Read the Room
I was out looking for a new car recently and, after some amount of research and discussion with Allison, settled on an Audi convertible. My next step was to go and get some hands-on education at a dealership. That’s where I met Joe.
Joe was the sales rep (or Audi Brand Specialist, as his business card reads) who was next in line to greet an incoming customer. Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: “I’m here for some education on Audi. Which models are offered as convertibles?”
Joe: “What are you driving now?”
Me, thinking only: “What does that have to do with my question?”
Me: “Volkswagen convertible.”
Joe: “Let’s go outside and take a look.”
Me, thinking only: “Is this too complicated question to answer?”
Joe: “Here’s an Audi A5 convertible. It’s a 2018 and blah, blah, blah, blah…Would you like to take one for a ride?”
Me: “So you have one model convertible option?”
Joe: “No, there’s the A5 and the A3.”
Me: “Okay, now tell me about the difference between the two.”
Joe: “Specs, details, nuances, blah, blah, blah… Would you like to take one for a ride? I really think you’d see the difference if you got behind the wheel.”
Me: “[sigh] I’m sure it’s a fine vehicle. What I’m here for is simply an education at this time.”
After looking at a few ugly color used-car options, we went back inside to do a search of some kind. We exchange business cards and upon reading mine, Joe jokingly asked, “You’re a sales trainer? How am I doing?” I responded, “Don’t ask if you don’t want to know.” He laughed didn’t pursue any further. Smart move.
Joe had a script. He had a step-by-step sales model that he was determined to follow. The general manager of a car dealership once told me, “One third of the people who test drive a car, buy that car or another one on the lot. So, we do everything we can to get people behind the wheel.”
In other words, I knew what Joe was up to. Still, it was a tad annoying that he didn’t read the room and stick to my script, not his. I told him explicitly what I was there for, twice! Had he simply answered my questions, maybe he could’ve then sold me on the features and benefits of this fine automobile and I’d walk out the door less irritated and more interested.* I’m not saying this will cost Joe a sale, but it was not a good first encounter.
Many times, as salespeople, we too fail to read the room. It might be in the sales presentation when we walk in with a step-by-step cookie-cutter PowerPoint presentation and ignore the customers early questions which would have taken us in a different direction. Or maybe it’s an SEO lead we are following up on. Whatever the situation, make certain you are clear on what you want versus what the customer is looking for. Ignore clues at your own peril.
*As all car salespeople are legally required to do, I had to meet his sales manager before I left the showroom. Here’s how that conversation went:
Sales Manager: “Hi, Bill. My name is Lou.”
Me, thinking only: “Of course it is. What else could it be?”
Me: “Hi, Lou. Pleased to meet you.”
Sales Manager: “Would you like to take something out for a test drive before you go?”
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