It’s not always customers who have a less than perfect sales experience, sometimes the salesman can be left traumatised by an encounter with a customer. A salesman working in a large new and used car showroom in London recently had what can only be described as a nightmare customer.
The enquiry started badly, deteriorated rapidly and ended very unsatisfactorily. We will call him Mr Smith and he had come to the showroom in what you might call “full attack mode”, very stern faced and very direct.
Before we recount the sorry tale we must first surmise why Mr. Smith may enter a showroom he has never been to before and be aggressive with people he has never met. In my experience it is down to one thing; a bad experience with other sales staff from a rival showroom.
Had he been ignored, insulted or even mislead? Or had he been aggravated by several different showroom visits where the questions got more and more personal and direct and the assumption of a sale claimed too easily? We will probably never really know because this type of customer by now is not inclined to want to sit, drink coffee and chat he just wants answers.
Back to our story;
Mr. Smith visits our showroom and declines the offer of a seat by the receptionist/showroom co-ordinator, customer liaison officer (you get the picture). He also does not feel happy about being asked whether its an ongoing enquiry or whether he had made an appointment. So when a salesman looms up to him all teeth and loud tie with outstretched hand and business card at the ready, Mr. Smith is fearing another sales broadside and responds with the best form of defence, attack!
The salesman fearing that he may be dealing with a problem launches into the qualification and sales pitch which our Mr. Smith smashes open with an immediate request for a price on his trade in and the best deal on a new 1.6, 5 door hatch, preferably the one in the showroom.
At this point the salesman realising that he must ask lots of questions to assess his prospects needs and mindful that he could be dealing with a mystery shopper from the manufacturer, has a decision to make, does he plough on manfully and hope that his personality will win over Mr. Smith or allow himself to be controlled into doing it Mr. Smith’s way and risking the wrath of his sales manager for not following the correct process?
In this case there was only ever going to be losers, mainly because no one gave ground or compromised. Mr. Smith refused to answer any questions till he received a price for his car and a deal on the new one, whilst the salesman refused to yield to this request till he had all Mr. Smiths details 2 phone numbers, e-mail address weekend hobbies etc!
The resulting dialogue goes something like this;
“What’s the best price on that car?”
“What would you pay for it?”
‘As little as possible.”
‘Well how much is that?”
“I’m not telling you I want your best price.”
“Well I don’t set the price discounts my manager does.”
‘Well where is he? I will talk to him.”
‘You can’t that’s what we are paid to do’
…and on it went with neither party budging and Mr. Smith getting more and more irate and the salesman increasingly defensive. The problem is that with some salespeople and indeed customers it’s not about good service it’s about winning and retaining control of the process. The salesman wants to keep Mr. Smith rigidly on message and Mr. Smith who has been tricked by sharp salesmen in the past has put on the blinkers and is adopting the approach of the proverbial bull in a china shop. However when someone is potentially spending thousands of pounds and the sale, goodwill and referral business is so important the stakes are very high.
The simple fact is that whatever retail experience you have whether buying a pair of jeans or a Bentley it will always be about people and as we all know there are good and bad in all establishments, even from one desk to the next.
Sales processes are good because they can often ensure that there’s a good chance a customer gets a car that suits their needs both financially and practically. On the other hand a process that’s too rigid and intrusive is guaranteed to upset some customers especially if they have given out their details numerous times in one day. As usual there is a balance to be struck and if a customer is unhappy with giving too much detail then fine, don’t antagonise him, keep trying to advise and assist and he may come round and give you this information if he doesn’t feel pressured. By the same token going into a showroom with all guns blazing and not wanting to cooperate at all and want all the salesman’s time for no commitment is guaranteed to end with a customer walking out of the door, probably unhappier and angrier at having wasted his time.
The current situation dictates that companies will demand to know that their staff are doing everything in their power to turn a prospect into a sale, indeed peoples livelihoods depend upon it. So when the pressure is cranked up and articles are everywhere telling customers what great deals are available, and that the motor trade is buckling all around the world it is hardly surprising that a salesperson will qualify his customers to death and justify all his efforts to his superiors.
Next time you visit your local car dealer try and enjoy it, understand the salespersons predicament, and yes take a sleeping bag because he may not want to let you go!