Once upon a time, for a pretty short period, I sold cars. The Saturn Consultative Sales Process was a little different, in that it treated the “guest” respectfully, asked questions via an interview, and then matched the car to the customers wants and needs. A big part of that matching was a selective walk-around presentation that went over the features of the car, tailored to the hot buttons of the guest (and anyone else who was party to the buying decision). Saturn had a unique advantage in the cutaway car. Quick background on those cutaway cars – some of those first Saturns were filled with the incorrect coolant and needed to be recalled and lemon-law’ed. Those first retailers bought those cars, chopped them up, and placed them in their showrooms to show the “Saturn difference”.
The acronym we were taught (which is typical across brands) was SPACED, standing for Safety, Performance, Appearance, Comfort, Economy, and Durability. The interview told you where to take the customer – if their previous car came in to the body shop totaled on a flatbed, you may want to emphasize safety. If performance was what they were looking for, maybe the independent suspension and DOHC engine. If their trade-in had hundreds of thousands of miles and looked like a demolition derby survivor, you might want to bang on those polymer panels. Truth be told, most modern cars had similar features to Saturns, but most sales people skipped the features of the car, didn’t build any value, and went straight to the price, credit, or payment.
I wasn’t a bad sales person, but I wasn’t great. Upon reflection – and this is something that is useful wherever you are making an attempt to persuade other people – an appeal to logic only takes you so far. I always went to the logical, money saving features, thinking that people would be persuaded by saving money on their automobile operating expenses. Sure we can talk about dent proof panels, side impact beams, and the benefits to a timing chain versus a belt, but these are dry and unemotional appeals. A car is a major purchase, one fraught with emotion. How does it make you feel? Is curvy bodywork, an agile suspension, and quick revving engine more likely to make you happy and sign on the dotted line? Another good idea – don’t sell the economy and durability issues as saving money; sell them as “making a smart decision”. Most people would rather think of themselves as smart than cheap.
The takeaway? Sell to the heart, not to the head! Useful information whether you are selling widgets, ideas, or experiences.