My very first job out of college was working for Carl Sewell and his group of car dealerships. He has come to be known as the king of customer service in the industry and, having worked for him, I can attest to why. Even though I wasn't officially in sales, I was trained like crazy on the philosophy that a one time customer is great but not the end goal. Instead, you want to earn a customer's business for life. You want them coming back for years to buy from you because they trust you and trust you'll take care of them.
On Tuesday, I had the privilege of going with Dea to buy his first car and he had the delight in hearing me impart my auto-sales wisdom all morning. Delight is my word, not his.
Dea had saved his money and been so responsible and was ready to pay cash for a used car. He didn't want anything flashy, just something that would get him to school and work and out on the occasional date with a girl who was probably going to become a nun but was pursuing her degree in aeordynamics as a fallback. Again, my words, not his.
Our price range was a smidge below what Sewell sells so we ventured outside the box to find a car. Our first stop was actually, in light of my experience at Sewell, pretty fun. After waiting for a good fifteen minutes, the salesman saunteredup to us wearing cheesy shades indoors and asked said, "Y'all looking for me?". He forgot our names several times, and told us he was sorry the car we called about was actually sold but would we like to see what else they had in a price range a good $3000 more than we had specifically told him. He would be happy put it on a note for Dea and finance it at about a thousand percent interest. Good stuff.
He also referred to another customer as a "chick".
I would like to refer to him as something but this is a family-friendly blog so I shall refrain.
Leaving, I asked Dea what he thought about the salesman. He said he seemed very unprofessional. He made us wait, he tried to sell us a car we couldn't afford, and he called that lady a 'chick'. "And why couldn't he remember our names?"
Yes, Padwon, you have listened well. Mr. Sewell would be proud.
Finally, after having several experiences like this. We finally found a car perfect for Dea. The owner of the lot was great, honest, and low-pressure. He and his wife had been there for 26 years and he told us all about his children and grandchildren.
He was clearly paying attention to his customers.
One of the sales techniques I learned was that, in the close, DO NOT be the first one to talk. Make the offer and then be quiet. Whoever talks first, loses.
The owner told us the price of the car and Dea was silent as a church-mouse.
I on the other hand started immediately jabbering away like a crazy person because uncomfortable silences make me very, very uncomfortable. It's just the way the good Lord made me. And maybe I'd had been overserved at the Starbucks counter and was all jacked-up on caffine.
Perhaps it's why my tenure at Sewell was so short-lived.
We got in the car for a test drive and Dea said, "MaMelissa, you told me to be quiet and then you started talking like crazy! What happened to our plan?"
It was then that I realized I would be paying whatever difference the car was from Dea's budget out of our grocery money. Ramen noodles are healthy, right?
Actually, Dea did a great job negotiating despite me. He got the price he needed and paid cash for that car on the spot. He's clearly a quicker study.
He was so excited and I was excited for him. This was a big deal! He's been really wise with his money and now has something to show for it. And he did it without going into debt or falling into a trap of getting more car than he could actually afford.
And he learned a little about salesmanship in the process - the importance of customer service, the little things, and what it really means to earn someone's business for life.