Last week, I bought a car from a Mercedes dealership.
No, I didn’t rob a bank and drive off with a nice new S Class. Rather, I bought a used Toyota Highland Hybrid that just happened to be on the lot of a Mercedes dealership. Walking through the showroom was kind of a cruel tease. But I quite love the truck we bought, so it’s all good.
People often complain about buying cars. It’s a big purchase, so people feel pressure to make the “right” decision. Leasing feels like throwing money away. But buying a car is dicey and can feel just the same. Even if your car doesn’t have problems, just regular maintenance and insurance and taxes and registration — it all adds up. And then there are the test drives where you have no idea what you really should be looking for, the awful stereotypes of “used car salesmen,” and talking to your bank or the dealership about financing and interest rates and monthly payments. There’s a lot that’s not fun.
The process of purchasing this vehicle was indeed a little bit of a pain in the ass. But in the grand scheme of things, it was more pleasant than I would have expected at the outset. A lot of the credit goes to the staff at Feldmann Imports and, in particular, Calvin (“you can call me C.J.”), the sales guy we worked with, who demonstrated many of the same ideas I keep in mind while working with my own clients.
- Every client is your most important client. I bought a used Toyota from a Mercedes-Benz dealership, for god’s sake. I was pretty sure it was going be like that scene from Pretty Woman, except I would have had no grounds to come back and shout “big mistake!” at anyone. But that wasn’t the case. At all. C.J. was standing near the door when we walked in, greeted us with the biggest, brightest smile you’ve ever seen, and it was nothing but a perfectly pleasant experience from there on out.
- Help people understand the process. For me, buying a car is as unfamiliar as a logo design project or a website rebuild or a brand strategy project is to some of my clients. It’s crucial to put people at ease and make them feel comfortable and confident in the process. Answer their questions clearly and patiently, even before they ask them because they might not even know what to ask. Guide them, don’t drag them.
- Be the best part of their day. Think about all the stuff a person has to deal with on an average day. Traffic. Meetings. Spilling coffee. Running late. Getting their day’s work done between meetings. Do you want to be part of the drudgery, or would you rather be a ray of sunshine? Greet them with a smile. Be friendly. Hell, be fun.
- Surprise and delight them. We bought a used Toyota from a Mercedes dealership, but when we finally sealed the deal and handed over the check from the bank, we got the same (surprising) royal treatment as any other customer. They pulled the freshly washed truck around, placed a big, cheesy red ribbon on the hood, and had us pose for a family photo with our new ride. Not only that, but when we climbed in, there was a small box of chocolates on the dash. “For your wife,” CJ said, with a smile and a wink. I’m not one for showy little moments like that, but even I had to crack a smile. A happy, impressed smile.
If you find a car dealership or salesperson who does these things, I promise the experience will be pleasant. And if you do these things with your own clients or customers, you’ll be happier and more effective, and so will they.