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Jim Saker: Don’t let the process get in the way of a sale

Jim Saker

I have been involved in many discussions over the issue of training in our sector over the years. The argument runs that you need to train people in the processes and procedures, so that their behaviour is both compliant to industry standards and also meets financial regulations. I have witnessed many sales training programmes that involve how to walk around a car, the need to greet customers in so many seconds of arrival and how to ensure the customer takes a test drive. All of this is very commendable, but often misses the point.

An example I came across recently was a woman who was coming to the end of her PCP contract and was wondering what to do next.  She went into her dealership to seek advice and was greeted by a young man who looked around her car and commended her for the pristine way in which it had been kept and the low mileage. He said they would have no trouble selling this when she returned it. He then insisted that she took a test drive in the new version of the vehicle.

The woman said she would go away and think about it.  In the space of the next five days, she received seven phone calls from various people in the dealership (coming up to the month’s end) trying to persuade her of the merit of the new deal they were proposing. The women decided to keep her old car and paid off the outstanding amount on the contract to the finance company. When asked why, she simply pointed out that if the dealership wanted her car that badly, it must be worth her while keeping it.

I am sure the salesperson did everything the training programme told him to and the dealership’s zealous approach to contacting the customer would be commended in some quarters.

This wasn’t a difficult customer; this was someone who was looking for guidance, but ended up with a conflict in her mind between what was being said by the dealership and what they were trying to get her to do, i.e. buy another car. They praised her and her car, which was flattering, but then wanted her to part with it.

I know I am biased, but I have this underlying belief that you train dogs, but you educate people. Training someone to behave in a particular way without them understanding why they are doing it is problematic. It means they follow a process whether or not, as in this case, it sends a conflicting message to the customer.

Helping people to understand develops emotional intelligence and encourages employees to stand back and reflect on how a situation should be handled. This may require thinking outside of the training manual, but it may just lead to more and happier customers.


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