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Sales Lessons from the Auto Industry

Four lessons all business can learn from auto dealers. Their evil ways are dragging them down! Use these four tips to improve your sales and customer service. Don't let customers and their money go to your competitors!

Back in 2005, my little red Celica gave up the ghost. I loved that car, but after 178,000 miles in four years, it was time to get a new vehicle. Since it had been such a great car, I decided to simply get a new one. I walked into the Toyota dealership ready to buy. It was then that my nightmare began. Here's what I learned:

1) Poor greetings anger the customer. I walked straight into the dealership, dressed nicely, with checkbook in hand. No one greeted me. Several salesmen avoided eye contact. I finally went to the sales manager's desk (positioned to overlook the whole showroom like a prison guard) and he told me to wait, that someone would be with me in a minute and returned to his phone call. Hello! Show some enthusiasm, salespeople! I'm about to make a major purchase and you don't seem to give a damn! Was it because I was a woman with no man to help poor little 'ol me buy a car? Or was it because they didn't know how to greet anyone? We'll never know.

2) A lack of product knowledge can kill you. I knew exactly what I wanted - a brand new, red Celica. I was ready to pay cash. I just wanted to see the car. They said they didn't have any on the lot. I said the 2005 had some features that were different from the 2000 and I wanted to see them. (I had done my homework). They didn't even have a photograph of the 2005 Celica! When I asked about the wheels (some come with special alloy wheels) the salesman replied, "Well, they're round." Now I was really angry.

3) No one likes the hard sell and other tricky sales techniques. Well, I was pretty unhappy with these guys, but I wanted the Celica. Once I'd get angry with the salesman, they'd switch and send in the sales manager. I'd make them an offer and they'd keep me waiting while they went to see if they could get it approved. They were jerking me around and I knew it. My love of the Celica was the only thing keeping me there. Note to car salesmen - we know you are jerking us around and we don't like it. You are making your customers your enemies. No one likes dealing with you.

4) The Internet changes everything. I escaped with my life (barely). I had to write up a sales order (noncommittal - no $) for them to agree to get the Celica on the lot so I could see it. In the meantime, I visited my Pop in Hilton Head. He got a quote over the Net for $1,000 less with no negotiation! The Internet took all the pain out of it - no switching people, no putting you in tiny rooms with finance guys. I decided I should use the 'Net myself and got a quote on another car (I was pretty unhappy with Toyota) - the 350Z - one sweet ride if I say so myself. Vincent Elliott, the Internet Sales Manager at Michael Jordan Nissan, responded immediately to my e-mail with a good price on the Z. And he was enthusiastic about my inquiry! Yes, I felt it through his e-mail! I also should tell you some Nissan dealers didn't even bother to respond to my request (too bad for them). The first time I walked into the dealership, Vincent was there (on his usual day off) with a big smile. I left driving a gorgeous, FireStar red 350Z.

Enthusiasm and honesty sellArticle Submission, tricks and high pressure cost you customers. When will salespeople (and sales managers) learn?

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Denise Ryan, MBA, is a Certified Speaking Professional, a designation of excellence held by less than 10% of all professional speakers. She is a blogger Her website is where you can see more articles and sign up for a free newsletter.

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