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Converting Lookers Into Buyers

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Originally Published: 7/1/2000

Article "There's a phrase you hear often in the collector car business: ""This car speaks for itself.""

Unfortunately, the phrase isn't true - and it's a lesson worth learning if you want to receive the most amount of money when you sell your car.

Consider a potential buyer at an auction. He or she will probably look at dozens, or hundreds, of cars within a few hours. You need to make your car stand out from the crowd. You need to convert lookers into potential buyers.

""It's not unlike designing an attractive storefront, or having the menu on display outside a restaurant,"" says Mitch Silver, president of Silver Actions. ""You've got to get buyers in the door. You want to give them a reason to look further at your car.

Cars don't speak for themselves; you need to speak for them. And an effective way to do that is with sales literature and other marketing materials. When you walk into a new car dealership, you'll find dozens of brochures, banners, photos and other promotional material about the cars for sale.

You can use the same principle to sell your own car. Some ideas:

  • Find an original sales brochure for your car. (This 'isn't as hard as it sounds; Hemmings Motor News will have dozens of potential sources.) The brochure will look nice on your dashboard but - more importantly - it will give you marketing ideas. A brochure will reveal the neat old names for parts of your car (Ease-O-Matic Transmission, Flow-Thru Aire, or whatever) and also tell you what options are on your vehicle that can be emphasized - hound's-tooth upholstery, for example, or chrome backup lights.

  • Assemble owner's manuals, warranty books and guides to accessories (convertible top, radio, air conditioning). These make great display pieces.

  • Prepare a chronology of your car's history, if known. Potential buyers feel reassured if they can see there's been a clear trail of ownership, especially if the car has significant historical value.

  • If a car has been extensively or professionally restored, prepare a notebook with receipts. But also prepare a 1- to 2-page sheet with highlights. If a car received a frame-off restoration at a reputable shop, say so.

  • Consider having a professional sign made to highlight your vehicle. Prices range from $10 to $100; a quick-print copy center usually will have someone who can do a nice job. Set it up on a stand next to your car.

  • Prepare an inexpensive flier or brochure that can be handed out in quantity to potential buyers. If you don't have access to a computer and laser printer, a quick printer or copy shop usually can make one. Make sure a photo of the car is included - even a Xerox copy is OK.

  • Make a color postcard of your car (color prints are inexpensive in volume; so are pages from a color copier). If you're using prints, get a copy shop to run off labels to stick on the back, containing key information about your car. Again, the idea is to give people something that will keep your car in their eye.

  • Compile a notebook with clippings about your car from magazines, books, or even this magazine. If your car has been picked as one of the great sports cars of the '70s, or unsung collectibles of the '50s, share the news. Remember that the majority of cars sold at auction are impulse purchases. The more information you provide, the easier it is for somebody to persuade himself to bid on your car.

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