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Sales and Service

The Mitchell Technique Sales Challenge

Many, many, years ago, I crossed over to the dark side. Yes, I worked for an auto dealership selling cars and trucks. Any of you who have done so will know that selling cars is a completely different animal than selling powersports. But that’s not what this column is about.

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What it is about is selling technique. I worked with a fellow who made out like he knew nothing about cars. It wasn’t true, and he always answered questions, but he made out that he wasn’t a real car guy. Now, I don’t believe that this technique would necessarily work selling ATVs and motorcycles, but he did show me something that I have used to this day.

All he did in his selling process was get to know the customer. I’m sure everyone has had that customer who wants to show you pictures on his phone of his bikes from 20 years ago — or his past cars or his grandchildren. You probably mentally roll your eyes and try to change the subject, correct?

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Well, my friend, who we’ll call Mitchell, would show incredible interest in whatever the customer was saying. He paid complete attention. Many times, I could see the other salespeople sniggering because Mitchell was wasting time with customers and not talking about the units they were waiting to purchase. But, over the months I worked with him, I realized what he was doing. Most salespeople would try to get the customer back to the track they were on, not the track the client was on.

The more I watched Mitchell, the more I realized that the further he got the client from thinking about the unit, the better it worked for him. Customers loved him. He seemingly had no agenda. Why, he wasn’t remotely trying to sell them a car or truck.

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No. What he was doing was getting to know the customer better than any salesperson had ever known him or her before. He would know all about the client — wife’s or husband’s and children’s names. Where the customers came from and their history. Where they worked. Where they lived. Where they liked to vacation. What kind of work they did. What hobbies they liked. Did they go to college? If they came from a country Mitchell had been to, he would reminisce with them. If they came from a country where Mitchell had not been, he grilled them on it.

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During his interviews — and that is what they were — he also found out what kind of cars they were driving. What they were doing with them. What they didn’t like about them. What they wanted this time around. He learned all this almost as an aside. He was brilliant.   

Now, don’t get me wrong, he was also phenomenal at qualifying. If there was no sale there, you would soon see the customers get up and wander away. But Mitchell would escort those customers right to the parking lot, talking and asking questions all the way. They often returned weeks or months later. Guess who they asked for? Guess who they would only talk to? He had more be-backs than all of us other salespeople together. And of course, customers who purchased from him often referred their friends to him. On top of all that, they would refer customers to him even if they did not buy a vehicle from him.

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I started to copy him sometimes. It was difficult, because I hadn’t learned to qualify as well as he did. I soon realized, however, that he was a genius.

Once I went back to selling powersports, I recognized that it was a different environment. People bought cars because they needed one. They bought powersport units because they wanted them — they’re fun! A powersports shop was somewhere to hang out and look at the new units and talk riding with everyone who crossed their path. You had to be much better at qualifying than automobile salespeople did, so I did that.

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I was nice to people who were “just looking” (although a lot of them do buy right then — they just need some help). I viewed it as planting seeds for a later harvest.

Here is the challenge I put to all of you out there selling: Try Mitchell’s technique. First, of course, you have to qualify. But, we all know when a deal is possible — at least the great salespeople do. Once you get the client sat down, try not talking about the purchase while maintaining control.

Talk about the customer’s work, life, other hobbies — anything but his purchase. Eventually, turn the conversation over to what and how he or she rides. Get to know that person. Pretty soon, you will know what he or she wants. Get up and go over to that unit, or one similar, and have the customer sit on it. By now, if you have done everything correctly, it should be a very simple close.

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This technique does work. Give it a good try. Let me know what happens. I am confident closing rates will rise.

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