"Do you think that this will do everything I need it to do?" the customer asked. We’d already covered his needs a gazillion times, but he was having some serious issues with decising whether he should invest $5,800 in a new Suzuki 400. I understood his hesitation to a point, but, come on, man, it’s not a mortgage! Nonetheless, years of experience, tolerance and appreciation for what customers go through had taught me that I should reassure him time and time again, as long as I was confident, which I was.
"Seriously, man. What do you expect him to say? ‘No, it’s a piece of crap and won’t do anything you want it to do?’ Dude, he’s a salesman!" I didn’t know the guy who was suddenly making this long sale take longer, but I already wanted to kill him. What a jerk!
I looked at my customer, then at the jerk who’d just impeded on my customer’s trust. The interloper carried a smug look on his face as though he’d intended to screw up my sale and felt he’d accomplished it. I stared a few seconds longer to let the drama build in the silence and then I turned on the juice.
"Well," I started, looking at the jerk, not the customer, "you actually make a good point, and were I some fly-by-night salesman who may very well be employed at another dealer 100 miles away next week, I’m sure Bob here would agree with you. If you ask the guy at Jiffy Lube if you need a new air filter, he’s certainly going to tell you yes, right? If you call the first roofer you find in the Yellow Pages and ask him if you can just patch it, he’s probably going to find a reason that you need a whole new roof. If you ask the traveling salesman if the vacuum cleaner is going to last a long time, he’ll tell you yes, even if it only lasts until he’s left the neighborhood, right?"
"But, Bob here knows that I own this dealership. He knows that I’m going to be shopping in the supermarket right beside him, I’m going to see him at the movie theater on random Friday nights, and our kids are going to play little league ball together. He knows that our wives will run into one another at PTA meetings, and we’ll bump into one another at the local fair."
"You see, Bob and I have a connection, and that connection is that we both live in the same community. He knows that I’m not getting fired tomorrow because I own the store. He’s always going to be able to find me because I’ll always be right here. I have to look him in the eye each time I see him around town, whether we’re picking up grass seed for our lawns or mailing a letter at the post office. I have to be able to hold my head high in pride when he tells me the story about how he pulled his deer out of the woods with his quad or how it performed perfectly for him on his family’s annual camping trip in the Smokies. I have to know that I honestly did whatever I could to listen to his needs and desires for a quad that will perform for him, so that whenever I bump into Bob and his family, I won’t have to disguise my shame: I’ll know that I did right by him and that he’s proud of the job that I did."
"So that, my friend, is why I’m answering Bob the way that I am. I did listen to him, and I did find the ATV that suits his needs. I’m answering him in the affirmative because I’m confident that he’s actually going to love this ATV and each time he sees me in town, he’ll shake my hand and think about the good times that he’s had on his new quad. And, I assure you that we’ll do the same for you, sir, if you’re also here to look at a new bike today. Not because we want to earn points on a customer survey or because the manufacturer pushes for honest salesmanship, but because we want to know that we did the best to serve you."
The jerk looked at me for a minute, turned to my customer and then back again to me. The grin had faded from his face, replaced by a look of astonishment and respect. He opened his mouth slowly and said, "You sold me. I’ll wait for you to finish with this customer and then I want to deal with you."
"Thanks," I said. "I appreciate it."
The man formerly-known-as jerk walked away to kick tires, and I finally turned to see what affect my little speech had had on my customer. For a moment he just looked down at the Suzuki that he was considering, then he looked up at me.
"You know, I actually live 80 miles away," he said.
He grinned slightly and looked back down at the quad in silence. After a moment he looked back to me again, "My name isn’t Bob. It’s Brian."
"You still want the quad?" I asked.
"Yeah. I’ll take it."