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Team Subaru – A Different Kind of Sales Experience

In 2004 we purchased a new car, a cypress green convertible VW Beetle. We have loved that car. Over the years we have enjoyed many happy moments cruising between Seattle and somewhere generally north of the border with the top down, small children waving to us at every corner. Indeed Gracie, as we fondly named her, was a great investment.

However, we are now in Montana and Gracie spends most of the year in our garage because of winter conditions. Sure, we still enjoy summer sunny days with the top down, but with winter arriving early with predictions of snow, we knew it was time for a change.

We did try to replace our VW Bug with another VW. We had our eye on a Jetta wagon. We approached the local dealer with cash and a desire to purchase. But the service was horrible. We really tried to buy a car from them, going to the showroom twice—once finding no one to help us, and the other learning the Jetta was not in stock. It was sad. The truth was, another VW was probably not the best solution anyway. Still, we really were decided on that Jetta wagon, but without a salesman willing to assist us, we headed on down the road to Subaru.

I have heard nothing but good things from folks who have owned Subarus. However, they have never really been cars that ignite my inner playful side. I enjoy the Subaru ads and imagine myself to me an off-roads sort of gal. But CrisMarie was a much harder sell. To her, the cars lacked color and sportiness. Still, I though we should at least give it test drive.

Right away we noticed the difference on our first visit to the dealership. The place was busy. A salesman checked in with us quickly, taking a copy of our licenses’ and sending us off on a test drive – ALONE! We drove an Outback and an Impreza and said we’d be back. No pushiness or pressure, and though CrisMarie was far from sold, she loved the service.

We did our research and tried a couple more times at getting the Jetta. But the VW dealership must not have seen us as serious customers. Even online efforts failed to get responses. So we headed back to Subaru. This time we tried the entire line. Instead of our original salesman, we had a new guy, Dirk, who wanted to ride along with us. Even though I was as bit uncomfortable with the idea, in the end he was a great resource (and a fellow Honda Element lover). Dirk explained that the Subaru Team was quite different then most sales departments. Three of the four guys had all worked together up the road at the Honda dealer (thus the depth of knowledge of Honda) and each of them wanted something different. Because of their lifestyles and values they decided to go against the norm in car selling and operate as a team instead of individual salesmen.

Of course I had my doubts. But over the next few visits, we worked with each of the sales teams at one time or another. They were all consistent about the team approach, the belief in the product, and that the customer experience was the real seller of Subaru. They were open, authentic, and never once did I feel pushed or committed to one salesperson.

One of the guys, Rod, shared what he believed were their shared values. First, they respected each other and the strengths they each bought to the team. They also valued the customer’s experience and believed customers would come back. (Apparently the car sales training approach is NEVER let them leave the lot—once gone they won’t be back— and this does ring true with most of my car buying experiences.) Finally, they all had different lifestyles but realized that quality of life was more important than individual sales numbers. We did find they each had different styles. John, who was our original guy, won me over when he let us drive away so quickly, alone. Dirk was more the charmer. He got in the car with us and sold the Subaru. Rod was with us through the bulk of the selling process. He wasn’t pushing extras, no haggling about price, offering a high resell value on our bug. It was Rod who explained Team Subaru and their unique team approach. And it was obvious how they all played an important part.

In the end, we found the car for us. It helped that there was lots of snow and some ice to prove the value of AWD in Montana. But what really sold us was the experience. We love our Honda element. However, the Outback had some nice perks and when it came to getting up our driveway (the real test of all wheel driving,) the Subaru was awesome. So in the end, Team Subaru won our business.

There was a moment after we purchased our car when Team Subaru became human. We had left with the expectation of picking up our car in two days with dog gate installed and clear something complete (yes they did sell us a few additional items). We found out the morning we were coming to drive the new car away, there had been a mistake. The car wouldn’t be ready for at least another couple days. Now really this would not have been a big deal, but because we had high expectations and did not get the word until quite late, we were quite disappointed. Of course, I found myself annoyed because I could not understand why they didn’t tell us the clear something took extra time. In the end, Team Subaru came through. We had our crucial conversation, and they explained that with a busy service department and not really knowing the final items, they had over-promised. Dirk let us have a new Legacy to drive until the car was ready! Really, all I needed was some sort of acknowledgment and I would have been satisfied, but the car was a nice bonus!

Since the new car was a business purchase, it totally fits that we went with Team Subaru. We hope the guys will let us use them as a case study of a smart and healthy sales team. I sure wish there were more car dealerships operating using their sales approach. It might take a while for other sales departments to catch on. So if you are looking to enjoy buying a car, visit the guys at Team Subaru (Don K Subaru) in Whitefish, MT.  Tell them we sent you and we’ll get a free dinner.

Thanks guys!  You are proof that teams work—even in sales!