My Stolen Car, A Sleazy Salesman and 5 Marketing Lessons for Business Owners

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Two weeks ago my wife‘s car was stolen. She was upset…I was not.

The car that was stolen was large, practical, paid off and ran pretty well. But folks, it was a minivan!

So while she labored over “who would steal a car with child car seats and kid’s DVDs in it?” I was scanning websites of car dealers for the hottest deals in anything BUT a minivan.

Almost exactly a year ago, Chris Brogan wrote “Dear Car Dealerships: Stop Sucking” where he ranted about dealer websites and gave some free advice to help them connect better with their customers. I’m not sure they got the message.

Because what we experienced at a recent visit to a car dealership was not just offensive but also proof that some business owners are missing some common sense marketing rules, living in the past and losing customers…

We walked in to a very nice looking dealership. And by this point, having gotten over the loss of her car, my wife and I were both excited to test drive a brand new, non-minivan.

A gentleman approached us, ran his left hand through his slicked back hair and extended his right hand. This might not sound like a terrible thing to do. Except that my wife was about 2 steps in front of me. He looked at her first, and then ignoring her 7-months-pregnant body, extended his hand to me.

“Good afternoon Sir. How can I help you today?”

Ummm. I politely introduced my wife, explained that the car was for her and then asked him if he could listen to what she wanted. “She will be buying this car,” I explained in an attempt at diplomacy. Then I walked away pretending to look inside a showroom car to make it clear to him that she was in charge.

I think he got the point right away. And although my wife and I were offended, we quickly realized that this was not just his fault. He was not acting alone. This was learned and encouraged behavior.

How did we know? He handed us his business card as we started to leave. It seems he gave us the wrong card because on the back are his notes: “No Trust. No Mercy. No Guilt. Feel UR Power. Take Care of Business.”

After we got a good laugh, I realized that this poor guy is not alone. His business is asking him to follow this mantra and ignore reality.

Maybe you’ve seen “Glengarry Glen Ross” (warning: this excerpt contains offensive language) where Alec Baldwin explains that “A-B-C” stands for “Always Be Closing!”  and demands that his sales people get motivated. Baldwin’s character refutes the standard sale’s complaint that “the leads are weak.”

But the fact is that this hard-selling view of the world is the quickest way to a lost customer. The world has changed and many more businesses than just this dealership need to catch-up.

I understand that not all car sales people act this way. I also understand that these predators probably find enough victims to make a living. But the fact is that his business lost a customer that day. So in light of my experience, I’ve listed what I think are some simple rules to follow and 5 marketing lessons for any business owner:

  • The customer is fully in charge. Always put them first.
  • Never assume you know your customer. Start every relationship with a question about what they want.
  • Trust is the new world currency. Take every opportunity to engender trust and tell the truth.
  • Every customer now has the power to reach millions of others online. Respect the power of referrals.
  • Differentiate yourself by simply working harder or as Drew Neisser (@DrewNeisser) recently said, “Stop Selling and Start Doing.”

By the way, we’re still in the market for a fuel-efficient, family car. If you know of a trust worthy sales person, please send me his number.

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Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

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