I’m always trying to illustrate how professional sales really works -- helping your prospect self-realize that he or she needs (or in some cases, doesn’t need) your product or service. One of the best examples I’ve ever seen is one that happened to me when I decided to purchase a new Jeep.
Several years ago, I married a wonderful man who had two children. I also had a child of my own, so we were going to need a more “Brady-esque” car. After a lot of research, we decided that a Jeep Cherokee would do the trick. At that time, A Cherokee Laredo, the base model, would cost $299 a month to lease for three years with $1,000 down. A good deal for us by all accounts.
Since I know how car dealers work (or so I thought), I felt very strongly about staying emotionally detached and just purchasing the car for the price I wanted. I called the local Jeep dealership and asked for the sales manager. Richard (who I believe is still there) answered the phone. I explained to him that I wanted a Jeep Cherokee Laredo, dark green in color, and that I’d be willing to buy it today if he could match the price I wanted: $299 for a 36 month lease plus $1,000 down.
I was strong in my demand, making sure he knew I was in charge. Richard said he could match the price, but the only Cherokee Laredo he had on the lot was army green, not the dark green I wanted. Even though I was disappointed (the dark green is so much more “me”), I decided it was the route to go.
We arrived at the dealership, and I commanded my fiancée and the kids to stay in the car. “Wait here,” I said. “I’ll handle this.”
I walked into the showroom, where Richard greeted me. “You must be Greta,” he said with a sincere-looking smile.
“I am, “ I answered cautiously.
He smiled. “OK. Let’s go drive the car.”
I stopped him. “Oh no,” I exclaimed. “I want to talk money first!”
“Okay,” Richard replied. “But didn’t you say $299 for three years with $1,000 down? Since that’s what we agreed to, that’s what it is, right?”
With a half-smile on my face, I nodded proudly. “Right!”
As we walked through the lot to the army green (more of a pea green, actually) Jeep, Richard asked which car in the parking lot was mine. I pointed to the blue BMW where my fiancée and our kids waited. As we got into the Jeep, Richard made an interesting comment. “This car doesn’t have a leather interior,” he said. “It’s cloth, but that shouldn’t be a problem. I’m sure your kids don’t spill things at their age.”
“No, that’s OK,” I quickly replied.
As we pulled out of the dealership for the test drive, Richard played with the radio, then asked what kind of music I liked.
“Oh gosh, jazz. Top 40. Lot’s of different things.”
“Really?” he replied. “Do you have a lot of CDs?”
“Oh yes!” I proudly proclaimed.
“Hmmm,” he mused. “You know this car doesn’t have a CD player, but I’m sure you’ve got cassettes.”
“Or I’ll just play the radio,” I said, not without reservation.
He smiled. “Of course you can,” he replied confidently.
As we pulled back into the dealership lot, Richard asked “So, what do you think?”
“Pretty nice,” I hesitantly replied. “It drives more like a truck, but hey, it’s not a BMW and you have to give up something, right?”
Silent, I walked into the showroom to go sign the papers.
“Hey Greta,” I heard Richard suddenly say. “That emerald green on that car down at the end of the lot…was that the color you originally asked me for?”
I felt sudden excitement. “Yes! But I thought you didn’t have one.”
“Not for a Laredo. But that’s a Grand Cherokee. It’s got all the bells and whistles, you know…CD player, leather seats and a smoother drive train. But that’s not the one you said you wanted.”
I couldn’t resist. “Ummmmm … how much more is it?”
Guess which one I drove away in (and only paid $70 more a month more for)? You got it!
And guess what I said to my fiancée when we were walking toward our new Grand Cherokee? “Honey, it’s more expensive, but I’m in sales. My car is like my office. I have to be comfortable.”
So what happened? Well, Richard did a really good job of finding out what was important to me. But he never told me those things were important. Instead, he asked the right questions that got me to self-realize that I wanted those things.
And what did I do? I made an emotional decision and justified it intellectually to my family. Remember, people love to buy, but they absolutely hate to be sold. So help them buy and stop selling them. It even worked on me, and I saw it coming.
Greta Schulz is president of Schulz Business SELLutions in West Palm Beach, FL. She is the author of "To Sell is Not to Sell" and a columnist for business journals around the country. Greta does corporate training for Fortune 1000 companies and she has an on-line training course for entrepreneurs.
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