There are some excellent automobile salespeople. Perhaps not as many as in other professions, but some very good ones ply their trade. Or perhaps, since the car-buying experience is one during which we expect to be yanked around from the start, a good automobile sales representative yanks us around intentionally to ensure that our expectations are met. (Okay, I realize this is a stretch, but I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt.)
I hate buying cars! I don’t like the game.
I had a sales representative at a car dealer once walk up to me and say, “She’s a real beauty, don’t you think? I can see you sittin’ high and proud in that baby. Wanna test drive her?”
“No, thanks,” I said. “I’ve driven one like her before. I know how she will handle.”
He responded, apparently not noticing I was making fun of his description of her, “Want a Coke?”
“No, thanks,” I said.
“We have a really big sale going on and our sales manager told us today to bring him any offer,” he pressed.
The car was about $30,000, and I wasn’t planning to spend more than $25,000. “No thanks,” I said. “She’s way out of my price range.”
He pushed some more. “Oh, come on, make an offer. The manager is desperate; it’s the end of the month. He said bring him any offer.”
I wondered if he could be shooting me straight. Perhaps folks like Oprah and Dr. Phil were actually having an impact on the conscience of mankind. As a result of their syndicated talk show work, perhaps real estate salespeople have replaced those 20-year-old pictures of themselves on their business cards with current ones. Perhaps information technology (IT) people have dropped that “What did you do to it?” attitude when something goes wrong with your computer. Perhaps car salespeople have lost their “yank- you- around” demeanor that makes us all crazy.
Thinking maybe I could get a deal and that the boss was really desperate, I took the bait. “Okay,” I said. “How about $25,000?”
“Let’s write her up!” he said. “Can I get you a Coke?”
Everything was her to this guy. I sat patiently for 20 minutes while he wrote her up. Then he had me sign the offer and off he went to see the manager.
Ten minutes later he came back, sat down and said, “Well, the boss made a counteroffer.”
He handed me the offer I had signed for $25,000, which now had a counteroffer of $29,500 on it. Somehow, despite the fact that I was frustrated and had wasted 45 minutes of my time, he convinced me to make yet another counteroffer of $26,000. Off he went again. This time he was gone for another 10 minutes.
I’ve always believed that car salespeople take offers into a special room where they watch TV, play pool, tell jokes, smoke, drink and generally screw around for 10 to 15 minutes before returning to the customer with the counteroffer that in reality took seven seconds to obtain.
When he came back (I swear I saw him putting a TV remote in his pocket as he rounded the corner), he proudly boasted, “The boss came down again and we now have him on the run.” The counter-counter-counteroffer was $29,250.
A month later, at an AT&T annual sales recognition event, I cornered one of the top salespeople being honored. During our conversation about why he was one of the best he said, “Customers aren’t buying a product; they’re buying how they want to feel. And they’re buying based on their experience and my understanding of how they want to feel.“
Thinking back to the car salesperson, I remember feeling yanked around and misled. Most of all I felt like this salesperson was acting in his best interest alone and had no respect for me or my time. No wonder I didn’t buy any “feelings” that day!