Monday, June 21, 2010

"I've never heard that question before." --The Anonymous Salesman

I've never heard that question before.

As a consumer, have you ever had a salesman say that to you? Surprising how many times we hear it, considering that it is the first time they've ever heard it, huh? Why would that be?

It's because that is a stock salesman line, that's why. It's designed to cut off your line of questioning, make you feel foolish for asking it.

I remember on my honeymoon when I was hoodwinked into listening to a timeshare sales pitch. There was no way I was ever going to buy a timeshare, but the nice guy at my cabana who always called me "my new friend" convinced me to give them a chance. What can I say, I'm a sucker for new friends. I even told the timeshare guy up front, "look, there's zero chance I'm going to buy this today." He laughed, "of course not, but I get paid just to do the process, so just humor me please!"

An hour later I was getting the hard sell. Wasn't this too good of a deal to pass up? It was a good deal, a great deal even, but here was the rub: I had no idea if they were being on the level with me. I told them flat out, "I'm not going to buy anything this expensive without doing my due diligence in research. I'm just not that guy." "But why not", they said, "you agree it's a great deal." "Yes, but it's your deal", I told them, "and I intend to make sure you're telling me the truth."

His reply? "Wow, I've never heard that one before." Sure.

Skip ahead to last year, time to buy my wife a new car. Researched the msrp, checked consumer reports, prepared my bargaining chips. Working with the dealer for the best price, I asked them about the dealer holdback money. How about throwing some of that my way to sweeten the deal? His response? "Well I've never heard that one before". Go figure, I have. The next two dealership I went to tossed me some of the holdback. I wouldn't have minded being told no. I didn't appreciate them acting like I was demanding a free hot tub with my car.

Fast forward to just recently. It's time for me to replace the windows in my home. Being in Michigan we get hot in the summer, and real cold in the winter. My house has 30 year old windows with aluminum frames. So winter or summer, my house is bleeding energy money.

First guy shows up for a free estimate, he's the guy who is going to convince me that fiberglass is the way to go. Vinyl is crap, wood is a pain, fiberglass is 50 years of window bliss. Afterall, it expands and contracts just like glass, and you can customize it! Sounds great, I'll give him credit for having a good pitch.

So let's talk reality, what is the damage here? 11 windows in my house, cost to replace all? $15,000. That's a tad, read: an obscene amount, higher than I'm going to pay. But don't worry, there's a special! (When isn't there a special?) I can get 25% off, and if I buy today I can get another 10% off. And get this, he'll do me a solid and knock a couple grand more off, and he'll pay my sales tax! (Love that pitch, how about you just knock the money off and I'll pay less tax, how about that?) Now my price is $11,000. That's a thousand dollars a window, still over what I'm going to pay. Unless the windows are going to mow my yard and take out my garbage, I'm not paying that.

So I tell him he's still high, and he becomes obstinate. Didn't his windows sound great? Was a 50 year warranty a great deal? "Sure", I told him, "but it's your deal and you're here to sell me your product. Of course you told me fiberglass was the only way to go, it's the only thing you have to sell me. I was going to have to research this, see if fiberglass was really worth the extra money." "Maybe it was", I told him, "but until had done my homework I wasn't going to buy anything. No matter what he told me."

He then stopped me and let me know that he didn't think that he needed to do this, but he had literature to back up what he had said. To prove his point. "Yes, but it's your literature to sell your product", I told him. "Oh no", he said. "It's not my literature!"

"Look", I said, "It's not mine, so since there are only two of us here it has to be yours." I decided to make the conclusion that it didn't belong to either of my two dogs.

Now he was flummoxed. How could I not believe him. He had never heard this one before! Jackpot. 22 years he had been doing this, and he had never heard this before. Funny, because I hear that line all the time from salesmen. They tell it to me to try and make me feel stupid for asking a question they can't answer. How can you ask that! No one asks that!

And with that, it was time for him to go. Because I have heard that before, and once I hear it, the gloves are off. I told him I had his offer and would look into it. To improve on his already fantastic job of selling me, he then packed up his stuff and told me, "I guess I won't tell you the lower price I was going to offer, you're just not interested."

Really? So now it turns out the price I was quoted before as his best price was just a ruse, huh? Not exactly the way to get a call back sale. He also mentioned that a relative of mine that had gotten fiberglass windows from them was probably over charged. Another nice bit of information, thanks.

So he left, I researched, his $1,000 a window price was high. I'm sure he would've come down, and I still might have to barter with him, but he didn't do himself any favors with his demeanor. When a potential customer disagrees with you, the only way to pull them back in is to agree with them. This is Dale Carnegie 101. If he had said, "Of course you're right! Who in their right mind would make a purchase this size without researching it!" He could've kept working me and building my appetite for his product. All the time improving his chance on me buying from him. Instead, he chose to go with the "I've never heard that question before!" approach, and he's probably out of a sale because of it. And definitely out a positive experience and any kind of potential word of mouth advertising.

In my next blog I'll discuss some more Carnegie 101 with a review of How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Talk soon!

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