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Tales from a small town

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

Friday, April 07, 2006

they must like me

I was getting a little worried about how the other salesmen would take me. We've got a few grizzled veterans who've been in some type of car sales since they were in their 20's, but for the younger ones, they're college educated, and I'm middle-aged - and I've been in a factory most of my adult life - not on a car lot.

The younger ones started out by treating me with a very condescending attitude - it was almost as though they felt I didn't belong there, so in order to do me the favor of pointing that out, they'd treat me like I was their personal slave. I don't want to make waves and make myself appear as though I'm too radical, but on the other hand, I also wanted to show them that I'm dealing from a position of strength. In other words, I'm older, therefore I should be smarter. If I can't show them I'm dealing from a position of strength, then I'm either out the door because I'm too hard to get along with, or I'm out the door, because no one will take me under their wing and show me the ropes - because I'm too radical, and too old, and so forth. So what's a fat, old, blue-collar bastard to do in this situation?

Deal from a position of strength. There's alot you can take from any relationship you're in, regardless of gender, religion or socio-economic background, and apply it to a completely different set of circumstances, because after all, people are people.

I remember in the factory, when working the "high-seniority" departments, the old-timers had a sense of entitlement about them. It didn't matter if the "old-timer" was a guy who hired in right out of high school back in the 1970's who's only in his 40s or 50s, or if it's real "old-timers," who have dentures, a plethera of medication to take every morning and problems with incontinence; doesn't matter: high seniority carries a sense of entitlement, regardless of your age.

I remember these high-seniority people not willing to do alot of work that was considered exclusively the domain of low-seniority people, who should just be thankful to be working in a high-seniority department, where they can take breaks longer than the "blue-book" allows. (Which is true: those low-seniority people should be thankful to be in a high-seniority area!)

Anyway, the bottom line is, these high seniority people wouldn't do grunt work.

So what do I do at the dealership to deal from a position of strength?

The veteran car salesmen usually don't meet customers out on the lot, because these guys have enough repeat business to make a good living, without "duking" customers, or even having to worry about "ups," period. (Duking customers is meeting them out on the lot; ups are people who browse the lot, but don't have a previous relationship with the dealership or any of it's salesmen.)

The veterans stay inside and wait for the fresh meat to come to them. I thought to myself, "There's an opportunity!" I started duking customers immediately. Now, I'll go out there and introduce myself, then ask if they're working with a salesman, and if they are, what that salesman's name is. Then, I'll go through the "investigative process" with the customer, asking them why they're at the dealership, and what they're interested in looking at. I write it all down on a memo pad that fits in my shirt pocket, and ask the customers to come in, so they can meet their salesman. (Most of the time, people browsing cars out on the lot already have a salesman, and because I'm new, it's never me!)

The top salesman loves me for doing this, because he's sold alot of additional cars because of me, and now he's taking me under his wing. He even pranked me last night, which is a good sign in an all-male environment - which this is.

The other salesmen hate it, because now they have to be nice to me - whether they want to or not. If I was to get a little pissy, maybe I'd neglect to tell their "too-entitled" asses, that their customer is out there, looking to buy a car - from them. They resent this, because they know if I decided to just forget to tell them, they're out of a sale - and who's really going to blame the new guy for forgetting something, anyway?

See? I am dealing from a position of strength! Factory workers aren't as dumb as these guys think. All I have to do now is sell. I was talking to one of the managers, and he told me that it's not uncommon for guys to go months without selling something when they first start out. I don't have that long, because once the training salary is over, I'm feeding 6 other mouths, and I've got to start selling! I've got one more week of training salary.

I've been so close, so many times. The one critique I consistently get is, I'm either too soft on the close, or too hard. They have a saying there: "The difference between persistence and annoyance is technique."

They say you have to fulfill the dual roles of drill sargeant and trusted advisor, and establish yourself as being capable in both of those roles, within about ten minutes of the coversation. Anyone wonder why the real good car salesmen live in neighborhoods where they've got doctors and lawyers playing tennis with them at the subdivion's clubhouse?

I don't have to be that good to top what I made in the factory, I've just got to make sure I don't blow the sales opportunities I'll have in this upcoming sale. I was watching training videos when the last sale was going on, and when I got done with the videos, the sale was over. Now they've got another sale going on next week, I'll have a better understanding of not being too nervous to follow the process and recite the scripts as though the scripts are normal conversation.

This will be challenging.