sorry, Doug, the manager, says no.” Well, two can play that game. Just as software buyers should keep their CIOs in reserve, I can say, “Sorry, my wife will only let me spend £x.” I’ve got to convince Jamie that that is my upper limit and arm him to sell my proposal to Doug.

Does anyone else have some annoying habits to add to my list? Or perhaps some other tips for getting my car a bit cheaper?