Training a newbie salesman a few years back, I saw an eighteen-wheeler pull to the side of the highway and watched as the driver made his way across the service road to our dealership. He walked into the showroom and, immediately started in our direction.
"How y’all doin’", he asked. "Great!" I said, newbie shadowing behind me as instructed. "My name is Bill and this is Kyle. Are you looking for a dirtbike today?"
"Yeah, I was thinkin’ ’bout it. I used to race with the owner of this store, years ago", he said. "How’s ole’, a … shoot, I’m havin’ a brainfart here …" He paused dramatically, obviously waiting for me to fill in the blank.
"Uh, Bill? Little?" I asked, hoping to have him recognize me and jump into some conversation that would lead me to remember him. "Yeah! That’s him. We used to be best friends, man! We raced together back in the ’70s, went drinkin’, chasin’ the gals … I could tell you some stories ’bout yer boss, boy!"
Red lights and sirens went off in my mind at that point. I was 99% certain that I didn’t know the guy already. After his little outburst, however, I knew that I didn’t know him and never had.
"Yeah, I was through town last friday on my run down to Chicago and saw him at the bar. He told me he owned this store and said to come on over and you’d cut the profit from a deal for me. He told me to call him and let him know if you didn’t hook me up." His eyes had locked mine dead-on and turned cold. His bluff had been made, and he was waiting for me to take the bait. At this point I had him pegged for who he was, Mr. IKTO (I Know The Owner) with a sorry attempt to bully his way to a great deal.
Okay, Mr. IKTO … game on! "Well yes sir", I replied. "What were you interested in today?" I could sense newbie getting nervous, and I dropped an open hand behind my back to ward him off of any potential comments.
"I was thinkin’ bout a 250 2-stroke. When Bob and I was racing, 2-strokes was the shit."
I quickly led Mr. IKTO to the pre-owned bikes outside and a late-model RM250 that a guy had sold us with clear title for $500. Listening to Mr. IKTO make up stories of racing a Supercross that never existed and something about a hooker in Vegas, I decided that I’d be selling my good name by letting him continue, so I led the horse to the biggest pool of water on the lot.
I showed Mr. IKTO the RM, pointed out the great condition, the Pro Taper bars, the aftermarket exhaust and all of the other features that made it the best buy out there. "You’d probably expect that to be up around four or five-grand, wouldn’t you?" I said.
"Yeah, but I ain’t payin’ that. Bob said you’d give me a good deal, remember?"
"Alright sir, why don’t you tell me what would be a good deal, and I’ll make sure that we can do it." I felt a little dishonest at that point, but this guy deserved it.
"I’ll give you thirty-five hundred in cash right now, and I’ll tell Bob that you treated me good."
"Wow. Well, let me go check, sir. I’ll be right back."
Newbie followed me into the showroom. I knew the questions he was going to ask before he opened his mouth … "Does he …"
"Nope, has no clue who I am," I replied.
"So he …"
"Yup, he made it all up."
"And you’re …"
"Nope, I’m not going to tell him. In a situation like this, you don’t fight it … you write it."
With that, I walked back out, and after holding out for a couple-hundred more, I congratulated Mr. IKTO on his new purchase. I felt a little bad about having deceived the guy, but in hindsight, the three-grand margin on that RM eased the pain.
After that, it took quite a bit of effort to convince the newbie that we are always to be completely honest with our customers. After all, his first day of training had shown him another side of me, cloaked in a shadow of deception. I carried with me the responsibility of having perhaps caused irreparable damage to this kid’s selling career with such a bad example. I hoped that, being new to the job, perhaps he wasn’t paying that much attention and the episode wouldn’t have a lasting negative impact on him.
Six months later I got a letter from a buddy who I hadn’t seen since High School. He said that he was sorry he missed me as he had passed through the area the week previous. He mentioned that he met a kid in my sales department and, while he didn’t buy a bike that day, the kid did talk him into purchasing several hundred dollars worth of gear and clothing before he got away.
I looked at my calendar and realized I had been in the store that whole day. I was pretty upset that I hadn’t been informed that my old friend was there and wanted desperately to chew someone’s ass for not telling me. I looked up my buddy’s invoice to get the salesman’s code, and as I looked in the upper right corner, I realized what had happened. It was newbie. Apparently he had learned something that first day.