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Why your EV customers will provide you with lessons about how you should run your business tomorrow.

Updated: May 24, 2021

boost blog #7

In retail land, talking to sales execs about EV customers will often reveal a pen portrait of customers that are highly informed, demanding and detail orientated, who expect a high level of knowledge and responsiveness from the sales staff they interact with. They might respond, “They are hard work”.

In New Zealand and Australia these consumers are Innovators and Early Adopters according to Everett Rogers.[1] Despite the success of Leaf as a used import, as a country only a small percentage of our passenger fleet is EV, 2% for used imports and 2.8% for new passenger cars[2].

At these levels, we are moving from the innovation stage to the early adopter stage. That means a sales explosion is just about to start. Are you ready and well placed to make the most of it, or will you and your sales staff push consumers into the arms of your competitors (or grey importers)?

In any emerging market the true early adopters are well informed and prepared to pay a premium for the right (read best) product. Because these early adopters are highly informed, and yet seeking answers they will ask the trickiest questions of their chosen products. Your sales staff, typically not used to these questions (and the numbers of them) will likely have a lower success rate in getting them across the line. Deep product knowledge and understanding will be key to your success.

In a casual discussion with a sales executive about PHEVs, he told me why they were a waste of money, and they didn’t work well. This aversion is easy to understand. Your staff have had a career from selling ICE vehicles. Your team are probably petrol heads, and here is new tech that doesn’t have the same visceral excitement of a performance ICE. They don’t want to promote EVs, they are an anathema to them (conveniently forgetting that 95% of what they sell are not performance cars).

Which is why the power of listening is critical to sales staff, more than ever. Because Innovators tend to be big thinkers in their field, and in this instance much greener than most consumers (noting that the greenest consumers will not buy an EV, they will use their bike or public transport), they will lead much greener and more sustainable lives.

By understanding your customer’s motivations, you will learn from early adopters and innovators the steps they have made in their lives to lower their carbon footprint. It is likely they will have or are considering solar power, maybe a home battery (and for that matter, rainwater usage for toilets and washing machines). They might also be considering how their EV works with C2G (Car to Grid) or C2X (Car to X, where X might be home or another power demander).

New Zealand doesn’t lead the way in sustainability, but EV drivers almost definitely do. Making a difference for early adopters is more important than the cost of making a difference. That should not be confused with price being irrelevant. As we get closer to price parity this dynamic will change. However, given that EVs are a safe bet to arrive in volume, parity will come, and along with it an increased focus on sustainability.

New Zealand has The Electric Highway[3], very high levels of electricity being generated by renewable sources, and the proliferation of a decent charging infrastructure. This means we are well placed to capitalise on the explosion in EV sales which will start in earnest this year.

Reflect on what you have learned from your innovators and think about how to apply these principles to your business. Listening to how they are living their lives, you will get a clearer view of how to run your business tomorrow in a more sustainable manner. Innovators will almost definitely reflect the changing demands and expectations of tomorrows customers; that is a powerful insight.

Lessons from EV customers to help tomorrow's business

  1. Make excellent product knowledge the core of a salesperson’s tool kit.

  2. Value the Maven (think of them a trusted social media influencer if you like)

  3. Get your team fully on-board with EVs. It is the future of your business.

  4. Selling is about listening, not talking; Review and analyse what you have been told.

  5. Ensure you are across emerging initiatives and trends that stem from EVs

  6. Audit your businesses green credentials now. Then set sustainability goals.

  7. Align with the innovators.

  8. Look at conversion rates for EV sales – if they are low make sure it is not an internal issue.

[1] Everett Rogers – author of Diffusion of Innovations [2] Source: NZTA and MIA. Full year 2020.

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