How not to be successful at selling

This frustrates me so much……

I need to change my car. The commute to our San Francisco and even our Mountain View offices some days has become so bad that I am trading cars and I am going to buy a plug-in Prius. I know exactly which car spec that I want, so I decide to visit the dealer last night for a quick look on my way home (I’ve had one before so I don’t need to test drive or anything, after all, how much can you really tell about driving a Prius around the block for a test drive….lol).

Sales lady approaches me, answers a couple of questions for me. I say “Look, I want to buy one, I want this color and this spec. Please email me your best price and I will send you the money and will pick it up on Wednesday. Here is my phone number but please don’t call me….email me”

Easy right? Well, not so fast because the people that are working in car showrooms are clearly trained to NOT LISTEN. First, I get an email from her telling me that they have the car with the spec that I want and telling me the list price. Her email continues to say “if you want the best price, you will have to come back to the showroom”. Oh really? Because car prices are such a big secret right?

Email back to her politely saying that I don’t have time to come to the showroom or to haggle, just send me your best price and I will buy it. Then, follows a series of phone calls from the sales director. Of course, the sales director is such an important part of buying a car because it’s going to make me feel so special that the sales director has to call me to offer me the super special price. Come on guys, who are you kidding – cars are commodities, pricing is all over the internet, and last I checked, I thought you wanted to sell more of them.

Then finally, this morning the sales person emails me telling me that her sales director has been trying to call me but “I don’t know what it’s about because I’m not allowed to offer any discount”. And hopefully there endeth the story, I replied to her email and said (1) I asked you not to call me (2) I asked for an email with best price (3) This was going to be one of your quickest/easiest sales of the year, but you’ve blown it.

Seriously, I know that there has to be a sales process, I know that they think they’ve got a much better chance of closing me if they can persuade me to come back to the dealership and I know I’m probably a somewhat corner case. But, train your people to listen. Train your people to live and work in 2012 where so much business is conducted electronically and where for some people (me included), buying a car is not a particularly exciting thing to do, it’s just something that I need to get done as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Reminds me of a situation a few years back at my prior company – a potential customer told us to “just send them the software for a few weeks and don’t call them or email them until they contact us”. This was not our normal process but, we listened, did what the customer asked and ultimately ended up with a very large sale. Sort of funny because so many books have been written around “customer centric selling” etc….but in reality, it’s all about legislating a sales process and making the customer follow it.

What I’d like as a customer is for someone to ask me how I’d like to engage….offer additional tweaks to that if they feel that offers value, and then agree it and move forward.

Rant over.

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