Home > Personal Selling > How would you have handled this differently?

How would you have handled this differently?

I recently visited a car dealership, since I am in the market for a new car in the coming months. I got the experience of selling from the other side of the desk.

I would like to describe my experience (which was mondane--at BEST) and open a discussion on how this experience could have been handled better by a seasoned salesman. I thought it might make an interesting opportunity for the experts to illustrate their techniques and demonstrate how they would have re-written the experience if they had been the salesman.

Here goes:
Being an upfront person, I told the salesman immediately that I was window shopping and that I intend to buy a car by the end of the year, but I want to get a feel for a few specific cars that have piqued my interest.

He gave me the "run down" on the vehicle I was interested in (talking a mile a minute). We took it for a test drive, and then went to the office, where he began filling out a form without indicating what he was doing. During this silence I piped in that I hoped that was a lead form because I was not prepared to buy today.

He then asked me a couple "qualifying" questions..."If we could get you into a car with no down payment, would you buy it today..." kind of thing. I held my ground because I am not an impulse shopper--that is just not my nature. I have already made a plan for myself when and how I will buy the car. I understand that he felt compelled to take a couple cracks at me knowing that I would be leaving in a few moments--so I did not really take offense, since it was probably hard-wired in him, but I was mildly annoyed by it.

He then left me sitting alone in the office for some mysterious reason, and when he came back, asked me more specifics about down payments and monthly payments.

Finally, he thanked me and I left. Two days later, I received, a run-of-the-mill followup letter thanking me for stopping by and inviting me to contact him with any questions, etc.

I thought this might make an interesting discussion because I REALLY am the buyer in this scenario, and since this is not role playing...I can just be myself and see what kind of experience I would have among the experts. - by Rainmaker
In auto dealerships today, only the most experienced, entrenched salespeople manage their own selling process. This is particularly true of larger dealerships. What you were probably experiencing is the salesperson's interpretation of what his management requires from him. But even the finest tools in the hands of the unskilled can lead to naught. - by Ace Coldiron
Great question, Rainmaker. Here are my thoughts:

1. From your synopsis, there wasn't a needs & desires investigation...it sounds like your salesperson went right into a product presentation. I would coach the salesperson to find out why you were interested in the cars (all the while giving you confidence that he'll be glad to show you the cars during your visit). This investigation would do two things: (1) it would get you talking and him listening, which is good; and (2) Give the salesperson a bunch of valuable information.

2. At some point, there needs to be a discussion of why you're not buying a car until the end of the year. It might be appropriate to do this before he shows you any cars, or it might be appropriate to slip it into the conversation after some comfort has been achieved. Your synopsis didn't detail why you didn't want a car until the end of the year, but the salesperson needs to understand this; understanding it would help him/her to determine how to proceed. Lots of people buy cars today even though they think they don't want to buy a car until some time in the future...the key is finding out why you, the customer, would ever do that.

3. The salesperson's presentation of the car sounded ineffective from your description. The presentation should share the features and corresponding benefits based upon your individual unique needs and desires, plus additional information that may be new information to you. - by Skip Anderson
Great question, Rainmaker. Here are my thoughts:

1. From your synopsis, there wasn't a needs & desires investigation...it sounds like your salesperson went right into a product presentation. I would coach the salesperson to find out why you were interested in the cars (all the while giving you confidence that he'll be glad to show you the cars during your visit). This investigation would do two things: (1) it would get you talking and him listening, which is good; and (2) Give the salesperson a bunch of valuable information.

2. At some point, there needs to be a discussion of why you're not buying a car until the end of the year. It might be appropriate to do this before he shows you any cars, or it might be appropriate to slip it into the conversation after some comfort has been achieved. Your synopsis didn't detail why you didn't want a car until the end of the year, but the salesperson needs to understand this; understanding it would help him/her to determine how to proceed. Lots of people buy cars today even though they think they don't want to buy a car until some time in the future...the key is finding out why you, the customer, would ever do that.

3. The salesperson's presentation of the car sounded ineffective from your description. The presentation should share the features and corresponding benefits based upon your individual unique needs and desires, plus additional information that may be new information to you.
First and foremost...YES...to point 1. At NO point did he ask any questions until his completely blind close at the end.

On point 2, he did ask me AFTER trying to close me without a down payment...why my reasons for waiting. I explained to him that certain events would be occurring shortly (I was more specific with him than on this forum), and that funds from a specific event were slotted for the down payment, which would not be available until late Nov or Dec.

On point 3...Not only did he roll into his presentation...not having asked me any questions, he wasted time spewing on about features I, not only don't care about, but don't even understand! I hate to admit this, but I am a woman who drives a car--that pretty much sums up my knowledge on the inner workings of cars. Standing there pretending to understand what he was talking about relating to the engine and cylinders....blah blah blah...both made me feel stupid and had nothing to do with why I might choose that car. IF he had followed up a technical feature with...."so that will give you great gas mileage" or something...he would have held my attention.

He was a one-man show...I was just a warm body. Either one of us could have been replaced by robots. There was no real communicating going on there.

Thank you for your comments, Skip.

Anyone else?? - by Rainmaker
There are a number of things I noticed about your experience. I have done a great deal of sales training in the automotive industry, especially on selling more successfully to women.

Once you explained why you weren't buying for a few months, I would have switched into an information and building a relationship mode so when you are ready to buy, you come back to me. However, most salespeople are more instant gratification, especially in today's tough economy.

As the salesperson, I would want to know why this particular car was of interest to you? What other vehicles you are looking at? If you had specific features you wanted in this new car, etc. Depending on your responses, I may ask some more questions or just move to show you the vehicle. I would not use a lot of technical jargon unless you indicated you were a real car buff, which wasn't the case here. I would instead talk about the everyday benefits of the vehicle tailored around what I learned about you from my intial questions. For instnce if you do a lot of freeway driving, how it accelerates to make entering the ramp easy.

A good salesperson will fill out at least primary paperwork for a few reasons. Many dealerships require it of their salespeople. Also, he needs your contact information so he can get back in touch with you as your buying time gets closer. Lastly, because many people who say they aren't going to buy that day actually do.

I really hate the being left in the office and usually tell the salesperson as they are leaving that I will leave if they are not back in five minutes or less, and I do.

Since he didn't seem to be rude, overly aggressive or high-pressured, just trying to make the sale, he really sounded ok, with a few exceptions. He may not have been as good as a seasoned veteran, but that industry has a lot of turnover, so seasoned salespeople are sometimes hard to find.

While it was a run-of-the mill thank you, he did send something and asked you to call if you had any additional questions. It probably would have been good for him to add that he will contact you in a few week/months to see how your "shopping" is progressing and to see if he could schedule an appointment with you to show you the (name of vehicle) again. - by GerryMyers
Yes. Thank you for your comments, Jerry.

If he had asked some very basic questions, he would have learned that I am in outside sales and spend a good amount of time in my vehicle; that I have 2 children (one who is about to get her driver's permit) and spend a good portion of my time as the family chauffer; and that I am currently driving a Volvo which means safety is very important to me.

No, he was not rude, and if I decide to return, I will buy a car from him, but he made it clear to me that he was not particularly interested in anything about me beyond my "instant gratification" potential. His biggest flaw was his unwillingness to LISTEN. I even mentioned to him a couple of times, other vehicles I had been considering, and he continued talking as if I had not said it at all. - by Rainmaker
I think there have been several good comments and points made, and I'll just add $.02 more to round it off to a whole $1... lol

In the scenario you described I see three basic flaws. The first is a failure to make a strong personal connection. Several have mentioned the failure to listen, and that is true, but it goes even deeper in my opinion. Listening is just one demonstration of personal attention. But in addition to that, the salesperson should have made a personal connection with you. The goal being that he is perceived more as a friend than simply a salesperson.

The difference in perception has a big psychological advantage. If viewed simply as a salesperson, his input and advice is taken with a degree of skepticism. You must weigh everything he says against the possibility that his goal is simply to make the sale. But if viewed as a friend, the salesperson gains a huge psychological edge. His words and advice are more quickly and emotionally accepted as true. We don't question the advice of friends, we do question the advice of a salesperson.

Additionally, the perception of friend gives the salesperson a greater ability to exert emotional influence. We don't particularly care if we please a salesperson, but we do care about pleasing a friend. We are therefore compelled to take actions and perform behaviors that will please a friend. The fact that I, as the salesperson, am now your brand new friend, you will have greater reason (emotionally compelled) to take actions that meet my approval.

And finally, the perception of friend greatly increases the odds that you will come back to see me, rather than another salesperson. Since our bond is stronger than that of purely salesperson-to-prospect, you will be far more inclined to see me.

The second flaw I see is the fact that the salesperson did not attempt to hammer out as much of the deal as is possible. Even though you say you won't buy until later, that doesn't mean most of the deal couldn't be worked out now and, therefore, provide additional pressure and incentive to return and conclude the deal. In my view, saying that you won't buy until later only means the transaction won't be closed until a later date (and many have pointed out that this assertion can often be just a defense maneuver). He should have worked out every other detail of the sale so that all that would remain is simply to close the deal.

And finally, I failed to see how the salesperson interjected any sense of urgency into the deal. In essence, he let you (the customer) control the interaction... and that's a bad thing. He did nothing to give the impression that you should act now or suffer some type of loss. As a result, you walked out of the dealership with no real incentive to return. But if he had worked out all the details and perhaps even got you to put down a small sum of money to "hold the deal", you would have a great incentive to return and conclude the transaction. But there was no urgency, nothing to compel you to take some form of action today.

At least that is my view ;sm - by The Sales Artist
Hi, Rainmaker -

Sorry your car-shopping experience wasn't what it should've been, but unfortunately, yours was probably one of the better experiences, as one of the earlier posters mentioned. Now, I say that as someone who regularly trains automotive sales pros, and one of the elements of our one week training course is to send new hires to competing dealerships so they may experience what it's like to see things from the customer's perspective, much like you did. Then, they come back the next day and describe their experiences - and you wouldn't believe some of the stories we hear! I've had some trainers tell me they think it's unethical to 'waste a salesperson's time' with these shopping visits, but the outcome from a learning standpoint far outweighs their concerns.

To wit, we ask the trainees to rate their shopping experiences on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best ever; the average score we've tallied out of literally hundreds of shopping visits is 2.0! Can you believe it? So, the prevailing attitude in the industry as a whole is, "At least we're not as bad as THEY are."

As for your experience, the sales consultant could have done many things differently, but it just seemed from your description that he didn't really attempt to make any sort of a connection with you. Yes, it'd be great to make friends as a prior poster mentioned, but that's not realistic within the first 10 minutes. You, like most auto buyers, probably had your guard up a little at the beginning (even though we all have some sales empathy when we're in the business), but when you said you were a few months away, how would you have responded if the guy said, "Oh, no problem at all, Ms. Rainmaker. Frankly, that just makes my job easier! What do you hope to accomplish today?" Would that have surprised you?

Of course, all the prior experts were correct in that the sales consultant needed to ask probing questions about your wants and needs to a) learn important information about your buying motivation and b) to take control of the conversation, but based on your story, I believe he suddenly sold himself on the 'fact' that you were not going to purchase today, and that negatively impacted his performance (and it shouldn't have). My perspective is this: every time a prospect enters a retail environment, someone is going to be sold: either the prospect or the sales consultant! And your consultant was sold that you were not a today buyer.

No matter where your sales expertise lies, we've all had clients who, even though they told us they weren't buying today at the beginning of the interaction, ended up saying (as they were siging the order), "You know, we didn't intend to buy today." Isn't that the best thing you can hear as a sales professional? OF COURSE! Because it means you did something in your time together that changed them from a prospect to a buyer. We have to approach EVERY interaction as if they are potential today buyers, no matter how they represent their intent at the outset.

If you end up eventually buying from him, perhaps you should write 'salespractice.com' for him on the back of one of your business cards! Thanks for the post. - by quadequick
The difference in perception has a big psychological advantage. If viewed simply as a salesperson, his input and advice is taken with a degree of skepticism. You must weigh everything he says against the possibility that his goal is simply to make the sale. But if viewed as a friend, the salesperson gains a huge psychological edge. His words and advice are more quickly and emotionally accepted as true. We don't question the advice of friends, we do question the advice of a salesperson.

Additionally, the perception of friend gives the salesperson a greater ability to exert emotional influence. We don't particularly care if we please a salesperson, but we do care about pleasing a friend. We are therefore compelled to take actions and perform behaviors that will please a friend. The fact that I, as the salesperson, am now your brand new friend, you will have greater reason (emotionally compelled) to take actions that meet my approval.

And finally, the perception of friend greatly increases the odds that you will come back to see me, rather than another salesperson. Since our bond is stronger than that of purely salesperson-to-prospect, you will be far more inclined to see me.

The second flaw I see is the fact that the salesperson did not attempt to hammer out as much of the deal as is possible. Even though you say you won't buy until later, that doesn't mean most of the deal couldn't be worked out now and, therefore, provide additional pressure and incentive to return and conclude the deal. In my view, saying that you won't buy until later only means the transaction won't be closed until a later date (and many have pointed out that this assertion can often be just a defense maneuver). He should have worked out every other detail of the sale so that all that would remain is simply to close the deal.

And finally, I failed to see how the salesperson interjected any sense of urgency into the deal. In essence, he let you (the customer) control the interaction... and that's a bad thing. He did nothing to give the impression that you should act now or suffer some type of loss. As a result, you walked out of the dealership with no real incentive to return. But if he had worked out all the details and perhaps even got you to put down a small sum of money to "hold the deal", you would have a great incentive to return and conclude the transaction. But there was no urgency, nothing to compel you to take some form of action today.

At least that is my view ;sm
Sales Artist: I agree with your concept of "friend," but "friend" is too strong of a word for me. I would not see him as a friend in such a setting, but I COULD see him as an ally...if I felt he was really listening and responding to my wants and needs.

While I acknowledge what you are saying about incentives and sense of urgency, the scenario you described would not have worked on me and would have pushed me too hard. I would have been running for the door simply because I am not ready for that level of commitment; however, I am a real buyer, and I was seriously interested in that car--although not completely committed to it to put money down...not yet anyway. With downpayment in hand...it would be a different story. But I will simply not buy a car without a down payment--and get whacked in interest and a high payment--nor will I commit to one before that money has hit my checking account when I have slotted specific funds for that purpose.

You put out a terrific post on followup, recently, and what I would have liked to have seen was more effort in planting the seeds for the followup and giving me some meaningful and purposeful followup--ramping up the urgency during MY stated timeframe during the followup. Maybe he will call me this month, with a deal that I can't refuse, but frankly I'll be shocked if he steps up to that plate.

I acknowledge that every time a prospect says "not today," it is not carved in stone, but in my particular case, it really was. The way I see it, he should have had Plan A going (try to sell her today) and Plan B going ALSO (How do I get her back here, if she leaves without buying as she stated upfront).

Thanks for your comments, Sales Artist - by Rainmaker
Hi, Rainmaker -

As for your experience, the sales consultant could have done many things differently, but it just seemed from your description that he didn't really attempt to make any sort of a connection with you. Yes, it'd be great to make friends as a prior poster mentioned, but that's not realistic within the first 10 minutes. You, like most auto buyers, probably had your guard up a little at the beginning (even though we all have some sales empathy when we're in the business), but when you said you were a few months away, how would you have responded if the guy said, "Oh, no problem at all, Ms. Rainmaker. Frankly, that just makes my job easier! What do you hope to accomplish today?" Would that have surprised you?
Yes, that would have surprised me and put me at ease. The number one thing I do in sales is PUT MYSELF ON THE SAME SIDE OF THE TABLE WITH THE BUYER. Start from a position of mutual agreement. Of course, a sales process can move into a number of directions, but you do it TOGETHER. It's not a tug of war.

Thank you for your comments, Quadequck. - by Rainmaker
What we are doing in this thread is discussing someone who thinks telling is selling. Put another way, we are analyzing the performance of someone who does not know how to sell.

The statement of "just shopping" and "buying in two months" or whatever, is one that is either an OBJECTION to doing business right away or a CONDITION.

The rep had no way of knowing if you were defensive, fearing you would be "sold" and stated that as a kind of a road block. Or if it was stated because you knew you were coming into some money and would be ready to buy in a few months but physically could not do so now due to being more or less broke.

One is an objection and, if handled well, can sometimes be dealt with on the spot and always leaves the door open to getting the order later, the other is a condition that cannot be dealt with. To attempt a close without knowing the difference is absurd. Why blow a sale two months from now due to not knowing something that is relatively simple to uncover?

But all of this -what I stated - is basic.

The relationship building process begins first. Finding out what you love about cars. Maybe asking; "Wow, if you are looking two months before you intend to buy, you must love cars!" This is an ice breaker.

Whatever ice breakers you use, you have got to get your prospect to like you ... as well as liking the car. This makes the sale much easier, not matter when it happens (now or later).

What we are about here is mastering the art of probing (asking questions) in a way that allows a person to talk (open probes). As you get better at this, then the process of trying to deal with the objection gets easier, even if it is impossible. And leaves the door open to getting the deal later.

Personally I would not have handled that one right away. I might have said "okay, well, you came to see the cars, what are you interested in" just to get the process started, so that I had time to learn more about you and put you at ease.

Telling me that you are not ready to buy does "make my job easier" in that I know that you have an OBJECTION to deal with or a CONDITION that cannot be dealt with, it does not mean that you or another prospect stating this same thing could not be sold during that visit.

If this thread had of started with you telling us the story and NOT REVEALING that you dislike buying on impulse, that would have left us more in the position of the sales person and less in the position of the sales analyst. Meaning we might have all suggested a way to try and close rather than another way to proceed, as we would not have known your propensity to act by not acting.

Therefore, as a sale rep in this position, not knowing what you stated, I would proceed thinking that I had about a third of the chance of closing today rather the normal closing percentage I would experience. I would have tried for the sale, being careful not to close the floor for the future business.

Once I knew you better, having begun the relationship building process, I would have asked you something like;

"Hey, now that I think about it, we often hear people saying that they are just looking but rarely do they come looking two months in advance, which is perfectly fine. Just wondered about the timing, can you share with me if there a financial reason why you would wait tow months as apposed to a week, which is more common?"

The danger of a closed probe is the prospect that says; "No" and nothing else.

One thing is certain, NOTHING DOWN was an offer anyone could have gotten, it is not a special reason why the prospect could and should go forward right now. Really, this was a lame effort.

Heaven forbid that any of us actually behaves even remotely like this example, for we would not be considered pros, rather we would be amateurs. This is what gives sales a bad name.

Again, before I close out my post, I would like to reiterate, I would not have known the preclusion not to act in a spontaneous way. So the close would have been something like;

"If there is no financial reason why you could not proceed within the next week and purchase a new car, and there was a very attractive financial reason why you should, would you be interested in me trying to help you out ... only I would need to discuss this with management to explain the situation and convince them to agree to offer you that is not normally available."

Stay with this, we still don't know unless the prospect says so that they do not like impulse buying.

So, it is natural to at least try and get them to the point where they may start to think differently. And, it is also possible that the statement was one that is born of a little fear, as some people believe we sales pros can mess with their heads (and we can, but they do not need to wear aluminum to stop us from reading their minds!). Maybe fear of experiencing pushy salesperson behavior.

If the answer to the above is NO, then you would be very unwise to proceed. If it was affirmative you better be on your creative best. This close takes guts, creativity and real acting skill. It must be practiced, then delivered nearly perfectly to work. In other words, it must be totally believable that you might be able to do for them what is not done for others.

Of course, since 95% of car sales managers are simply not this good, they are only in the next room for show. You would simply be making it look like you were getting approval.

I really have to stop there, as I don't know if there was a trade or what other factors might change the sale, in other words, I am not sure how I would have worked my magic.

I hope this was helpful in letting you see into the mind of a very creative seller. The rest of this creation would have to do with knowing more, like whether the person was financing, trading, what features they wanted (like a roof rack or trailer hitch) to find one or more unique benefit or value that could be offered.

I leave you with a story, I had a meeting today with the CEO of a very successful Engineering consultation firm that is currently doing $20,000 a week ($200K+ total billings) projects to improve profits for British Air & Magellan AeroSpace and several others.

He had just had an appointment we made for him with another International company that has 36 plants worldwide. And at the beginning of the meeting the EXEC V.P of Operations of this multi national conglomerate said; "I have no more than 10 minutes, as I am going into a meeting!”

Our client stated “Well, then I would be happy to come back, as I cannot get this across in ten minutes.” To which the prospect said; “I would rather you do it now, we can always discuss it again if I am interested!”

Talk about the hot seat.

Interested in what happened? The meeting lasted an hour, so much for that supposed meeting.

My point is, we (the sales rep) have no way to know what the truth is. Maybe the prospect actually was not buying for two months, maybe there is a way to get the sale sooner. You never know, not until you ask and try. However, it is imperative that you learn how to try without being a pushy amateur. - by Gold Calling
Thank you Gold Calling for such a lengthy and thought-out response. I agree with everything you said. Thank you for your participation in this thread. - by Rainmaker
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