We had an interesting purchasing experience recently.  Due to unforeseen circumstances, we’re car shopping.  Neither of us are car people – the car is independence and mobility – and nothing more than that.  So, we’re not very excited by the prospect.  But it reminded us about selling styles, especially bad ones.

After a truck tried to make friends with our car, we’re buying a new one.

We quickly narrowed down a shape/size of car that we would look for, but every manufacturer has at least one car in this shape – that left us with a LOT of cars to look at.

One Saturday we explored a strip that has a dealership for most of those car makes.  An interesting day – bearing in mind that we are looking at new cars – so, not an inexpensive purchase.  Considering this, we were surprised by how little interaction salespeople in the car yards had with us that day.

The one salesperson we had a fair amount of interaction with that day (let’s call him “Dave”) was relaxed and fit with our buying style well.  We test drove an older model of the car we were looking at, including a long drive to check it fit in our garage.  We also wanted to test the current model but ran out of time. He offered both drives on our own – no ‘supervising’ salesperson coming with us.  He said he’d not call us to follow up for a week to avoid pressuring us.  So far, so good.  (In most other dealerships it was a challenge to find a salesperson when actively looking for one!)

The following Saturday we went out again with a shortlist of 3 cars in mind.  We ruled one out quickly, and then focused on the others.

That’s 2 more salespeople.  One – let’s call him “Jack” was easy to find in the showroom –  presented himself at the time that we forming our questions about the car.  Friendly, personable and chatty enough to get us the information that we needed, but not pushy.  He offered a test drive – we could go with him or take the car out alone for 30 minutes, with suggestions about where would be the best place to go.

The second salesperson – let’s call him Peter, was difficult to find in the showroom – we had to actively look for someone before he reluctantly came to talk to us.  At least, to talk to the male half of us anyway.  (Strange, I thought 1950 had passed!)  Peter insisted on coming on the test drive – and didn’t shut up the whole time we were out.  It was obvious that it wasn’t a selling style we responded to.  Torque this, watts that, schmeckels something else…

Around the end of the drive, he finally thought to us which of us does the most of the driving (it’s the female half). Immediately the sales focus lasered onto her.  And now all his opinions had changed.

We had a month’s delay between weeks 2 and 3, which we told both salespeople.

And the follow-up?

Despite Dave’s car being the clear favourite on day 1, over 5 weeks later he’s still not called. Jack and Peter both called on the next Tuesday.

Jack left a message that went something like ‘I just wanted to call and thank you both for coming out to test drive the X-car over the weekend, and ask if you have any further questions about the car.  And obviously if you decide the X-car is the one for you and you’re happy to purchase from us, we’d love to see you back and talk to either myself or my manager…”

Peter called and I answered the phone.  The call went something like this:

P: I was wondering if you had any more thoughts about the car that you drove on the weekend?

Me: Ah, as we discussed – we’re not thinking about deciding on a car until the end of the month.

P: Oh, so – it’d be better if I call back… at the end of the month…?

Me: Yes, we won’t be looking any further at car purchase until the trip we spoke about is finished and we have the time to look at the other cars on our list.

P: Oh, ok then – bye.


What did we learn?

Obviously, there are situations like this day to day in every selling environment.  There will always be some people who you click with, and who fit your buying style.

Still, it’s made us think – are we fitting to our client’s needs and their buying styles?  And are they understanding their clients?  It’s easy to try to sell how we want, and to what we assume the buyer wants.  It’s more effective to ask, listen and sell to what they want.  They buyer has their own way to the transaction. You need to be thinking in those steps – not your own – to get the sale.

It made us think other things, too – about follow-up processes, for example.  How much money did David leave on the table?

But that’s a story for another post.