Feb 082022

I have always been a big believer in education. And not just the education you get in a classroom. That’s only the beginning. Education is a never-ending process in our personal lives and in our careers. It can be anything from reading books or attending evening classes at your local community college, to online courses, and live seminars.

During my many years in the small town newspaper business, I went to newspaper conventions and seminars all across the country. Sometimes I learned a lot of things, and sometimes I came away with just one little gem of an idea. But each time, I learned something that more than paid for the trip and made me a better newspaperman.

It was the same when I worked in automobile sales. I attended several sales training seminars, some at company expense and others that I paid for out of my own pocket.  One of the best was put on by Tom Hopkins, author of the excellent book How To Master The Art Of Selling, which remains a classic more than 25 years after its first publication. Hopkins has trained literally millions of salespeople over the years, so when I got a chance to attend one of his seminars, I jumped right on it.

The seminar was held in a big arena and wasn’t just for automobile salespeople. There were retail salespeople, people from the financial industry, real estate people, you name it. If they sold a product or service and they wanted to succeed at it, they were there.

One of the things I learned in that seminar was that once you present your product and explain its benefits, and then sit down with a prospect, you give them the price, and then you wait for their reaction. They will either say yes or no. If they say yes, you have a deal, and if they say no, you ask what their hesitation is, and they will tell you sooner or later. It may be the price, it may be the monthly payment, or it may be something else. But whatever their objection is, once you know it, you can begin to work out something that will result in a deal. The rule in sales has always been that once you give a customer the price, you don’t say anything else. Whoever speaks first loses.

As always happens at these seminars, you exchange business cards with the people around you, with the hopes that networking like this will eventually lead to more business for all of you.

A few days after the seminar, a gentleman came into the dealership asking for me and told me that he was a real estate salesman and needed a new car. He was a friendly fellow and we talked about his needs a little bit and settled on something that was appropriate. Then I looked over his trade-in and we went inside and sat down to work out a deal. In those days, we used what was called the four-square, which was basically a sheet of paper divided into four sections. In the top left square, I wrote down the price of the car, in the top right I wrote down what we could give him for his trade-in, in the bottom left I wrote down how much additional money we would need for a down payment, and in the bottom right I wrote down the monthly payment he would be making. Then I turned the four-square to the gentleman and explained what those numbers were about.

He looked at the paper, looked at me, and didn’t say a word. That sometimes happened while people mulled over the numbers in their head, but usually, after a moment or two they would start talking, and then we could start negotiating. But that didn’t happen this time. He just sat there looking at me, and I sat there looking back at him. The silence went on for quite some time, to the point where it was becoming uncomfortable. I wanted to ask him if we had a deal or not, but I knew better than that. Eventually, for some reason, we both began to grin because I think we both realized what was going on. Then he picked up my pen from off the table and on the bottom of the four-square sheet, he wrote, “I sat behind you at Tom Hopkins on Sunday.” I don’t know which one of us spoke first, but I know we both started laughing at the same time.

But it all worked out. I sold him a car at a price he was comfortable with and made a decent commission on it, and I went on to sell a car to his daughter and another one to one of his coworkers in the next year or so, both of whom he had sent to me. I never did use his services to buy a house, but I did refer some friends to him when they wanted to sell theirs and it resulted in a successful transaction. That’s how networking is supposed to work. I know because I learned about it in the sales seminar.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time. – Steve Jobs

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  2 Responses to “Car Sales Stories – Lessons From The Seminar”

  1. So, if I speak 1st and say that is not the price I would offer: Here is my offer say $5,000 below your deal, who wins then?
    Or does that just start the negotiation ?

  2. Whoever speaks first starts the negotiation. It’s better to let the other guy start because he is defending his position. More than anything, be prepared to walk away if you can’t get the (reasonable) deal you want. The salesman doesn’t make anything if you walk. At the same time, you have to be realistic. A dealership can’t stay in business making a $500 profit on a car.

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