And the wheels came off….

One of the great things about sales performance is that the chance to practice and observe exists everywhere. Interactions occur often in our daily lives. In restaurants, retail stores, airlines, banks, etc. One of the most interesting examples is buying a car from a dealer. Well, being in need of a new car, that’s what I did. What transpired was lessons on how not to treat potential customers….

My first stop was at a German car dealership that begins with a “B”. The young salesperson was very nice and seemed to be authentic. I told him what certified used model I was looking to see. He asked no questions. We came back after a pleasant test drive and the fun began. He tried to get me to negotiate against myself. Nice try – I wasn’t about to play my hand, though he was persistent. He went to the back to speak with his manager. The sales manager told the sales person to give me the car at their cost. That took almost nothing off the sticker. Really? I know that’s not their cost – it’s easy to do homework with modern technology. So, I leave as I’m pressed for time. I remember the days when sales managers came out and introduced themselves to you – no more. They hide in the back and make the sales person run back and forth between them and the customer. Good cop bad cop. How relationship oriented…

The next day I received an email from the sales manager. It merely said “Hi David, How’s my team doing?” Easy enough to send to everyone who came in though not very personable. I gave him a gift – I replied. I told him the salesperson was a pleasure, but the deal wasn’t good enough and unfortunately I had to go elsewhere. No reply!!! He could have said, sorry to hear that, ask if I could expand on the issue and that he’d look into it. Instead, he ignored my email.

My second stop was at another German dealer that begins with an “A”. This time I was with my wife. It couldn’t have started worse. When I introduced my wife, he commented on her strong handshake and asked if her husband or father taught her to shake tightly. Not good. Once in the car my wife asked a simple question – “are there any electrical outlets in the car?” He then asked “why – do you want to curl your hair while you’re driving?” Strikes 2 and 3. I cringed in the backseat. Sure enough, she now viewed the car I’d thought she would like best through an unfavorable lens. As I thought, she found many things about the car she didn’t like…

What are the lessons? First off, authenticity is very important. I would have hoped the manager in the first case would have thought it important enough to meet face to face. Many times sales people are in the field by themselves and would benefit greatly from having a manager out with them on difficult calls. It sends a message to the client or prospect that they’re important. Also, in the first case, if the client is annoyed and the deal is going south, find out why, acknowledge the issue, ask for elaboration and address it. The feeling of being manipulated is not a good one for a buyer to have. I have no desire to go into that dealership again.

In the second case, it’s pretty obvious. Being condescending to my wife is not getting him any votes. She hated his attitude (as did I) and probably wouldn’t have taken the car if he gave it us for nothing. My wife and I went together because I value her opinion — she has a great deal of influence even if I was to be the primary driver. I’ve seen far too many presentations where the presenters focused on the senior most people in the room at the expense of others. All it takes is a small amount of negativity from someone who may not be the decision maker to ruin the deal.

So, I found a dealer that did many things right (not all) and did the deal. What a ride….