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August 02, 2006

Salespeople- Why Do They Act That Way?

by Candie Leigh White
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I suppose if you look hard enough you can see analogies and life metaphors everywhere; the grocery store, the park, a wedding or even your favorite coffee shop. At a car dealership the buying public’s emotionally driven purchase is the focus of training for salespeople and sales management and thus perpetuates a cinema of instantaneous ironies.  As auto salespeople we are taught that we must create a common bond with our customer as soon as possible.  We are given a plethora of statistics validating the theory that humans decide within the first minute or so if they are going to buy from you.  A decision that may not even become an awareness to the customer until later in the car buying process as it may lay dormant in that room we call caution.  Once the customer opens the door to that room and allows caution to drift away, their initial feelings about you as a person will cause them to avoid you like the plague or sign on the dotted line and drive the car home.

Many of the training techniques that help salespeople become psychologically savvy at selling cars come from the same place that inspire a person to make an expensive, emotionally driven purchase in one day- the desire for instant gratification.  The same human drive that created global warming and zero lot lines. But, that’s commentary for another website.  Salespeople are taught to go forth with a “hoorah” attitude and not to accept the be-back statement from a customer.  ( a be-back is a customer who refuses to buy the same day but, promises they will be-back.  Most do not come-back )  A salesperson is told to do whatever it takes to make that customer buy today because of this fact.  Consequently, the customer always feels pressure, blatant or sub-consciously and ultimately that pressure creates fear and disgust of the car buying experience.  A salesperson feels the pressure as well, from management.  Management assumes the salesperson does not really know his/her customer and therefore cannot take the customer at their word that when they say they will be-back. At this point, (with the impending loss of a sale ) the motivational teaching ends and is replaced by management belittling the salesperson for failing to be number one.  More in car sales than any other business management can be your best friend or your most severe enemy. Once a salesperson does establish a relationship with a car buying customer he/she is at an emotional tug-of-war to please the customer, please the scowling boss and to make a sale so that he/she can eat.   Imagine struggling with this all day long, six days a week.  It’s a wonder only the post office has the bad wrap for crazy employees.  All things considered, a car salesperson (who is rarely accused of snuffing his co-workers) is a pretty stable individual. 

In the last twenty years with the rise of technology and consumer magazines insisting buyers should know everyone’s invoice it has become very difficult for auto dealers to survive.  Population increase brings more competition as dealerships move to auto malls and customers are less likely to go to the mom and pop dealer to purchase.  With so much variety, customers forget how nice it was to have the same person take care of you.  Their loyalty subsides and is replaced by the excitement of brightly colored toys on every corner.  Establishing relationships with customers is still touted by dealerships as their motto but enforced internally with minimal indifference as competition not relationships has become society’s primary driving force.  Instead, motivational speakers and trainers are brought in to dealerships with exorbitant fees in an effort to turn salespeople into sales record producing machines whose main objective is to be number one on the sales board.  I admit I have received some of my greatest life lessons and people skills from my sales training at dealerships.  Ultimately, however there is enormous pressure to have the highest sales, at the expense of the rest of your life.

Is there a solution?  I believe it’s the basic Yin-Yang, Golden Rule compromise.  Sales drive corporate America.  Want and desire is great for the economy.  Excitement and motivation is a wonderful thing.  But deep inside, what people crave is to feel special, important.  What they need is to feel safe.  The “hoorah” may get salespeople to sell and customers intrigued to buy but it is the emotional connection, the peace and trust of the relationship that keeps everyone a part of the dealership.  Motivational speakers don’t generally speak about being calm and centered when their goal is to help you produce sales today.  But they should.  The old philosophies such as slow and steady wins the race should not disappear because DSL is quicker than dial-up.   

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