Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stepping Back From Goals

If you read about how to be successful, you will see GOALS GOALS GOALS. While this is especially true in books about winning at Soccer, it is quite prevalent in all self-help books. The problem is goals is that you have to know what you want.

If you have kids and want to make sure they go to the right schools and then you want to be able to retire in comfort, then your goals are pretty clear. If you own a store and want to expand to a chain, the goal is readily apparent.

However, what happens when you are at a transition point in life. The vicissitudes of life brought me to Connecticut following a job which I would subsequently quit a few months later because it was even worse here than it was where I came from. For most of my life, I had some kind of overriding goal. First, I was in school, and a goal was prescribed for me, finish school successfully. There were subordinate goals, but it always came back to that one. When I graduated college, I opened Phoenix Games, and everything was driving towards making Phoenix successful, and, later, making Phoenix survive.

In 2007, when it was apparent Phoenix Games would not pay the bills, I started working for my father teaching people with special needs to drive. It was a good job which helped people, but it was not satisfying because I went from what felt like a holy quest to a job that kind of did some good for some people.

In 2010, I started working for American Income Life. I had a new fiancee and we had a bold and ambitious dream. I would achieve the success that AIL promised was possible and we would find greatness. I could focus all of my energy towards AIL and that dream. Unfortunately, that dream, for various reasons did not pan out, and in January of 2012, I left that job and entered the car business selling Audis and later Volkswagens as I still do.

I had not driving ambition, but, for the first time, I was financially stable. I could start paying down, rather than racking up, debts. My credit score is floating up to a respectable level. Most of my immediate debts incurred running Phoenix Games are paid off.

In this situation, I was able to relax, not worrying about what was to come next. I just did what I wanted to, enjoyed things as they came. Recently, things changed again, and for various reasons, many of the things that I was distracting myself with became unavailable, and it came into stark focus that I do not have a direction in which I wish to head.

This bothered me greatly for a time. I sometimes have the feeling that the clock is ticking and I need to get moving before time runs out. I would try to make a long term goal, then shift to another, then another, only to realize that I really didn’t know what the right long term plan was.

I realized, that, while the clock moves, there is plenty of time left on it. It’s ok not to know what the big plan it. As they say, go as far as you can see, and then look further. Sometimes as far as you can see is up to the next bend in the road, and that’s ok. So, today, I will sell cars, maybe try to arrange a nice role playing game group, enjoy board game night, and, for now, let things fall where they will.

Friday, March 8, 2013

If You Don't Ask for What You Want, You Get Everything You Ask For

There is a lesson that I have been reminded of a few times recently, both by things that have happened in my selling life as well as my personal life, and that is that one rarely gets what one wants when one does not ask for it.

I had a customer recently who, when they came in, all they could say was that they wanted lease payments. I tried to ask them what kind of car they were looking for, features, trim level, anything, but all they wanted was to know what the payment was. The lowest one, of course. It was all about the Benjamins, they claimed, and they mentioned the Jetta S, which they knew was cheapest. I mentioned that it had the smaller engine, but they just wanted the lowest price.

So, I showed them the numbers on that car, around $250 with very little out of pocket, and we took the car out for a drive. They assured me that they liked how the car drove, but they needed to think about it for a night.

I called them the next day, and they told me that they bought a Ford for $360/month. The reason they gave me was that there was not enough power in the engine of the Jetta. Of course, there wasn't enough power, they wanted the cheap one with the 115 horsepower engine. If they had told me they wanted more power, I would have shown them the SE with 170 horsepower for about $285/month. Instead, because they did not tell me what they wanted, they had to settle for a more expensive vehicle elsewhere.

I know that some car shoppers think that they are somehow better off keeping their cards close to the vest, but the fact of the matter is that if I don't know what someone wants, I can't possibly help them to get it.

You get this in the personal relationships as well. Have you ever had or heard about this conversation, perhaps on a road trip.

Wife: "Do you want to stop and get something to eat?"
Husband: "No, I'm fine."
Temperature in the car drops about 20 degrees.
Husband: "But maybe we should stop."

It's a funny story, but think of how often people do not get what they want from their partner because they don't ask for it. Usually this is because they feel that their partner should "know them well enough" to know what they want. If expecting your partner to read your mind is part of your happy relationship strategy, you should not get too attached to the idea of getting what you want. The plain and simple fact is that no matter how much you partner may want to make you happy and give you what you want, it becomes very difficult if they do not know what it is.

If you want to get what you want, whether it's a car with a little more power or to stay within a certain budget or a cheeseburger along the highway, you are much more likely to get it if you ask for it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pressure Sales is So 1987: How to Sell in 2013

When people walk into a car dealership, they usually do so with a sense of trepidation. They expect aggressive salespeople, pressure tactics and a generally unpleasant experience. Some people would rather go through an IRS audit than shop for a car. They will do all kinds of things to protect themselves from the maneuvers of the car salesman.

It doesn’t have to be this way. This happens because “old school” salesmen have used pressure tactics for years and they have worked. They teach the young guys that this is how it works. They become managers and require such tactics of their salespeople. But does it really work?

Certainly pressure will get some people to sign on the line, but will they want to come back? When it come times to replace that car in a few years, they’ll shop around again. Why would you be loyal to a dealership that treated you like a piece of meat on a conveyer belt? So the customer will shop around again, get abused again, and the cycle continues.

This is not how I sell. I don’t sell with pressure for two reasons. First, I don’t do it because I don’t like it. I do not want to come in to work everyday and cause stress to nice people. Second, it doesn’t work. I don’t just want to force someone to buy a car today. I want to give them a pleasant experience. A customer who has a pleasant experience is easier to work with, they don’t worry if there’s a slight delay to meet with the Business Manager. They give us a good review online. They tell their friends and family. Most importantly, when the time comes for their next car, they won’t need to shop around. They’ll know that they can call me again and get the same good treatment.

I had one customer a few weeks ago say that buying a car is usually like going to the proctologist, but buying one from me was a pleasant and easy experience. Another customer had such a good experience that she gave me a $50 gift card as a thank you.

A lot of people in the industry think that customers only care about price and that they’ll go down the street for $5. This is true, if and only if, you have not treated the customer right. If you abuse them and pressure them, they’ll go down the street to pay $5 more, if only to be treated right. I have customers who come in, experience the way I work, and still shop around because that’s how they buy a car. However, when they go, I am confident that they will come back, because I know unfortunately that the other salespeople they will encounter have yet to learn this lesson. I’ve had customers offered a better price elsewhere still come back because it is worth it to people to be treated right.

I don’t know about how cars were sold in the old days. Maybe I couldn’t sell a car in 1987. Fortunately, it’s 2013, and in 2013 a customer wants to be treated right. In 2013, I sell plenty of cars the right way.