People, in general, cannot help forming an opinion about something or someone without necessarily finding out all the information or giving someone a chance first. It’s human nature I suppose and first impressions are what many of us use to make up our minds about many things. In the world of car sales this has proved, over the years, to be quite disastrous on a personal level. I have seen many examples and actually been involved in situations where judging a customer on first impressions could have proved disastrous.
Many years ago when I first started out in the world of car sales, I had no pre-conceived ideas and had not had the experience to become cynical or dismissive. I was a blank sheet of paper and if a customer had the temerity to want more than 20 minutes of my time before buying a car who was I to give them short shrift. As a result I treated every customer as gold dust whilst I leaned my craft and honed my skills. I spent many fruitless hours with customers who, I know now, were probably never going to buy that day and perhaps on any other day for that matter. However every experience provided me with enough knowledge to be better next time and to start asking the correct qualification questions, to help me establish exactly what point in the buying process a customer was. This helped me use my time in a much more efficient way for myself and, most importantly my customers.
One such encounter involved a young couple who came in the showroom looking like they had just come from a peace march. They looked like they hadn’t washed in weeks, had a dog on a string and looked totally out of place in our large, shiny, nicely upholstered showroom. It was precisely the fact that they weren’t your normal type of executive car customer that made me think that maybe I should approach them, that and the fact that as the new boy I was told I had to deal with these ‘scuffers’. Maybe it was because I had sold 2 cars already that day (beginners luck so the lads told me) that I felt strangely confident. I followed the sales process and asked the questions relevant to their needs and quickly established that this couple were not what they first appeared. They were very polite and very well spoken and after the rest of the lads kept ribbing me about being caught with some timewasters, it was particularly satisfying when that afternoon my couple returned with a cheque from Coutts (bankers to Her majesty) and I duly completed the sale and my ‘hat-trick’. It turned out that the young man was the son of a multi-millionaire property dealer who had decided to do his own thing whilst still enjoying his parents generosity, and needless to say I took great pleasure in waving the cheque under the noses of my stunned colleagues who couldn’t believe I had pulled it off.
The reason for telling this story is that these kinds of things are happening now and customers are visiting showrooms to find that they either wander around without anyone seeing to them or else have every salesperson in the showroom trying to engage them. It is reckoned that a salesperson makes up his/her mind whether a prospective customer will buy a car within 2 minutes of meeting them and therefore the experience can end quite abruptly leaving a feeling of abject dissatisfaction for the customer. Even worse the hasty salesperson ends up wasting the large amounts of money dealers spend on marketing to encourage people into the showroom in the first place.
When people are spending large amounts of money on a major purchase such as a car, surely allowing them some time to consider the product you are selling cannot be too much to ask can it?
Judging a book by a cover can see you losing a customer forever.