The wind in your sales

Should you go sailing, you are bound to end up “somewhere.” Tacking for the right wind in your sails, you can actually get where you want to go. Wind also applies to the sales process.

My divine mom, “Charlie,” is considering buying a new car, so off we went to Lexus and Audi last week to begin the hunt. She enjoys her current Lexus. I love my Audi. Both are luxury brands, yet the sales process was worlds apart. 

I want to take my hat off to Lexus. While I have never negotiated with a Maserati dealer (still hoping to), the Lexus sales environment, in my experience, was revolutionary for the car industry. When we arrived we were greeted by a completely non-aggressive greeter who said she’d be happy to guide us through the products on the floor and if we were interested in one, she would get a “product specialist.” Wow — I get more pressure in a shoe store. Point one goes to Lexus.

While Charlie was determining if owning a convertible was worth the price of melanoma, I snuck away and asked a salesman about their sales process. He told me they were not on commission; the product specialist would explain the amenities of the vehicle and take us on a test drive. The sales manager would only show up if we were interested in price, and the buck stops with them regarding the final price quote — no running to the invisible boss in the back. (I assume bonuses are team-based — he wouldn’t explain.)

The team was very well trained, listened deeply, didn’t jump in to gather our data before we test drove the product and were, in short, great salespeople. Just the same, the process was so highly orchestrated, I couldn’t help feeling manipulated. It felt like the dealership was in the Land of Stepford — in other words, really robotic. 

At Audi, we walked in and the salesman was waiting for us. He invited us to his desk and took us through pictures on his computer. Hmmmm. Unlike Lexus, he got all our contact information up front — the sales process being paramount to him. Unlike Lexus, I had to beg this guy for a test drive. He was really interested in driving us around the lot and wanted us to wave at his boss. After 30 minutes of this, I informed him we had a party that night and wanted to do a quick test drive, as we only had another 10 minutes. Afterwards, he actually asked us to wait for him while he grabbed a business card and informed his boss we were leaving. Huh? We already told him we were late. Five minutes later, I went to track him down, stood outside the GM’s office while he finished laughing with some of the other salesmen, and when I asked, “Where’s our sales guy? We’re late.” He responded, “What’s your hurry? Forget about your plans.”

Needless to say, the “how to sell a car” philosophies differed. The biggest difference, however, was not the orchestration that set the Lexus sales process apart from Audi. It was in “the listening.” The Audi guy was more interested in his process than the client experience. His wind didn’t blow our way. Lexus blew us away. While they didn’t get the sale at this point, Lexus gets an A+ for Wind Control — speaking out of the listening.  

Sale away …