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The car buying experience, and the car salesman, has become the stereotype of all that is wrong with sales and selling in the eyes of the American public.
As with many stereotypes, there is a basis in fact and deed. Manipulation, high-pressure, duplicity lying are words that consumers associate with buying automobiles specifically and sales in general.
As a result, car salespeople rank dead last in a recent survey of most trusted professionals. They managed to beat members of Congress in this race to the bottom, which is quite a telling performance.
Speaking of performances, the Alec Baldwin sales "training" in Glengarry, Glen Ross, and William H. Macy's salesman in Fargo are two star-turn portrayals of the prototypical noxious sales professional.
Movies, you mock? Well, art imitates life, as my experience this weekend in a local car dealership attests. In a 15 minute conversation bludgeoning encounter, the salesman spoke for 14 of those minutes. He was trying to build trust, by telling me stories about himself: 30 years in the business, that most of his sales were through referrals by satisfied customers, that he opens the dealership on weekends to get ahead of his colleagues, that he works all the time getting great deals for people like me because he doesn't have a family.
Maybe this approach works for him. Maybe I don't meet the profile of his typical customer. Maybe he thought that I wouldn't notice all of the pictures of his wife and kids (maybe they left him because he never shut up or paid attention to them.) As a consumer, maybe I could have cared less about him. Nah.
But, if he had just made a minimal effort to really engage me, maybe by asking just a few questions, maybe he would have learned that I had done my homework, and maybe he would have learned that I was ready to buy if my specific terms were met. And when he lied was misinformed about the price of the car that I was interested in, and the current financing rate that was being offered by his finance company, any trust that his approach may have engendered popped like one of the helium balloons festooning the showroom.
Is there hope? Yes. More than hope, there is change. We have explored sales and selling in this blog on several occasions, including this post.
Selling is moving people to take an action, and an evolved paradigm of selling is taking hold that puts the customer first. I have been fortunate to have seen in action and been educated by some enlightened professionals in recent times, including Dan Pink, Joe Zente, and Kristin Johnson.
As Dale Carnegie wrote more than 75 years ago: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."
And maybe you can sell a few more cars along the way.