Over the holidays, I bought a car. With huge floor-to-ceiling windows and slippery marble floors, the dealership was slick and set up with one goal in mind: sell.
Being neurodivergent and struggling with my mental health over the holidays, I honestly couldn’t be arsed about the whole production. But we needed a car. We’d found the car. Now we just had to buy the car.
As soon as we stepped inside the yard, a young sales assistant popped up out of nowhere. “Helloooo!”
From that moment, we were whisked along a swift and smooth sales journey.
We pointed at a black Mazda CX-5, took a test drive, said we wanted it, and were ushered inside the vast, shiny office.
The sales assistant brought us coffee, cracked jokes, told us how much she wanted the car, and warmed us up for the negotiations.
Knowing the car was over our budget, we offered a lower price.
“Hmmm,” she said thoughtfully. “I’ll have to take that up to my manager and see what he says.”
She printed off a wad of paperwork, asked me to sign it six times, and disappeared.
Moments later, she reappeared.
“He says we’re close! Verrrrry close! But, you know, given the condition of the car and the [blah-dee-blah], we just can’t let it go at that price.”
So we offered another thousand dollars.
She typed it into her laptop, printed off a fresh stack of the same paperwork (won’t somebody please think of the trees?!) and ran the signed copies off to the Big Man.
A split second later, she was back and beaming.
“Congratulations! You’re the new owner of a Mazda CX-5!”
Thank God that’s over.
“Now, I’ll just pass you over to the dealership representative who will talk you through a few things…”
We smelled her before we saw her, a sickly sweet perfume curling into the chair beside me. Then, an older woman with a chic bob and dazzling diamonds on her manicured fingers.
“I hear congratulations are in order!”
Before I could reply, she slapped a stack of brochures on the pristine tabletop, and launched into a rapid, breathless speech:
“Now, darl, it’s a 2014 black car and a black car is beautiful, oh sure darl, but it’s gonna get hot and it’s gonna get scratched and oh look, you live down by the beach, so you’ve got all the salt water that’s gonna strip the paint and so you’re gonna lose all that value, because you know they say a new car loses its value the second it leaves the dealership but no, love, that’s a myth a total myth, it loses its value after five years and because you’re at the beach…”
“Oh, actually, um, we’re moving up to the bush…”
“Oh the bush! Beautiful up there, beautiful spot. But of course, then you’ve got the birds! You’ve got all that bird poo marking the paint and love, LOVE!, that’s gonna ruin your car like nothing else. So now, you’ve just got to go with this car detailing package we have right here, it’s usually $2,000 but for the next three days it’s just $600 and love, let me tell you, it’s a non-negotiable because I got it on my used car and I’ll never buy a car without it again!”
“Ok..well…we’re going to think about that one…”
“With a black car? You’d be crazy love! And you’re buying the car for your business, and you say you work in marketing? Well, love, I worked in marketing for 20 years, and let me tell you what marketing is all about: appearances. Now when you go out to see clients with a faded car, are you going to get the sale? No way. I always say the first thing a client judges you on is your car, and the second thing is your bathroom because you’ve made them a friend!”
“Actually, I don’t see my clients. All my work is online…”
“Oh. Yes, well, either way you’re gonna need that package, and then we have a window tinting package because darl, what happens when you’re in an accident? That glass smashes all over you, and I tell you what, if you have a newborn baby in the car and the glass breaks and hurts them, well you’d never forgive yourself! I know I wouldn’t! So you’re gonna need this too, and it’s also on special for only…”
The play went on for a while longer, but I’ll save you having to sit through it. At the risk of spoiling the ending, we nodded along until we were set free and whisked off to another representative to arrange the finance.
The babies and bird poo were never spoken of again.
But the entire experience highlighted something about old-school sales that I am so not here for: doing whatever it takes to turn a no into a yes.
This can look like:
- Making assumptions about your needs, experiences and how you identify
- Pushing a product or service that isn’t actually the best fit for you
- Seeing customers as numbers, not humans
- Focusing on overcoming objections, instead of helping you understand what’s on offer and if it meets your needs
- Not allowing you time to think
- Shaming your decision not to buy
There is nothing wrong with selling. But we need to be careful with how we do it. Our clients are smart people who are looking for guidance – not a guilt trip. And if we can help them make the best decision (even if that means not working with us), they’re more likely to come back or tell their friends.
So screw those shady sales tactics, and let’s do better.
Let’s empower people to make the right choice for them. Let’s take the time to listen, appreciate and understand how they identify and experience the world. Let’s show what working with us is like – and the vision, mission, values and standards we honour.
Whether it’s a car or a course, we can sell it with heart, honesty and integrity.