Expert Car Advice, My Opinions

A Servant’s Heart

I’ve been here for about a month and a half now at Myers Hyundai Bells Corners in Ottawa, ON.  Over the last month we’ve hired half a dozen new salespeople, and I’ve been working diligently to train these very promising sales professionals and set them up for success.  We’ve covered a lot of different topics in our training, our role-playing and our discussions, but one thing that I’ve found myself repeating like a mantra is the one core, guiding principal that I believe governs everything we do with our clients and customers.  I say this at the beginning of my training sessions, and I close by mentioning this idea again, because it’s so, so important and I need this idea to be part of our ongoing conversation to make sure my guys are looking at their role from the correct vantage point.

The idea is simple:

  1. Provide unparalleled customer service and HELP our customers.
  2. Understand that the ONLY way to ACTUALLY help our customers is to close a deal and sell them a car.

I keep repeating this to my salespeople because it’s critically true.  Our customers reach out to us, they send emails, they call us, text us, come visit our store in person because they have a real, tangible problem that they are working to solve, and it’s our job to make ourselves available with a servant’s heart, an open mind, and to actually help them solve that problem to the best of our ability.

I want to put this core idea out there and elaborate upon it here on my blog – both for other salespeople who can learn something from this lesson, and for my clients who come to my site to learn about how I do business and what I believe in.

Any of my current or previous clients who have worked with me at any length know that I’m all about transparency, education, honesty and a no bullshit approach.  I’m not shy about explaining why I do anything I do – I believe that’s something my clients appreciate about my process – my straightforwardness and my utter commitment to bring about the right kind of sale of the perfect car that my clients can feel excellent about.

There’s a famous experiment in marketing done by a couple of psychologists from Columbia and Stanford universities, and it had to do with selling jam in a marketplace:

(You can click here to read the original study in it’s entirety, or click here to check out a great TED talk article where the study and others like it are referenced.)

The links are above, but the broad strokes are straightforward – they set up a kiosk at a fair marketplace to test their hypothesis, and they alternated their offering every hour or so.  For the first hour they offered 24 different kinds of jam, and the second our they offered only 6 flavours of jam.  They alternated which kind of offering they put forth, and tracked the results and the buying habits of the customer who shopped at their kiosk.

What they found, consistently, is that when you offer someone 24 choices, the customer experiences decision paralysis – they sample a few types of jam but consciously or unconsciously they understand that they haven’t put the time in (and frankly, don’t even have the time to spare) to thoroughly evaluate the ‘jam problem’ and pick the best jam for them.  The result?  No jam for them to enjoy at all – they move on without purchasing anything.

When only 6 flavours were offered though, the average customer who stopped to taste jam was a) actually looking to buy jam and would enjoy a jam, and b) were offered a selection that they could pick from confidently and feel satisfied with their choice and their purchase.  Fewer people stopped at the kiosk to take part in the free samples, given the smaller display with fewer products… but overall, the customer experience was far greater, and more often than not resulted in a jam buying decision being made.

In my view, this is a virtuous way to do business.  Yes, you COULD offer someone not only 50 flavours of jam, but various butters and peanut butters, marmalades, ketchups and every other kind of condiment under the sun.  And you COULD go tell your prospective client to go taste EVERYTHING, to pick the perfect condiment for them.

But the reality here is that nobody really wants to do that – not even close!  And in today’s car buying marketplace, by the time someone has reached out to us to discuss a new or used car in Ottawa, ON, they have already just approached our table of 6 jams, to talk about Hyundai jam, or the various used cars we have on our lot.

It’s our job as professionals, as people and as experts in our field, to help our clients who stop in at our store to help them properly – to interview and meet with them to meaningfully help them select from a small handful of targeted, qualified recommendations, and to ensure they leave both having solved their ‘car problem’, and are feeling great about their choice.

I hope my ethos is clear here for any sales professionals reading this article – asking your clients to test drive 10+ cars and then sending them home to ‘think about it’ is a total disservice to your client.  They will not make a choice at all.  They’ll tell you, “I’ll let you know,” and then never call you back.  And why should they?  You didn’t listen to them, and you didn’t help them, and you just showed them 40 different jams without qualifying either your client to a product, or qualifying a product to your client.

You only actually help your client if you can build a paradigm in which they feel safe, comfortable, and they can see the tangible value in making a purchase decision.  Nobody wants to feel like they settled, or they got screwed, or rushed into a decision.

But… what if you were really listening to your clients needs?  Recommending 2-3 targeted options they can consider that directly fit their vehicle and budget requirements?  Allowing them their space to weigh those recommendations and select the one that best suits them?

If you provide that experience for your clients, you’ll sell a car and have a happy customer every time, because their ‘car problem’ is now solved, and they can go on with the rest of their busy, complicated lives without feeling like they rushed a big decision and made a mistake.

This right here is our core job as automotive sales professionals, and we should never lose sight of it, no matter how busy or complicated our own lives get.

~ James  🙂


1 thought on “A Servant’s Heart”

  1. Studies were done recently and it now takes a reader an average of 29 touch points to make a decision which is what you were talking about when you said, “when you offer someone 24 choices, the customer experiences decision paralysis.” I know that we’re trying in our business to take this to heart and i appreciate you insight.


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