Here are three true sales stories that emphasise the importance of customer relationships.
Retail customers tend to have something in common – they will buy what they want when they want it, and from whoever offers the best value for their money. They will also buy from someone with whom they feel confident.
With large ticket items – or life-changing purchases, there is something else that many salespeople tend to ignore. People are not just buying the product – they are also buying the experience.
At a car dealership, I found a used SUV that was exactly what I was looking for. After a test drive, I asked the salesman if I could take it to a service garage that specialised in assessing used vehicles. The salesman said it wasn’t really necessary as the vehicle had already been tested out by the dealer’s service department.
I explained that it was just for peace of mind. There was no argument. The salesman didn’t say anything stupid, like – tell me it was a waste of time or money. Nor did he tell me they wouldn’t find anything wrong. In fact, he was very gracious as he handed me the keys.
The assessment cost me $100, and I was presented with a long list of things that had been tested and checked. The service mechanic then explained everything to me. It looked good, so I asked him if he would buy this vehicle at the price I had been quoted, and I got an enthusiastic ‘yes – without a doubt’.
That’s what I wanted to hear.
I took the SUV back to the dealership and explained to the salesman that the only thing the service centre had found, was that the Serpentine Belt was worn and needed to be replaced. There was no question from the salesman, and he immediately arranged to have the belt replaced. Not only did I get a great vehicle, but the whole sales experience was positive, and I felt good about that vehicle for many years. The $100 fee was insignificant.
The fact that the salesman had full confidence in the vehicle and allowed me to take it away and have tested was, in itself a comfort. More importantly, he understood the power of providing a positive experience.
I was browsing in a men’s clothing store when a salesman walked by and asked, “Are you having trouble deciding on a suit?” He then added, he was finishing up with a customer but would be right back (This was interesting – by promising to return, he had committed me to stay).
He promptly returned, but instead of the usual – “Can I show you something”, he asked me to describe my wardrobe. He paid close attention, after which he then pointed out, I was missing the ‘dark suit’ – that general-purpose suit I could wear to a wedding, a funeral, a job interview, etc. He was right. I just hadn’t thought of it in those terms. However, before I could say anything, he turned and took a suit off the racked, and asked me what I thought, but before I could offer and answer, he said, “It’s dull, right!” Yes – he was right. It was just a very ordinary dull suit. He then reached for another one, but this time, asked me to stand back, and then asked me what I thought. It was very definitely better than the first one he had shown me.
He then asked me to come closer as he held the suit. He explained that this suit pulls people in because the subtle weave pattern becomes more apparent the closer one gets. This was rather interesting. He had shown me two suits to compare side by side, but one was much better than the other.
But he wasn’t ready to sell me the suit yet. Instead, he went away and quickly returned with a couple of shirts and a few ties and proceeded to show me how I could change the whole appearance of that one suit by what shirt and tie I wore with it. It was like owning 2 or 3 suits all for the price of one.
I proudly walked out of that store having bought that suit and the shirts and the ties. Money was not an issue, and even to this day, I still remember that suit and that sales experience.
Buying a car can be a lot of fun. I had narrowed my search down to a particular make and model, but it was late in the car market cycle, and next year’s models were coming available. Dealers were trying to off-load the current models, and so prices were attractive. However, the availability of the model I wanted, along with the options I wanted, was quickly drying up. I had been to the local dealers, and now I was visiting dealers out of town.
I stopped by one such dealer and talked to a salesman. I told him the car I was looking for, and the options I wanted. He confessed I may be out of luck, as there was very little to choose from this late in the season. However, he did offer to search the inventory of other dealers to see what he could find. I appreciated his offer.
As I left the dealership, I happened to notice a car parked out front on display. It was the very model I was looking for, and so I stopped to take a look. It was Sky-Blue. I wasn’t too thrilled at the colour, but from the options list on the car’s window, it had everything I wanted.
Later that afternoon, the salesman called and said he was unable to find the car that matched my requirements. I mentioned the Sky Blue one parked out front. He knew the car but hadn’t considered it because it had more options than I was looking for. Somewhat jokingly, I said it was OK just as long as I don’t have pay for the extras. His answer was – if I can arrange that, do we have a deal?
What a wonderful reply! I had unwittingly said I would buy it. The salesman immediately asked me to confirm what I had already stated. Since I could hardly say no without coming across like an idiot, I said – yes! He hung up.
I sat there wondering if I had just bought a car. I was also thinking of was all those extra options I could get at no extra cost – bonus! Ten minutes later, he phoned back.
From beginning to end, this salesman not only sold me a Sky Blue car complete with a whole slew of extra upgrades – but he sold me a very memorable experience.
It’s all in the experience
I’ve encountered far too many salespeople who apparently take the stance that I have too much money and I need to unload it by buying something – anything!
Remember – people are not just buying a product, they are also buying the experience that goes along with buying it. It’s not necessarily about the money as it is about the work they did to earn that money and the anticipation of finally getting what they dreamed of owning. Far too many salespeople deny customers this experience by pushing them into buying something – anything – just to make the sale. The last thing a person needs after buying something they’d dreamed of is to be continuously reminded of a bad sales experience.