My wife wanted a new car. She likes sports cars so we went to a dealer to check out a BMW 135i. The salespeople were loitering in the lot as car salespeople without customers are wont to do, so they saw us drive up, cruise through a couple rows of cars, and park in front of the 135is.
A young guy headed over; evidently it was his turn. After a quick hello he clearly started to follow a mental sales technique checklist.
Evidently "qualify your lead" was first on his list. That didn't go well for him so he moved on to "determine customer needs" and started asking about what we were looking for in a car. Without being rude (she has a knack for courteous deflection) my wife asked a few questions he struggled to answer, probably because he kept focusing on re-engaging his training and reclaiming the sales high ground.
Then he surprised us. He stopped talking, took a deep breath, and said, "I'm sorry. I really suck at this. Wait here and I'll go get someone who can actually help you."
My wife melted, as wives who are businesslike but also caring are wont to do. "No, we don't need anyone else. You're doing fine," she said. "Hey, tell me; have you driven one of these?"
"Oh yeah," he said, visibly brightening. "They're really fast... and I probably shouldn't say it but they handle better than an M3." Then he glanced around to make sure no one was nearby and said, "Even if you don't plan to buy it you should at least drive one. They're a blast."
We did, and she bought one (and a year later still loves it.)
Where did he initially go wrong? He let training turn him into the salesman he's not. He tried to become a qualifying, relationship building, features and specifications spewing, commitment gaining closer.
In the process he gave up his biggest strength. He stopped being himself, a young enthusiastic guy who loves cars.
Consider the sales strategies you currently employ. Do they take you away from your strengths?
- Say you're naturally introverted; don't try to become this guy. Where sales is concerned, listening can be even more effective than speaking.
- If you're perceptive and have good instincts, don't get locked in to the qualification process. In our example, we parked a relatively expensive vehicle in front of a row of 135is, so any salesperson could safely assume we had the means and the interest. (In fact, the car you drive onto a lot probably says more about your means than any answers you provide to qualifying questions.) After "Hello," the best thing the salesman could have said was, "Tell me which one you want to drive and I'll grab the keys."
- If you're naturally casual and chatty, don't try to be professorial or authoritative. Speak the way you speak to friends (within reason, of course). Be genuine and prospects will respond.
That's the best sales strategy of all, and one you can use in any industry.
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