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Tales from a small town

Short stories about life in a small town. Non-fiction. Great reading.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

psychology behind the sale

OK, for the last 3 days I've been sitting at a table in an upstairs room of this dealership, watching training videos. The process is tedious, but what you learn is fascinating.

First of all, on my first day, me and the new car manager are walking up the stairs of the dealership first thing in the morning, and I say, "I take it my physical turned out OK?" He said, "I don't know, I haven't even got to my desk yet." I'm thinking to myself, "Oh, great! Now, I'm looking like some kind of Dead-Head, hippie or something." So we get inside and he takes me to the administrative office and asks the office manager's assistant if my results were OK. She says, "I don't know, I haven't got them yet." I said, "The testing facility told me yesterday that they sent the results to you around 11:AM. Did you get them yet?" She said she'd check. I'm thinking, "Damn, I'm collecting unemployment, I don't want to be working somewhere that doesn't want me because I flunked a drug screen, damn it, can't these people get their head out of their ass?"

So a few hours goes by, and the girl says to me that she read the results and everything was OK. Then she gives me this shit-eating-smirk like she's saying, "Worried, weren't you? I know what you do, I know what you do!"

But back to the training. Yes, it's tedious. Today, I spent about 9 hours in front of a tv; yesterday it was 8. But today was my 12 hour day, which meant the other three was at the sales manager's command center, so I could watch from the sales manager's perspective how deals are put together.

That was not interesting. The videos were. They're a fairly large dealership. They're big into 2 things: statistics and technology. They have a statistic for everything, and you're expected to remember them. One of the most interesting ones is, 96% of the people who get a price without giving a commitment to buy, won't buy from the dealership who gave them the price. When I first heard that, I'm thinking to myself, "Yeah, right! They're just saying that because they don't want the sales force talking price until the prospect is all hot and bothered over the car." In fact, the sales manager told me to ask questions about the videos when it was time for me to sit in the command center. So I did.

I said, "I find it very hard to believe that if you give someone a price without them giving you a commitment to buy, they won't buy from you 96% of the time. It would seem to me if you were nice enough to get them what they want right off the bat, they'd feel an obligation to at least buy maybe 50% of the time, if not more."

He said, "Let me give you an example of something that happened to me. I had a friend of mine who had a credit score in the low 800s (damn near perfect, for those of you keeping track at home.) He calls me up and says he's a busy guy and he wanted a price quote over the phone on a car he had his eye on. This guy's got money and good credit, so he could pretty much afford anything on the lot, and the car he wanted the price on, was one of the most expensive.

All I see are dlollar signs in my eyes, so without thinking, I get him the price over the phone. A few weeks later, I see him driving that car, but I know he didn't buy it off me. So I ask him where he got the car and why he didn't buy it off me? He says, 'After you gave me the price, I used that price to shop a few other dealers, and I found one who would beat the price you gave me. What do I look like, an idiot? Of course I bought from them!' So, that's why you never discuss price with a customer unless they have so much time invested in your deal, that they'd feel silly for starting the whole process all over again at another dealership."

It's a game of attrition. Once I get a little more familar with the stats, maybe I'll share them. They're so interesting. How they blend statistics and psychology, to me, is nothing short of facsinating; really. The more accurate way of reflecting their sales approach would be to describe it as a weave of statistics and psychology.

They base the stats on any purchase you make where you're most likely to go to more than one place to check out a product. Could be shoes, tools, houses, cars, whatever. This excludes impulse purchases and groceries. It's funny too, because the training videos I watch are actual classes the principal of the dealership has video taped while training his salesmen. This dealer subscribes to some service that tracks current statistics on buying habits. He subscribes to another service that explains how to weave psychology into the stats as a way to apply the two, to selling a ton of big-ticket items.

Some of the salesmen in the video are still there, and they told me that when the principal did his surveys on the salesmen in the class about what they bought, and whether or not they bought at the first place they went to - and how those stats mirrored what the stats say from the subscription service, they told me that wasn't a set-up; it was all candid and unplanned - but they matched, and that's the fascinating thing - that something so seemlingly random and sporadic can be rendered down to statistics that're dead-nuts accurate in almost any group as it applies to almost any buying behavior. Isn't that interesting?