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 In Business, Case Study, Leadership, Management, Sales
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here are essentially two ways to go about selling anything. Either sales strategy can work if we define “work” as “lead to a sale.” One way will leave you and your client happier, more satisfied, and with a stronger relationship. The other will not.

To illustrate this, let me tell you the stories of my last two visits to a car lot and the sales strategies they reflect.

WAY #1: HOW TO MAYBE MAKE A SALE & CERTAINLY ALIENATE YOUR PROSPECT

Yesterday, I visited a car dealership for my first test-drives as I consider buying my next car. I’ll be buying very soon.

The sales rep (Bret) who approached me as I peered in some car windows was a young guy, inexperienced, but pleasant. Brought me some keys, accompanied me as I drove two cars, chatted me up, and learned about me and my life. He missed a few opportunities to dig into my purchase plans, but overall, a pleasant experience. So far, so good.

When he learned that I train sales teams, he said, “I want to introduce you to my sales manager.” That’s where things took a turn for the worse.

WHAT THE SALES MANAGER DID TO ALIENATE ME

Mr. Manager said, “Tell me how Bret did. Just a second,” and he tried to get me to leave Bret in the lobby while we went outside. He wanted me to critique Bret’s sales performance where only he could hear. I refused to leave Bret anxious and alone in the lobby.

Mr. Sales Manager went on to:

  • Express frustration about the state of one of the cars I drove — not from empathy for me, but because he himself was angry that it wasn’t up to his standards.
  • Chastise an employee of his in front of me and in front of other employees.
  • Tell me of a customer he’d asked to leave his lot because she was rude to his employees, berating his staff.  (“Good,” I thought.) Then he said, “I told her she’d be happier somewhere else.” (He lied to her.)
  • Tell me repeatedly, “I’d really like to sell you a car,” even after I said, “I’ve got to go pick up my daughter.

He accomplished all this in under 10 minutes.

HOW MR. MANAGER COULD HAVE DONE BETTER

He could have:

  • Said, “Bret’s a new sales rep. He’s been working hard. Would you tell Bret what he’s done well as your salesman?” Then, “How could he improve?” He could have acted in Bret’s interest to develop his skill instead of only to get some evaluation without building Bret up.
  • Thought and framed his disappointment about the car’s condition not being up to snuff from a standpoint of empathy for me. “I’m sorry we didn’t meet our own standards. I’d have liked for you to have a better experience. I’d have liked for you to see our best work.”
  • Held his criticism for his employee for a time they were alone, without customers and other staff around. There was nothing urgent going on.
  • Told that rude woman who was berating his staff, “I don’t need your money. I understand you’re angry. I don’t want anyone to talk to my staff that way. Please either apologize, or look for a car at another dealership.”
  • Heard and respected that I needed to leave to pick up my daughter.
  • Focused his thinking and speaking on helping me instead of being self-centered. “I want to sell you a car,” is none of my business. To be blunt, it’s not my job to care about his sales goals.
  • Come from a standpoint of service. “I want to be sure you get a car that’s going to really serve your needs.” Or, “I want to make the often obnoxious experience of buying a car easy, efficient, and pleasant for you. I hope that will win your business.”

Your customers are not there to serve you with a purchase. Rather, they’re expecting your service in exchange for their purchase.

To be fair, I was probably never going to purchase a car from Bret or his manager.

Because I’m loyal to Steve.

I stopped at Bret’s dealership because I’ve just started looking, and I like to see what’s out there, drive a few cars. The dealership was convenient at a time when I had an hour.

Two years ago, when I was shopping for a car, I knew just the car I wanted: a 2012 Jetta Sportwagen. I called one dealership that had one, and I was directed to Steve. (You can find Steve at this link. This is not a paid advert. Steve earned my appreciation and loyalty.)

WAY #2: HOW TO MAYBE MAKE THE SALE & CERTAINLY PLEASE PEOPLE

When I arrived at Steve’s two years ago, he greeted me like a guest, went out of his way to make me comfortable, and didn’t try to sell me anything. I’ve been telling the story and recommending Steve ever since.

HOW STEVE WON MY LOYALTY

  • Steve let me run my car buying process.
  • On the phone I said, “I’d like to drive the car on your lot, then I’m going to drive another car in the next town over. Then I’m going to weigh my options, and make a purchase.” Steve said, “Ok. Great.”
  • When I arrived to drive the car, Steve greeted me warmly, humanly, authentically without any sign of a forced smile.
  • He had the car running and the seat warmer on already. It was a cold day.
  • He spoke a little, but mostly let me listen to the car and do my thing as he rode along with me on the test drive.
  • When I said, “Thanks. I’m going to drive the other one tomorrow, and you may hear back from me,” he did not reply, “How can I put you in a car today?”
  • When I called the following afternoon and asked to drive the car again, Steve was warm again, not annoyed at my request.
  • Steve usually sells new Lexuses. But when I arrived, Steve had done a bunch of research into how to sync my phone with the car’s bluetooth. He showed me how. He went out of his way to make everything easy and pleasant for me.
  • He called me a week after I bought the car and asked how it was treating me.
  • He called a year later and said, “Happy anniversary.”

TO SUM UP — A Pushy Way, and a Helpful Way

In short, “Way 1”, focusing on yourself and the sale, pushing your will on the buyer may lead to a sale — once. And it will almost always alienate people, even if they buy.

“Way 2”, focusing on your prospect and seeking to serve them, looking at things from the perspective of their interests, will often lead to a sale — if it’s good for the buyer. And it will almost always make you friends and fans who’ll come back and refer others.

Bret’s manager was all about Bret’s manager. Steve was all about me. I’m sure Steve is acting strategically at some level to maximize the likelihood of a sale. But his strategy is about how to give me the best experience with no pressure.

Pressure will sometimes win a sale, but it will not win anyone’s heart. Stepping into a prospect’s life with the intention of helping to improve it if you can — that wins hearts. Steve won my heart, so I’ve referred business to him. And I’ve called him again to tell him what I’m looking for in my next car. He sold me a car once. He did it right. And now he’s got my business anytime I need a car.

Don’t be like Bret’s manager. Be like Steve.

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