Conversation Clutter: Pushy Persuasion

August 12, 2011

I’ve been car shopping.  I’ve been to three dealers and found each salesman’s approach worthy of scrutiny.  We all know these guys are trained to sell the shirt off their back, yet their communication skills still lack sophistication in my book.  Here are a few of my impressions:

Salesman #1 was in a hurry.  Within the first five minutes of my meeting him he asked if I were going to buy a car that day.  C’mon!  I was just beginning my search and told him that.  I could see his immediate disinterest in me after my honest response.  I asked if I could test drive the model I was interested in.  Once he photocopied my driver’s license and put plates on the car, he let me and my friend who came with me go on our own.  This surprised me.

Very little time was spent going over the car’s features.  When I asked for a brochure, he said they had given them all away and that I could find all I needed on the Internet.  In between our leaving to do a test drive and our returning, a shipment of new cars arrived. He asked again if I were going to buy that day.  When my response mirrored the one I gave during our first five minutes together, he dismissed us and hurried to the business of unloading the new shipment.

Salesman #2 had taken the advanced-level sales training.  He was relaxed, friendly and present to both me and my friend the whole time we were together.  He answered our questions giving us all the time we needed.  When we asked if we could test drive the model we were interested in, he photocopied my license, put plates on the car and sat in the back seat as I drove the nearby neighborhood streets.  He let me get a feel of how the car drove by being silent or responding appropriately to our comments and questions.  When we asked to test drive another model, he willingly said yes and accompanied us on our second test drive.   

By the time my friend and I had test driven both models, we had spent 45 minutes together and he knew we were in the research mode, not the buying mode.  It didn’t seem to make any difference to him.  He didn’t invite us to come inside and sit down because he knew that we were just exploring.  He asked when I might be interested in buying a car.  I said later in the fall.  No problem.  He was going out of town to serve the National Guard and would be back in the fall.  When we parted, I felt we could do business with him.  In fact, I liked the car better than the one I drove at the first dealership.  Was it him or the car?

Salesman #3 appeared tentative and new to selling cars.  In the first few minutes, he sat us down and talked to us about what we were looking for and then readied the model we were interested in for a test drive.  A couple of times, when we had questions he couldn’t answer, he would leave us to get the answers from the manager or someone more knowledgeable.  Before setting off on our test drive he took time to describe all the new features in the 2012 model, almost too many to grasp.  Once we were all in the car, he let us absorb the feel of the car.  It wasn’t until we returned and he sat us down again, that he began to ask what it would take for us to buy the car that day.  I said I wasn’t in the market to buy a car that day. 

When he realized he wasn’t getting anywhere, he brought the manager out to save the day.  This one had missed the advanced sales training course.  He asked, “What would it take to buy the car today?” not once but three times.  “What price will get you to buy?  We have everything you need to buy the car today.  You can finance with us.” 

I was getting more and more uncomfortable as the conversation ensued.  I hadn’t yet done my homework of figuring out exactly what I could afford.  By the time I could get myself out the door, and it wasn’t fast enough, I knew I would not do business with either of these men. 

Lessons Learned

Persuasion is an art.  It takes sensitivity, good listening skills, and creativity.  Salesmen #1 and #3 failed miserably, because they wanted me to accommodate their timetable. They didn’t take me at my word—that I wasn’t going to buy a car that day. I was doing my research.  Salesman #2, however, left the door open for further conversation.  He understood where I was in the process.  He met me where I was, not where he wanted me to be. 

Pushy persuasion may work on a certain number of customers, but I suspect those folks are so inebriated with the thought of having a new car that they aren’t in touch with how they feel they are being treated.  If they were to stop and consider all their options, they might find a better car at a better price a week or two later.  Who knows?  Pushy persuasion doesn’t work for me.  The one thing I do know is that I have to keep doing my homework.  Then I can talk more intelligently about price and negotiate with more confidence.

Bev Hitchins © 2011

One Response to “Conversation Clutter: Pushy Persuasion”

  1. Linda Rivero Says:

    This is a superb example of what we ‘enlightened’ entrepreneurs know to be true: that our customers buy from us on the basis of relationship…the familiar know-like-trust factor. I imagine, though, that in the world of car sales, with its long and strong tradition of male-dominated sales techniques — aimed at the long and strong tradition of male-dominated car purchasing — we’re not likely to see the human (soft, to some) touch of the relationship-before-sales philosophy embraced so quickly.

    I wonder if there are any car sales people reading this who would care to comment? I’d love to hear from someone who is in that industry. This is an interesting and important point, it seems to me.

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