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The Cadillac and the Beetle

Why Buyers Don’t Like Salespeople

I grew up hearing the men in my family say, “Never trust a salesman,” although it wasn’t until I was well into my teens that I understood the reasons for their distrust.

The Good

My first encounter with a salesman was the day my Dad took me shopping for my first car.  “Before we go,” he said, “you need to know the rules of the game.”

He went on to tell me that the majority of salespeople are as slick as snakes, ready to lie like a dog to get you to buy what they’re selling.  He warned me not to say a word; to let him do all the talking, and to keep a poker face.  According to Dad, if a sleazy salesman sensed interest or excitement, we would have a slim chance of negotiating a better deal.  “Salespeople are in business to make money.  They don’t care about the customer.”  By the time we arrived at the dealership, I expected to meet Satan face-to-face!

Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that our salesman wasn’t slimy at all.  When he learned that the car (and the monthly payment) would be mine, he guided us toward more affordable options and even winked at me, knowingly, when he saw me smile while Dad’s back was turned.  As I drove away in my shiny red VW Beetle, I knew Mr. Not-Even-Close-to-Sleazy wasn’t the kind of salesman Dad warned me about.

The Bad

My second sales experience came a couple of years later when my parents bought my first sewing machine.  The young salesman’s in-home demonstration was well prepared, his delivery smooth with just enough sewing machine humor to keep things light and friendly.

He talked non-stop, reminding me of the hawkers at the county fair, finally wrapping up his presentation by saying, “This is the Cadillac of sewing machines, and the cabinet is a fine piece of furniture.  This is the top of the line.”

“What about the bench seat?” Dad asked.

“Oh, yes sir,” said the young salesman, “Another fine piece of furniture, this seat lifts for storage and has a cushion that’ll provide hours of comfort.”

“And the seat comes with the machine, right?” asked Dad.

“Uh, no sir.  The seat’s $50 extra.” replied the salesman.

After what seemed like an eternity, with negotiations going nowhere, Dad rubbed his chin, looked at the salesman and said, “Son, I just can’t see buying a Cadillac without seats.”

This salesman had been pushy, annoying, and more interested in making an additional $50 than in building trust and ensuring future business by helping solve his customer’s problem.

The Ugly

Through the years, I’ve learned that most buyers share my Dad’s preconception of what it means to work with a salesperson.  As is true in any business, a few bad apples can spoil the whole batch, yet unlike other professions, we have the moniker of the Snake Oil salesman to overcome, as well.

Knowing that most buyers enter into sales situations believing sales professionals can’t be trusted, isn’t it time to change their perceptions?

Show Them You’re Different

Be trustworthy

When you make an appointment, be on time.

When you promise something, follow through.

Stay in touch.

Return their calls promptly.

Be honest

Be truthful about your product and services.

Be honest about what you can and can’t deliver, and when.

Be factual and kind when talking about your competition.

Do whatever you can to show your buyers that you truly want the very best for them and you’ll not only change the way they see you, but you’ll begin to change their opinion of all sales professionals everywhere.

“Become the person who would attract the results you seek.” – Jim Cathcart

Until next time . . .