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The basic rule of sales: the one who is asking the questions is the one in control of the sale. I find that dialogue is an important part of sales. To get a customer to open up about him or herself is the key to making most sales. So I ask a lot of questions. It’s a lot like Joe Friday used to say: anything that you say can and will be used against you.
Its not that information is used against a customer, when properly applied, its used to sell the right vehicle. Someone might ask for a half-ton truck when they really need a three-quarter ton truck. There might be a model that cost les and does more of what they are looking for. Without asking what is right for somebody, how else would you know? A good salesman should know why somebody wants something, what is its primary use and what he or she likes about it before ever test driving anything.
A good example is a set of simple trade-in questions. What did you like best about it when you bought it? And what would you most like to change? Just the answers from those two questions alone will tell what moved them to buy last time and what they are looking for this time. This is all dependant on one simple factor, getting the customer to talk. I knew nothing of this couple when we went for a drive.
The couple that I had on a test drive was nice enough. They weren’t rude or anything, the husband just would not talk. The wife would talk a little, but the husband was clearly the buyer. And no matter what I asked, the only response I got was a grunt. I tried different techniques and a variety of angles. Nothing. All I knew about him was that he was a D.E.A. Agent, formerly from the Midwest. I only learned that because when he got his drivers license out I saw his ID. I could feel that this sale was not very likely to happen. So I took a chance.
There have been few shows in the last twenty-five years that dictated the styles and trends of pop culture like Miami Vice. That show epitomized cool. The great music, like Phil Collins playing as Sonny Crocket drove thru the night in his Ferrari. The pastel color clothes. The beautiful woman. The decadent houses. Don Johnson was the master of wearing stubble on his face as fashion. That show was the eighties.
The test drive had been conducted in almost complete silence when I started my move. “I don’t pretend to know much about what you do for a living” I started. “But I do watch a bit of TV”. “I watch that show Miami Vice a lot and I bet your job is a lot like that”. There was a moment of complete silence, which seemed to last for minutes, before he started pounding on the steering wheel. “That show is complete Bull Sh#t” he actually yelled in response to me. He then proceeded to yell and pound the steering wheel as he informed me what a real DEA Agent did for a living compared to the television version.
I think it was sort of cathartic for him. He told me of starting in the Agency. He said that when they took a guy down with ten pounds of cocaine on Omaha, that they thought that they had crippled the entire drug trade for the mid-west portion of the United States. Then he received a transfer to good old sunny southern California. He informed me that bust here, were measured in tons, not pounds.
When he realized that twenty tons of Cocaine, with a street value in the millions of dollars, was a moderate size bust, he said he started planning to retire. The sheer scale of thing was beyond his imagination. He explained that when that many millions of dollars were involved, anything could happen. Compromises of judgment were possible. And lives were at stake. He didn’t like it.
I almost felt a slight sense of bonding. When he took delivery of his new car, he looked me in the eye and gave me a firm handshake. A simple “Thank you” was all that he said.
I still like to talk to customers here at Sierra Motors. I don’t get people to pound the steering wheel anymore. And I still enjoy a simple thank you at the end of a sale.