Don?t You Hate it When Salespeople Do This?

April 8th, 2005 by Bob Bly

There are two types of salespeople: good salespeople and bad salespeople.

The bad salespeople rely on outdated 1960s sales training, spewing canned scripts that repulse and annoy prospects, sending them running for the door.

My wife and I were fed one of these lines recently when shopping for a mini-van.

We were in an exploratory stage, and had no reason on Earth to hurry: our old mini-van was running fine, and would do so for many months. But it was getting old and unreliable, so we were planning to upgrade.

When the salesperson saw that we were going to walk out of the dealership without buying, he ran after us and repeated, like a robot, a line I knew he was given in Sales Training 101: ?What would it take to put you in this car today??

Our skin crawled and we ran, he in hot pursuit. Did he ask where we were in our buying cycle ? just looking or in dire need ? and tailor his approach accordingly.

His question was clearly 100% motivated by his self-interest ? his desire to get a sales commission ? and not what might be best for us? So his personality immediately became repellant instead of attractive to us, and we responded accordingly?

What experiences have YOU had ? what things have salespeople said or done to you ? that similarly turned you off and lost them the sale?

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18 responses about “Don?t You Hate it When Salespeople Do This?”

  1. Derek Scruggs said:

    Yeah, this is right out of the old textbooks. I’ve found that a better strategy is to go negative – “there’s probably no way on earth you’ll buy a car today|this week|this month, is there?” If they agree, then you can rid yourself of any anxiety about closing the sale. If they say, no, then you can ask “why would you buy a car now?” and get them talking about *their* needs, not yours.

  2. Bob McCarthy said:

    I’ve had two very similar experiences. In both cases, it was the “sales manager” who tried to keep me from leaving the lot with very much the same line: “What can I do to put you in a car today?”

    It’s annoying as hell. One of these guys actually leaned in through my window and wouldn’t back off. I eventually got out of the car and complained to the real sales manager.

    That said, I am guessing that this type of “last chance” sales pitch probably works with a certain percentage of people. There is probably a lot of evidence to show that when a prospect leaves the showroom, they don’t come back – so don’t let them get away.

    We have a very similar technique in direct mail. It’s called the “lift note” or “publisher’s note.”

    This is the small, folded note that serves almost as a secondary letter. It usually has a headline on the outside that reads something like: “Still not convinced?” or “Open this only if you have decided NOT to buy.”

    The lift note is our “last chance” sales pitch. We use it because it is inexpensive to produce and it can lift response – however marginally. I always recommend testing it against not using it.

    As for the car salesman, my problem isn’t with the “last chance” strategy, it is with the intimidating approach that some of them take. For me, it means not returning to dealership again – EVER.

    Bob McCarthy
    McCarthy & King Marketing, Inc.

  3. Tracy Robinson said:

    I had the same experience at two different Dealerships that start with the word Toy, and then I realized that I had made the mistake of not bringing into play all the research I had done before going in with my ‘buy’ decision.

    The first one wanted to sell me a minivan off the lot with the old adage that that was the last one they had and so they could ‘make me a deal’, it had god-awful fake plastic-wood dashboarding and ugly accessories that my wife and I definitely did not want, so he seemed kind of upset that we passed on his ‘generous’ offer.

    The second dealership did not have what we wanted either, but at least went to the trouble to look and see if they could locate the minivan we wanted elsewhere, but then they went into a song and dance about how they would have to have it shipped to them and it would take a lot more time and money. At that point I was pretty upset, but then realized that I needed to be the one with the upper hand, not them.

    I went online, researched the specific model and package that I wanted, explored a couple alternatives that were acceptable, and then called the dealers within a five state area to make sure that they did indeed have the vehicles on lot that their inventory said was there. I then took that information to yet a third local dealer who had a van acceptable to us, and told the salesperson that this was the van I wanted and this was the price I would pay (about 4000 below invoice). When he asked in shock “Where did you get that amount from?”, I told him that was the amount that I was going to pay, but then cut him a break and let him know that I had done my research.

    When he seemed unsure, I informed him of my trump card. At the time I worked for a major airline, so had the capability to fly anywhere domestically for free. I told him the specific dealers and pricing available on the minivans available in the five surrounding states, and that it would be no problem for me to fly to one of them and make the purchase at another dealer and then drive it back home. Suddenly that made my reasonable offer seem totally acceptable to him, and we closed the deal right away. I didn’t have to waste a lot of time listening to whatever type of sales speech he might have tried to throw at me because I made it clear to him that I was in control of his sale, not him.

    So, next time anyone is car shopping, go in strong. After all, as a copywriter your living is made off of information, so why waste valuable time at a dealership that is easily made up by doing appropriate research beforehand and having the upperhand.

  4. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    My friend Tom Stoyan, a sales coach, defines selling as “helping people make buying decisions.” Clearly, the car salesman was no help to you, Bob.

  5. Sean Woodruff said:

    Unfortunately, the majority of salespeople today aren’t really salespeople at all. They offer no value and in no way attempt to differentiate themselves from the pack. It’s too bad they don’t realize it would take very little to listen, ask questions, listen, ask more questions, listen again and then recommend a product. So simple yet, so uncommon.

  6. Jim Logan said:

    As I start this comment, I doubt I’ll answer your question Bob:-) I love the topic, it hits a chord.

    I’ve spent the overwhelming majority of my professional life in sales, yet I’m the first one to run from a salesperson when I enter a store. The closing gimmicks and tricks are unbearable…they’re worthless and they give “sales” a bad image. No one wants to be manipulated or “closed”, yet that’s how it often looks and feels.

    I feel fortunate my sales experience is solely in complex B-B sales. You see less gimmicky approaches there however, other ills exist to be sure.

    The best advice I could give someone entering sales is to stop being a salesperson. Seek to facilitate rather than sell. Focus on the needs, wants, and desires of your customers – lead with their benefits of purchasing. Put the entire focus on them. If you offer great value and benefits – if you believe – you don’t need closing tricks and gimmicks.

    If you’re really working for your customer, serving your customer, there’s no need to chase them across a parking lot…they’ll run across to you.

  7. Jason said:

    A few years back a salesman was showing me a used car that just wasn’t right for me. When I was still looking at it the salesman suddenly turned on me. “Are you going to buy a car tonight or not?”
    I walked off the lot and have never been back.

    Since that time, I’ve purchased three new cars. With the right approach, I’m a return customer. Both my wife and I believe in referring people to companies that help us. That dealership not only lost a sale that night, they lost the chance for three future new car sales and referrals.

  8. Claudine M. Jalajas said:

    My favorite salesman is the owner of a car dealership in Upstate NY. We bought many cars off of this man and even though we moved away over 10 years ago, whenever we need a car, we drive 8 hours to buy from him. The funny thing is that everytime we leave with a new car my husband and I look at each other like, “what just happened?” He sells us without ever selling us. Ya know? So, 14 cars later.. we never bother to try another dealership–it’s just not worth the agita.

  9. Gayla said:

    Funny I should happen on your site via a link on Problogger this very day. Having woken at 3:30 AM still steamed over a sales pitch last night, I couldn’t wait any longer to contact the company itself and journal my own thoughts. Is it Therapeutic? Certainly! Will it invoke change? Doubtful! But at the very least I feel better and now through your post and the comments of others, I don’t feel quite as guilty in the actions I’ve taken.

    Gayla M

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  15. dash said:

    Well…. you lot. YES are you daft…. it is our job and someones gotta do it. BIG SHOCK EVERYONE- you walk into a car dealership and someone might just try and sell you a car. It’s not a museum and how the hell are we meant to know your not mystery shoppers with a camera? We HAVE to ask certain questions. It’s our job…. don’t like it? Buy your next car off the internet. Think your so clever? We laugh at you when you leave…. hahaha….

  16. ProCopywritingTactics said:

    Ditto with telephone salespeople reading scripts. They sound so stilted and unnatural. I often just set the phone aside and let them talk to themselves for awhile, until they realize that no one is listening….. a bit evil I guess, but that’s what you get for not putting forth the effort to sound natural and really take the prospects needs into consideration.

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