Why is Client Loyalty So Rare?
With Maggie’s car lease maturing, we decided to visit her local dealer. This would be her third new car from the same dealership and she has been a loyal patron of their service department as well. We met with a salesperson (whom we’ll call Jake) for nearly two hours. Jake was seemingly doing many things right. He was personable and attentive, used our names often, offered the test drive and injected occasional witty humor. While his product knowledge wasn’t up to par and he admitted to being with this dealer only five months (and to working for about “twenty other local car dealers”), his outgoing personality and aptitude for client service more than made up for his deficiencies.
Much to our surprise, as we’d only planned to look, we eventually ended up in the negotiation stage of the process. When Jake presented a new lease offer, he explained it as, “A flat deal – we’re not making any money and we’re not losing any money.”
I’ll refrain from getting too deep into the details of what ensued and simply say that within five short minutes Jake’s sales manager was saying, “We haven’t ‘moved’ anything this morning … What if I could eat your taxes and tags?”
Stop the music! Our new friend Jake had just stated that the original proposal was a break-even deal for the dealership – how could it be that all of a sudden they magically found another $1,100 to pay the Commonwealth of Virginia for Maggie’s taxes and tags?
There’s more to the story, but the upshot is that via mistakes and lack of integrity this dealership may have lost our business. However, the big-picture lesson dawned on me a few days later…
In-it-For-the-Minute vs. Relationship Selling
As many of my readers know, I sold Acura automobiles from 1995 – 2006 — in one location. While Rosenthal Acura was (and still is) a special place — as evidenced by its low turnover — industry-wide, things aren’t quite that impressive. Countless salespeople come and go and I’ve observed many approaches to salesmanship. What I’ve noticed over the years (and this is certainly not limited to the car business) is that most salespeople have what I call an in-it-for-the-minute mentality for selling.
In short, they view sales as a job — not a career.
This is an important distinction. Someone who thinks of their selling profession as a career, is more likely to work toward building relationships – with superiors, with coworkers and most important with their clients. If Jake and his dealership were interested in this relationship, they sure didn’t show it. In fact, instead of noting Maggie’s loyalty to both the sales and service departments, the manager’s only justification for lowering the price was entirely self-serving. “We haven’t ‘moved’ anything this morning,” he told us. Clearly, making a sale wasn’t about Maggie … it was about them.
Smart, Valued and Important
Clients have three emotional hot buttons:
1) They don’t want to feel foolish — like they’ve made a mistake by patronizing your business.
2) They don’t want to feel that the seller doesn’t value them as a client.
3) They never want to feel unimportant to their salesperson or the establishment as a whole.
These guys knew Maggie was about to buy her third vehicle from them, that she’d been a regular service client for the previous six years and that she lived and worked within just one mile of their dealership. Additionally, they knew that I had spent 11 years in their business. There are at least a dozen thoughtful, yet low-effort ways they could have made us feel smart, valued and important in those two hours. Disappointingly though, they failed to do any of these things. And worse, they failed to even acknowledge Maggie as a valued, long-time client. Not a word. Not a single gesture.
70% Repeat/Referral Business … But Not Seeing the Forest Through the Trees
This encounter served as an epiphany for me. In reflecting on our experience, I really came to understand why my Acura clients had been so loyal to me over those 11 years. And I understood this lesson in a way that I never had before. Forget dealerships and car buying for a moment – how rare is it to find a salesperson anywhere who doesn’t fit the negative stereotype? How often do you find someone who looks at you as a future friend, rather than a commission; someone to whom you are excited to refer others; someone who will actually still be there six months from now — an actual salesPERSON?
Thinking back on our interactions with Jake the way that one can only do a day or so later, here’s what became crystal clear: While personable and friendly, Jake was unmistakably only interested in closing a sale and making his commission. Having spent so long in the business, I can intuitively say that he probably wasn’t going to remember us for very long, likely would not follow up with Maggie and probably won’t be working for this dealership by the time Maggie is ready for her next car. This is, at least, mine and Maggie’s perception — our truth.
What are you doing to have your clients feel smart, important and valued? What sets you apart from your competition? Why should people buy from you? As always, I value your feedback, comments and thoughts here on this blog and look forward to continuing this conversation…