How difficult should buying a new car be when you have done all the research, you know exactly
what you want, know exactly what options you’ll need and all you want to do is test drive the
car? It should be pretty easy, right? Think again. This case actually happened just last Saturday at
an auto dealer in Austin, Texas.
Here’s the story....
In 1988, Sara purchased a brand new Honda from a dealership in Austin.
It is now 2004 and she is still driving it. Do the math, that’s 16 years, folks! She has religiously serviced the car at the dealership where she purchased it and wouldn’t be trading it if it weren’t for a simple promise she
made a couple of years ago. She said that she wouldn’t buy a new car until her daughter had
finished school. Well, the daughter graduated last week and that’s when Sara’s husband reminded
her of the promise. So she went to work doing her research and Saturday they went back to the
Greeted by a sale rep when they entered, Sara said, “I have done all the research and know
exactly what I want to buy, I’d just like to test drive it to make sure it’s the car I want.
“Sure,” came the reply, “have you ever driven a Honda?”
“Yes, I’ve had one for many years.”
Pulling out his clipboard with a bunch of questions, the sales rep started into the list, “How many
miles do you drive in a year?...Do you carry lots of people or do you drive alone mostly?”
Sara started to steam, “I appreciate that you want to ask all these questions, but I’ve done all the
research. I know what I want and now I just want to test drive the car.”
“Do you realize this dealership has an award winning service department.....?” Obviously not
listening to Sara, he went on about his 19 years in the car business, yada, yada, yada and the huge
inventory to choose from, yada, yada, yada. You get it.
So how did this encounter end? Sara asked for his business card, “Do you have a card that I can
keep so I will know who NEVER to buy a car from?” Then she stalked out of the dealership
where she had been a customer for 16 years, never to return again.
How would the sale rep remember this encounter? Probably muttered to himself something about,
“Stupid woman, wouldn’t even let me assess her needs. How can I sell her a car if I don’t know
what she needs?”
How would his sales manager react if upon overhearing the conversation between them? Let’s
hope the reaction would be one of shock that the sales rep hadn’t listened to Sara. That is the
crux of the matter. Not listening to the customer. Had he listened properly, he would have
accepted Sara’s claim to have done the research, handed her the keys and allowed her to buy the
car. She told me later, she didn’t even care what colour it was. But by putting up barriers to her
purchasing the car, he turned what could have been one of the easiest sales ever into a no-sale and
in the process burned 16 years of good will between customer and dealer in a flash.
Listen to the customer. Get a read on their personality type. Learn how to deal with a variety of
personalities and match your behaviour to them. I suggest you read the book Type Talk by Otto
Kroeger and Janet M. Thuesen and learn everything you can about Myers Briggs Personality
Profiling. Otherwise you will find yourself talking more people OUT of buying what they intended
to buy. You may have heard these figures, 67% of visits to stores are made by people intending to
buy an item, but only 24% manage to do so. Increase the conversion rate to only 48% and you
will double your business. Think what that would do for you. My guess is that you can’t afford to
only sell people that you groove with, no matter what business you’re in.
(Sara isn’t her real name, but everything else is true.)