Why Do We Scare Away Customers

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This article by Rick Roberge got me thinking about customer service and good salesman lately. He was talking about why customers feel compelled to leave false info to organizations and how it was conditioned by poor and abusive sales and marketing techniques.

My wife and I went shopping for a new used car. There is a very good reason that people hate shopping for a new car. Most of us love a new car (or nice used car in my case), but hate the process it takes to buy one.

We searched online and found a few contenders, and then set out to look at them. I have an “ace up my sleeve” when it comes to purchasing a car. That “ace” is Mel Warren at Sewell Lexus in Dallas. Mel is the definition of sales excellence. I worked for Mel when he was the general sales manager at another Sewell store many years ago. I learned much from Mel back then, and I learn a new sales lesson every time I speak to him. I wasn’t seeing much on the Sewell website that met my criteria, so I scoped out some other dealers on line. The plan was check out a few of these cars, and then go see Mel.

Our first stop was at an independent dealer to check out a minivan that met the criteria. We were greeted by a reluctant salesman upon entering the dealership. I introduce my wife and I to him and told him why we were there. He disappears with no explanation or comments and returns shortly with keys in his hand. We then walk out to look at the vehicle. He hardly speaks to us at all, basically will only answer a direct question. Our decision was made before we figured out that the van didn’t live up to it’s online promise. The sales guy treated us as an interruption to his day. He never asked us a single question, not even the lame “how can I help you?” I had to lead and guide the conversation and process. So Becca says “Don’t waste anymore time, just call Mel to tell him we’re on our way now.”

We are greeted by a friendly salesperson as we walk in the door at Sewell. “Welcome to Sewell Lexus, we are excited that you are here. How may I be of service?” she said. Quite a different experience from the first stop. We are escorted to Mel’s office, and he spends some time visiting with us before he ever mentions a car to look at. He asks a few questions about our expectations, and then goes to work making it happen. He calls another location to confirm he can show an SUV that piqued our interests. He drives us there in a brand new Lexus, and asks us to wait in the comfortable air-condition car as he brings the SUV to us. Note, he did not drag us all over the place looking for it. It seemed to take a long time for him to return with the SUV. We find out that is because he found the tech that did the check up and make ready on the unit so that he could ask him about the vehicle and make sure it is in suitable condition for his customer. Then he walked us around the unit to describe how it would fit our needs. The whole time he was friendly, served our needs, never adversarial, and found a solution that rewarded us and him.

When I started in the auto business, the first two dealerships I worked for both sat me down and made me watch these automotive sales training videos. Almost all of the training was about manipulation and high pressure. The exact tactics that make people not want to visit a car dealership. The motivation for this training was based on a statistic that the average car shopper will buy with in 36 hours of visiting a dealership, and that the odds of closing a deal go down dramatically when they leave the dealership without purchasing that day. I struggled at first because I won’t treat people like I don’t want to be treated. I had good sales and customer service training before. My sales managers would come unglued if I let a customer walk before I let him talk to them. My dilemma was that if I wouldn’t want to be subjected to the tactics of the sales manager, why would I lead anyone else to that.

Why would we as a sales organizations develop a strategy that turns off potential customers? Even more perplexing is, why do we keep doing it when we know our customers hate it? The answer is simple, and one of the least desirable phrases of all. Because that’s the way we always have done it! And the fact that we don’t trust that people do want the best service and products, and will pay more to be be treated well. So, we reduce our selves to commodities that have to compete on price alone. It’s really so simple. Treat others the way you want to be treated. At least starting there is simple.

Even though, there are many great sales people that are professional and serve their clients, we are out numbered by the pretenders that would rather push and manipulate for a living. This is what most people think all sales people do. People give false info on a form, online or otherwise, because they don’t want to be bugged by a pushy over zealous sale person. I’m a life long salesman and even I think twice about filling out a form, or signing up for information. We have to demonstrate through our websites, profiles, and marketing that we can be trusted with that information.

Do you think it’s ok to lie in a situation where you know you are being lied to or manipulated? Or do you think it’s best just to leave/avoid the situation?

  • So, how long before you stop trying to buy the way you started and always buy the way you did? Why didn’t you just call Mel in the first place? My friend Marshall has been my insurance man for 40 years. He also insures many of my friends, my sons. Steve is my banker friend and when I wanted to buy a Cadillac, I had him introduce me to Joel. Joel started with any friend of Steve’s is my top priority. Buy the way you want your prospects to buy from you and you may find fewer conflicts in your life. BTW, thanks for the mention.

    • That is so true Rick. Actually your comment stung a little. It stung because you are right. I need to always practice what I preach. Thankfully my wife is wiser than me and pointed out the error of my way. After that first car store, she told me to stop messing around and just call Mel. So, that is what I did.