What do bull riding, Chuck Lidell, and selling cars, have in common?

I’ll get to that in a moment.

First, a sad story with a happy ending.

Recently (while I was standing on the lot talking to a few salespeople) I was giving an example of a technique to a salesperson (I shall leave unnamed – to protect anonymity). When a car pulls up and out walked up to a customer onto the lot. This of course is not unusual and not the sad part yet. The customer must have seen us but chose to walk right past a group of well dressed, professional, and nice looking salespeople and “b-lined” it for a car in the row.

What happens next is CLASSIC…

As the customer is walking to a vehicle the salesperson I was visiting with walked right up to him and “T-boned” the customer. (The “t-bone” technique is when you approach someone from the side, it looks like a “T” formation.) The salesman goes for “ole faithful” and asks, “Is there anything I can help you find?” As expected the customer says, “No. I’m just looking right now. I’ll come and get you if I need you!” And WHAM, POW, SLAM, 3 seconds later the salesperson has rejoined us standing on the point and begins his “STORY”.

His Story begins – “You see Jon, this is what it’s like everyday! People are just rude sometimes! There is nothing you can do about it either. They just don’t even give you a chance. It sucks when people do that but what are you going to do?! It is what it is!”

My response makes a grown man mad – “I agree. Some people are rude and they don’t think about how it affects other people. I definitely saw someone being rude just now.” (wink, wink)

His Story continues – “Wait. Are you saying you think I was the rude one? I’m just doing my job. I’m supposed to greet everyone or I get into trouble. Besides, what was I supposed to do. Nothing would have made that guy slow down. Some people are just jerks!”

My response makes a grown man think – “I agree. Some people were not hugged enough as a child, mommy or daddy didn’t give them a bicycle for their 10th birthday and now they are jerks. That may be true but that’s not what I saw. That man looked like he was on a mission. He walked with purpose. He saw us and walked past us. This tells me a few things. He thinks he knows what he’s doing, so he doesn’t think he “needs” help. He sees us and didn’t come to us, so he doesn’t think he “wants” help. He shut you down like a roach infested deli, so he doesn’t think you “will” help.”

His Story turns into questions – “That makes sense but what else was I supposed to do? I mean, what did I do wrong? Is there a way I should have done it that he wouldn’t have acted that way?”

My response brings hope – “The truth is the average customer does not naturally associate car salespeople with the word “helpful”, so when you offer it they reject it so easily. Even if they need, want, and ultimately will get your help; when asked, they say, ‘No thanks.’ and walk away. There are three things, in a specific order that caused the breakdown of the sales process in 8 seconds. Once you understand what you did and why it happened, you can prevent it from happening to you. There are reasons customers say things like; ‘Just Looking’, ‘Not Buying Today’, ‘Don’t Need Help’, ‘I Don’t Have Time’, ‘I Just Want Your Best Price’, and ‘This Is My First Stop’ when you greet them.”

His Questions turn into a lesson – “So your saying it’s my fault. If I did something different I could have got that guy to open up. But since I did three things wrong I created his response. So I have to approach people like him differently.”

His Lesson becomes your lesson – “The first step in any healing or growth is admitting ‘I have a problem’ or ‘I am the problem’.

Think about it this way…

How often do you change things you believe you are doing “the right way”? How often do you change if you believe “you are right”? I don’t. If I am in a discussion, argument, or situation and I believe “I am right” then I expect the other party or person to change; after all, I AM RIGHT, and THEY ARE WRONG! So here’s why it saddens me to hear salespeople call customer’s a name like “jerk”, or “idiot”. Jerks are obviously wrong, and idiots are, well, idiots. So they have to be wrong too. If they are “wrong” that makes me “right” and if I am right won’t / don’t / can’t change.


And if I won’t / don’t / can’t change then I am stuck. I am right! But stuck!

So here’s the hard slap your grandma, Oh no you didn’t, truth of the matter. Do you get paid to be right or to sell cars? As soon as the dealerships pay-plan offers bonuses for proving customers wrong, sign me up! Talk to an idiot on a Saturday – $25. Call a customer a Jerk – $50. Meet a total jackwad – $100.

I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Stop being right so you can change, grow, and solve more problems than the next guy. Close more deals, sell more cars, bring home more money, and enjoy this very short and very precious thing we call life.

  • 8 Seconds. Most people don’t last that long on the back of a bull.
  • 8 Seconds. Most people wouldn’t last that long in the ring with Chuck “the Iceman” Lidell.
  • 8 Seconds. Most salespeople can’t go that long without feeling some type of rejection from a customer.

Told you I would get back to that.

What 3 things did this salesperson do, in a very specific sequence, that cause him to get “bucked off”, “knocked out” and “rejected”?

  • He (unintentionally) invades the customer’s space.
  • He (automatically) began his intro from his (salesperson’s) perspective.
  • He (unfortunately) gave up after the first “no”.

Let’s take a look at these one at a time.

#1 – He (unintentionally) invades the customer’s space. When you engage a customer for the first time there are two groups you need to look for; Movers and Statues.

Movers are customers that will either move towards a salesperson when they see one or away from a salesperson when they see one.

Statues are customers that freeze (hence the name statue) when they see a salesperson and they don’t move, they wait.

Look at the feet of the customer as you greet them.

  • Forward facing statue (60% of customers): Face you but don’t move – Willing to talk.
  • Sideways facing statue (20% of customers) : Body is facing away from you – Rather not talk.
  • Moving away from you (10% of customers): Body is moving away from you – Don’t want to talk.
  • Moving towards you (10% of customers): Body is moving towards you – Wants to talk.

You need to look at the feet to know how to greet. He walked right up to a customer who was moving away… “Don’t want to talk to you!” and asked “Can I help (talk to) you?” Doesn’t surprise me he was rejected in less than 8 seconds.

#2 – He (automatically) began his intro from his (salesperson’s) perspective. Hard not to do but well worth developing the skill. Thinking from someone else’s perspective is called empathy. Few people truly have empathy. Most of us are preoccupied with us!

When a salesperson asks,

  • “Can I help you?”
  • “Is there anything I can help you find?”
  • “What can I show you today?”

The salesperson is assuming/presuming/attempting to get the customer to give over “control” to them. Customers say, “No thanks, just looking.” This happens because customer’s do not naturally associate the word (salesperson) and the idea (helpful). Since most salespeople are not truly helpful most customers say “NO” to your offer to “help”.

Rather than asking those questions try thinking from their perspective.

Try asking the following:

  • “Are you doing some looking and shopping today?”
  • “Are you comparing models and doing some research today?”
  • “Are you checking things out and seeing what’s out there?”

Any of these questions allow the customer to agree with you because they come from their perspective.

#3 – He (unfortunately) gave up after the first “no”. This happens all the time. Depending on who you ask surveys say 80-90% of all salespeople quit after the 1st or 2nd “no” from a customer. Only 3-5% of salespeople stick around long enough to hear “no” number 6.

And here’s the kicker…

Surveys and research on sales show that it takes up to 7 “no’s” to get the final yes. That’s 7 big fat bucks from a bull, hits from Lidell and 7 solid rejections from a customer.

That means you don’t get to make big money by having thin skin. Or as the late great Zig Ziglar put it;

“Timid salespeople raise skinny kids.”

What he should have done is apologized and let the customer know he can tell that the customer knows where he is going and will make himself available to answer questions as they come up. Assure the customer you know they don’t want to be bothered and that you will try not to be a “typical salesperson”. This will surely break the ice because you are speaking from their perspective!!

I hope you find this advice both practical and inspirational. If you ever struggle with a “tough” customer again just remember, at least you don’t have to ride a bull or get in a ring to earn a check!

1 Comment

  1. Andrew Melamed on September 29, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    Jon you did it again with this one. See #2 for the most practical greeting you’ve probably never heard or thought of…I know i hadn’t. A truly pleasant conversation starter from the perspective of the customer.

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