Do you ever go to the restaurant and ask the waiter what he would recommend or let’s go farther; have you ever asked the waiter to just bring out something that represents the chef’s vision of a great meal in the style of this restaurant?
Do you ever trust someone with whom you are doing business enough to say “let’s have your best recommendation and I’ll go with it”? I think the restaurant example is an easy one for many of us to identify with. Especially when entertaining a group, you have probably said ‘Just treat us to a nice assortment of your specialty dishes so we can all experience the range of cuisine offered here’.
Now, would you give a car salesperson the same leeway? Once you had agreed on the make, model and trim of a vehicle would you let the salesperson add the accessories and the F&I products that would be appropriate and a good match for your situation? After all, as a professional, your salesperson had built up a level of trust and rapport with you as a client during the early part of the sales process. Let’s assume your salesperson had asked the right questions to understand your needs and wants, he had helped you select the exact vehicle, and had all the context about your driving patterns and planned uses of the vehicle. Would it not be okay to let the salesperson choose the accessories that would fit with his understanding of what you, the client, would like and need? As the salesperson, you probably already suggested some items during a presentation based on what appeared to be the client’s hot buttons. Compare this situation with the relationship of trust we normally have with a lawyer, a doctor, a coach, a golf instructor, or a real estate agent.
My thesis is that the “professional” relationship we have with doctors, lawyers and coaches is different in a fundamental way from that found between car salespeople and their clients (for the most part) but it shouldn’t be. I say that while also recognizing that the very best and most successful car salespeople distinguish themselves from the crowd by actually building a long term relationship that results in multiple sales over decades. There’s no reason why you should not be able to create such a professional relationship with all you clients. You just have to do the work!
I know many car salespeople personally who have been able to develop a business based on consistently providing a great purchase experience for clients while gently but persistently working their clientele for reviews, recommendations and referrals. They understand the lifetime value of each customer. That’s why these car sales professionals are always looking out for their customers; always acting as “connectors”. Much of their communications is to connect their clients with other professionals: need a top plumber? They know one. They get to know everyone in their community and everyone knows them. It means having a small business operator mindset. It means asking yourself, how I can be of value?
All of us who are selling cars as a career understand that the secret to building and maintaining a self-sustaining business is to keep coming up in the everyday conversations of people you know (or people who know you). At important life changes or events, such as a son/daughter graduating college, you want your name to come up in a subsequent conversation about related transportation needs (before anyone is out hunting for a vehicle). Even better, if one of your clients is talking to a friend who has just landed a new senior position at a new company, it would be great if your client (unprompted) would think to ask, “Hey, George, now that you have this new position, you might be thinking of upgrading your transportation. I have a friend in the car business I would be happy to introduce you to.”
Your clients want to grant you a monopoly on whatever it is your business does, whatever role it is that you fill in their life. They want to have a go-to carpet cleaner. They want to have a go-to chiropractor. They want to have a go-to car guy. Whatever business you’re in, people want to have that category, that problem, solved. A lot of times, most businesses just neglect people. Think about all of the businesses that you frequent who don’t treat you like an insider. Businesses who don’t treat you like you’re somebody they have adopted and taken into their fold, and have your best interests at heart when it comes to their category. It’s so rare, it’s very difficult to think of businesses who actually take that kind of approach. But those who do, really stand out in your mind. As we move fully into the 2020s, there’s a growing sense that we have an obligation to take care of each other. I believe this is an important part of the new way business will be conducted and the expectations of customers are changing along these lines. Are we taking care of each other? How are we demonstrating that new ethos? It seems to me that we are at the inflection point where customers will be more willing, in this new reality, to look to the quality of their commercial relationships and look for favoured, trusted partners rather than just transactional partners. Online systems have evolved quickly to offer the most efficient transactional platforms. And, for many product categories and customer types, that’s all that is needed or expected. For the rest, there is a new opportunity to use technology to nurture, protect and preserve the connections that a people-oriented business must be about to survive.