Life, The Press and Everything

The role of people skills in closing deals

There are many approaches to making and closing deals. Most of them are just plain wrong. What works on one prospective customer may not be right for the next one in line. Perhaps the singlemost important skill any sales representative can have is ability to read his/her customers.

As with so many other settings, the easiest example on which to call can be found in the automotive industry. Specifically in this instance, I am referring to new car sales departments.

Oddly enough, the two freshest experiences in my memory occurred at Honda dealerships. The following of my personal interactions are perfect examples of how to lose a customer in less than five minutes:

A.) When I purchased a Civic in 2007, I found myself having an argument that went on for way too long with a salesman who just did not know when to shut his yap. He had been apparently directed by his manager to unload cars equipped with automatic transmissions. He had also been programmed with a series of “facts,” catch phrases and other propaganda.

The conversation became an argument when the salesman refused to listen to me-the potential customer-even as I began to raise my voice. I was not about to be told that an automatic transmission could do a better and more efficient job of shifting gears, maintaining traction in bad weather and producing better gas mileage than an experienced driver such as myself.

But the annoying schmendrick kept asserting his position. I very nearly walked out of that dealership without so much as a test drive to my name. I felt disgusted, insulted, offended and morally outraged. Not even to mention the proverbial cherry on top his indigestible sundae. OK, I’ll mention it. He also lied through his teeth to me about the availability of manually shifted gearboxes. Honda offered then, as they do to this day, manual gearboxes in both the Civic and Accord lines.

So, to sum up this example, NEVER argue with a customer, NEVER insult a customer, NEVER lie to a customer and NEVER tell a customer what he/she wants as opposed to letting him/her tell you what he/she wants. You never know when I might be that next customer, and I will have no qualms about telling you what to do and where to go at the very top of my lungs.

B.) When I brought my 2015 Civic in for service one day, I wandered through the new car showroom, killing time as the service department performed my free oil change and tire rotation. While there, I was approached by yet another salesman who did not know when quit. This putz thought he was going to get me to buy another new car, even though the one I had in for service was not even one year old at that point.

I pointed out to him that I hadn’t even owned my car for a single year yet, that I didn’t buy a Honda to trade it in before it hit 200,000 miles, AND that I had sold my last Honda to a friend so I could keep tabs on it. Do you think he heard any of it? Do you think he backed off at that point and thought of me as long-term business for his dealership verses being a source of quick income? He did not.

What he came at me with next was a series of MISLEADING QUESTIONS which had me thinking that he could help me refinance my loan to get a lower monthly payment. Had I not been on my game that day, I would have obligated myself to go through with another purchase.

Upon realizing that no sale was going to be made, this chucham b’lyla actually had the chuskpah to ask me, “What’s so special about that particular car? I can get you in the exact same model with zero miles on it.” At that point, I walked away from him. I knew that had I not, I would have read him the ever livin’ lovin’ riot act of all time. He had not only dismissed completely my every word, he also¬†assumed that I was dumb enough to believe that it was better to start over with payment number one when I had already made multiple payments on my current loan, and that he could combine my old loan with a new loan and magically reduce my monthly payment.¬†

People skills, people. If you want to close deals, you need to have people skills. You need the ability to get a read on your customers. You need to know when to close your mouth and open your ears. Bombastic bamboozling rarely works, even on lesser informed customers than am I. With the amount of rapid-fire turnover I have seen in most new car dealerships, you’d think someone at some point might take the hint, but they don’t.

The truly sad thing is that I am beginning to enjoy finding these galloping bozos and putting them in their prospective places in public.

Don’t be one of these guys. Don’t be a galloping bozo. Not only will you be more successful in sales by treating your customers like human beings, you’ll avoid running across someone like me who will tear you a new one in front of your boss and your other prospective customers.


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