Why Tesla Sales Agents Rank So Low

A salesman (2R) help customers pre-order the as yet unseen Tesla Model 3, in the Tesla store on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California, on March 31, 2016. / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

A salesman helps customers pre-order the Tesla Model 3 in the Tesla store on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California. | Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

What if there were no dealerships and automakers merely had stores where salespeople sold cars? If reports on Tesla sales agents are any indicator, maybe a lot fewer cars would get sold. The Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index, which uses mystery shoppers to tell how well salespeople market products on the lot, ranked Tesla agents worst in the business for the third straight year, with the company’s hands-off approach cited as the big reason.

Pied Piper’s mystery shoppers made the rounds at 6,157 auto dealerships and Tesla stores where cars are available and salespeople are on the prowl. While Infiniti agents showed the most prowess informing and persuading potential customers, Tesla was stuck in the basement once again, showing a decline after its last-place performance in 2015. In a press release accompanying the study, the behaviors that don’t work are clear.

People walk out of a Tesla motor company dealership in the Dadeland Mall on June 6, 2013 in Miami, Florida. The electric car maker is trying to make a move by selling their cars, that can cost between $62,400 and $82,400, into malls and stores.

People walk out of a Tesla motor company dealership in the Dadeland Mall in Miami, Florida. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Infiniti salespeople detailed financing and lease options available, something Tesla agents neglected to do often for mystery shoppers. Likewise, Tesla sales agents failed to ask how a car would be used or whether there were things standing in the way of a purchase. For a product that comes with a high price tag and a dose of range anxiety, these omissions seem fatal.

Furthermore, the technique in play at Tesla stores seems misguided. In WardsAuto, Pied Piper CEO Fran O’Hagan said the “museum curator” approach was in effect more often than not. Of course, if you can’t touch the artwork, the chances are you won’t get in and take a test-drive, let alone buy one.

Marcelo Jaramillo, assistant store manager, (R) shows a Tesla motor company car in a dealership at the Dadeland Mall on June 6, 2013 in Miami, Florida. The electric car maker is trying to make a move by selling their cars, that can cost between $62,400 and $82,400, into malls and stores.

Chances are slim these kids are buying a Tesla. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

O’Hagan acknowledged there were Tesla stores staffed with excellent salespeople but said the overall effect left him baffled. After all, it did not have the dealership network in its way and could establish best practices for every location to follow. Alas, the Pied Piper mystery shoppers did not find any such consistency in their rambles.

In terms of our own secret shopping, Autos Cheat Sheet can report firsthand on an interaction with the Tesla store in Chelsea, Manhattan on the occasion of reserving a Model 3. With a car about two years away from delivery, you would think a sales agent would suggest a test-drive in a Model S perhaps in the meantime? That would seem logical, but no such test was offered during our hour at the store. (A box left unchecked in fine print on the reservation payment page would have granted us a test-drive.)

Of course, Tesla has had production constraints to contend with, so maybe salespeople are a little gun-shy. Then again, how can you sell any car — especially an electric one — without getting consumers behind the wheel? Maybe Tesla staff will try a different tack once Model 3 hits the ground running. Until then, though it’s quite a niche market, survey says they’re among the worst at selling.

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