A dentist enjoys no immunity when receiving a root canal, so why did I assume that being in CPM software sales would afford me a professional courtesy of a painless new car search?
In CPM software sales, I can think of the following stages: Prospect, Target Lead, Meeting, Presentation, negotiation, and Decision.
Every CFO in New England is a prospect for me. Our marketing team targets those in our revenue and industry sweet spot. They become a lead when they enter their name into a form on our website. I conduct a needs assessment meeting to understand process, needs, budget, and timing. If what they are looking for matches my solution and budget matches pricing, there is now an opportunity.
Then we conduct demos, free trials, and product training, and the dreaded proof of concept (POC). If things are a match, we negotiate product configuration, duration, terms and price. Then the prospect makes a decision.
When I needed to buy a new car, the tables turned and I became the prospect.
Prospect Stage, September 12th: I take my wife to her first NFL game. Our car breaks down, she breaks her foot.
Target Stage September 19th: My mechanic advises me to not repair my 15-year old SUV.
Lead Stage, October 3rd: I walk into the first dealership on a Thursday night.
As a kid, teenager, adult, and father, there has been one car make for me and my family. It was the only make I wanted to buy. This dealership only had two models that fit our needs and met our budget. The salesman was nice and asked what brought me into the dealership. We needed an SUV. Then the questions came to narrow down my search:
Buy or Lease?
New or Used?
Model X or Z?
Trim or NAV?
We didn’t really know, so his solution was to walk us around the entire lot (did I mention my wife has a cast and crutches now)? He encouraged us to test drive everything. I was ok with the spaghetti approach, and by the end my wife and I both agreed that a New Model P was what we liked best. I was upfront that this was Day 1 of shopping, very early stages, but that didn’t stop him from trying to close me twice, even though I said I was not buying. I was ok with that, but I wasn’t ok with him saying his manager was coming over to meet us to make sure, “we had a good experience.”
I knew the manager was not interested in our feedback. He was there to push harder for a close, including an infuriating, “Well if you like the car so much why don’t you just buy it?” (This was in response to me saying we liked the car, but hadn’t done any research/reviews).
We left at 9:30 pm feeling exhausted, but had agreed that I would come back Saturday to drive it again, and start discussing numbers if the research looked ok. Less than 12 hours later, my phone rang.
“Hi Andrew, can we book our meeting for Saturday?”
“Sure,” I said. “I’ll be there Saturday afternoon.”
Two hours later I get another call…
”Andrew, are you in the area? Someone came in to look at the car and I wanted to see if you could come put a deposit down it.”
I delayed the meeting on Saturday and instead visited a dealer who sold Make 2 (research on make 1 was not favorable). Never once did the first salesperson ask why I kept pushing the meeting back. He would simply close on rescheduling our meeting for the next day.
Conversation with salesperson at Dealership 2:
Salesperson: “Hi, what brings you down here today?”
Me: “We’re interested in model S.”
Salesperson: “Great, can we please sit down for a few minutes to collect some information, I’d like to learn about your needs and how we can help you.”
Then he proceeded to ask a series of questions related to my needs, including…
Why do you need a new car?
How much do you drive?
What are the “must-haves” and the “nice-to-haves” of your new vehicle?
At both dealerships, I knew that I was entering their sales cycle by giving them my license to take a test drive, but the salesman at Dealer #2 was upfront and asked me for it. He asked once if there was any chance we would buy today. When we said no, they were fine with it. No pressure, no next day follow-up.
Instead, he called me two weeks later and asked if I wanted to come back and test drive the car again. I said I needed more time, so he gave me that time. I heard from him once over the next two-week period. I said I needed another two weeks, no problem. Around Week 3 I called and asked if could do a test drive without the salesperson. Their response? of course. After an hour in a vacant parking lot of high performance test driving, I decided to buy. Approaching dealership #2, I knew the real battle (negotiating the price of a car that I really wanted) was just beginning.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 – The Negotiation – or why it’s never really over…