I’ve been in the sales line for over two decades and trust me, I didn’t grow up with the ambition of being one. I know many feel sales is a frowned-upon profession; people who couldn’t achieve high academic results to get better respected positions or people with so little integrity that would happy sell worthless junk to their mothers if they can make a fast buck. It just happened that my first serious job offered a company car and it was not often to come across a job that comes with a car so I took it. That was how it all began.
The truth is, sales is an art and everyone does sales whether they realize it or not. Each time when you try to convince someone to look at things your way or behave in a manner of your choosing, you are doing sales. For me, sales is about helping people lay down all their cards, evaluate for themselves their choices and come to their own conclusion. Though I’m not in the automotive industry (beyond writing essays about it every once in a while), I’ve always been fascinated by how automotive sales works. Today I had a chance to witness something that reminds me how rare good car sales people are and why we should treasure all the good ones.
I had to send my Sorento for its 20k km service today so I had the opportunity to see how the sales people operate in this particular showroom.
Towards the afternoon,  black Mercedes W204 C-class parks in front & out came a young couple with an auntie. I would hazard the auntie is the mother of the male. They came in, heads straight to the Sorento on display in the showroom & all three started inspecting it in earnest. The mother circled it as though inspecting meat in the market, the guy checked out the interior while the wife stood near the front of the vehicle, surreptitiously peeking at the vehicle. I could see she was pregnant.

Here’s what I observed;-

  • Guy keeps consulting the auntie and pays heed to her replies.
  • Wife is quiet throughout the conversation.
  • The sales guy went on and on about the features of the Sorento
  • At the end of the 15 minute encounter, the guy asks the sales person to check the trade-in value of his Mercedes.
  • They exchange numbers and the sales guy promises to let him know the value as soon as he has the info.
  • Family leaves.
In this encounter, I felt the sales person could have been of greater help to the family.
  1. The family has a problem of space in their present ride. A mediocre sales person shows the space in the Sorento. A great sales person demonstrates how that space is best utilized for the family. Kids grow up, perhaps a second one is coming in the future, etc.
  2. A mediocre sales person maintains engagement with the buyer. A great sales person takes note of whose opinion matters and involves that person in the conversation. Auntie was ignored by the sales consultant throughout the encounter.
  3. A mediocre sales person details features of the product. A great sales person starts by explaining how the life of the buyer changes with the product. Milk bottles and hot water container goes where, ISOFIX positions, Smart Tailgate when parent’s hands are full, would a stroller fit. You think the buyer cares how fast the Sorento sprints from 0-1ookmh?
  4. A mediocre sales person Reacts by responding to questions. A great sales person Anticipates customer needs, even unrealised ones and narrows down relevant features to the prospective buyer. For example, although the safety aspect of this vehicle was not asked, keeping the family safe (and comfortable) should not be far from the minds of expectant parents. Also the AWD system of the Sorento provides better stability on our often wet roads. This was not detailed in the encounter.

All in all, the first and biggest mistake made by the sales guy is the failure to put himself in the shoes of the customer and adjust his interaction accordingly. Replace that family with a 25-year old single male and he’d probably be repeating the same script.

That, to me is rather sad because sales, if done right is an extremely rewarding career. I’m not talking about commissions and incentives only; it’s the friendship you make and the respect you earn from people who don’t encounter such professionalism often. I, for one am always ready to offer a position in my company if I see a person who;-

  • tries his/her best to understand the customer’s needs.
  • revise his/her approach in a manner that’s relevant and intelligent by highlighting key features that matters most to that customer.
  • shows genuine interest and care in wanting to help the customer decide the best solution. Since he/she works for a company providing that solution, the sales person should advance his/her product as the best choice.

Deciding on anything can be tough for anyone. A great sales person/consultant is one that eases that process. What I like about this outlet is that all of their sales consultants stands, smiles and greets visitors. That’s not a common thing to see and it speaks well on the positive work culture instilled by the showroom manager. When they improve their interpersonal skills of looking from their customer’s perspective, they would truly be a shining example of great automotive salesmanship.

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Though working in a field completely unrelated to the automotive industry, kenso has always had an interest in dabbling into the automotive industry, particularly business related aspects such as sales, marketing, strategic planning, blah blah blah. You can probably find better sources of technical specifications elsewhere if you dig long enough in the internet as this blog talks about the real life ramifications of who, what, where, when and why of the automotive world and focuses on relevant information to potential buyers.

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