I often reflect on my own personal purchasing experiences from a professional point of view, always looking to learn. While I don’t enjoy personal negotiating (I do enough of that at work), I find how salespeople treat me interesting. Upon reentering the Canadian market I provided a few sellers with opportunity, I needed a house (and didn’t need to sell a house to get one) and two cars. As I went through the different sales cycles, a few things stuck out in my mind:
Be careful about a flippant comment. During the sales cycles, a few of the sales reps became a little too comfortable or too casual in my opinion. More importantly, certain phrases that they used are imprinted on my brain and really struck the wrong cord. When people are making a big decision, the ‘fight or flight’ mentality is at the forefront and inadvertent comments can send the whole cycle down the wrong path. Here are a few:
A few months ago we travelled to Italy (still not finished processing all of that, will blog it on a future date) with a stop in Venice and Murano for glass. We decided to buy a chandelier. It is a very well engineered sales process to trap the tourist. The hotel offers you a ‘free’ trip to the factory to see glass blowing. You arrive and a super slick salesman shows you the master craftsman as he blows the glass and then you are ushered into their showrooms. In the showrooms all the prices are very high but you are told that by cutting out the middleman and buying directly from the factory you will get 50% off.
The problem in this situation is simple – who knows what a good price is? If he is cutting off 50% will he cut off 70%? So we negotiated to the price we were willing to pay (65% off). We thought we got a fair deal (and when we went back to the island we looked at the shops and we paid ‘around the right price). But as we got on the boat to go back, our salesman said one thing that has stuck with me, making me feel taken as opposed to feeling that I got a fair price.
He smiled and said ‘Thank-you for the business. Please, make sure that you tell your friends about us. We would be glad to service them. We need more customers like you’.
I had to purchase two cars over the last 2 weeks. I have bought one already and know that we got a fair deal as there was a vendor program that took the negotiating right out of it. But I still have one car to go – my commuter car. I don’t care about this car – I am not a big car guy. I need efficient, reasonably comfortable, Bluetooth and an MP3 jack as I love to listen to books as I drive. So the dealer that I bought the first car is trying hard to sell me a second. The sales rep is alright, but I would not hire her. So as I test drove the car, I asked the price. She stated it and I said ‘That is about $3K more than the other car I am looking at and I am not sure that I am willing to pay the extra’. She smiled and made what she thought was a witty comeback ‘Well, then I guess you are buying the other car’.
This is about her 3rd faux pas. So I told her I think I will pass. The sales manager got involved and he said ‘He really wants to sell me a second car’ (What a shocker). So we went back and forth and as I was tired of looking for a car and have much bigger issues to deal with, agreed on a price about $1K higher than the other car. I felt that it was worth it and that I was getting a ‘fair deal’ until he said ‘Well, that was easier that I thought it would be’.
Later today I am going to call him back and tell him the deal is off. I want a fair deal and that just tells me that he took me.
For a house these days it is a buyer’s market. Agents will tell you differently because it is their job to ensure that you don’t take a long time – or they don’t get paid. So we low balled the house that we want expecting to go through a negotiation phase. After the first back and forth the other agent told our agent ‘Look, we are not going to sign back. My client is a wealthy man. He owns a house in England and a few houses here in Canada. He is a busy man and not interested in going back and forth’.
In any negotiation, I was always taught that you can only negotiate (truly negotiate) if you are willing to walk away. I didn’t want to but my wife was unattached and said lets walk. So I called the agent back and said we are walking, please start looking into these three other houses.
Well, magically, he came back. What he doesn’t know is that had he not said that, we would have probably gone $20K higher over the coming 24 hours. But we figured that because he was ‘too busy’ and ‘too important’ that he was also too arrogant and so why bother.
No one sent me a thank-you card: If you have worked with me you know that I am big on thank-you cards. Less than 1% of sales reps do it and I firmly believe that the little things are important (and no, e-thank-you cards and e-holiday cards are not good enough. They show that you are cheap and take too little effort). I have yet to receive a single thank-you card.
Very few sales reps followed up: In the car pursuit, I went to a range of dealers on a Saturday. Each of them had my information. A number of them provided quotes. Only ONE out of the entire car buying experience followed up. Pathetic.
It isn’t about you: It was shocking to hear how little probing the sales reps did around my pain points, my buying cycle or about my personal situation. One extreme situation was at a the Lexus dealership. By the time the test drive was done I knew that the salesman next to me was divorced, had two kids, lived with his mom in Collingwood, wasn’t ‘really’ a car salesman but really a golf pro, that he loved to give lessons and often did big corporate events for Audi and Lexus, that he had a 5 handicap and was really looking forward to driving home tonight to have a BBQ with an old friend. He didn’t know anything about me (he didn’t ask). He sent me a quote but never followed up even though I told him I was buying two cars. He absolutely didn’t send a thank-you card. He didn’t even get consideration.
I appreciate a great sales person: Our real estate agent has been truly awesome. It has been a rough ride dealing with the house and a furnished place (the other agent has been a nightmare). But our agent absolutely believes that ‘5 no’s make a yes’ and has pounded away. Awesome follow-up, open communication, tenacity and a willingness to fight for the deal. And most important, she has shown empathy to our situation and the stress that it can cause. I truly appreciate the person who does it right. Well done.