I prefer telling my friends that I was Internet Sales Manager for a major car dealer than telling them that I was just a used car salesperson. It’s true that my official role was that of Internet Manager. I not only developed an online marketing system for used cars, but I also sold used cars along with new ones. In truth, there were times during my day that I was simply a used car salesperson, irrespective of which title I used.
My friends understood my hesitation: used car salespeople are viewed by society as being on the ethical level of cheats, politicians and lawyers. And God knows that I have faced a long list of moral dilemmas along the path of selling cars. In fact, I’ve written extensively about this in previous articles. But today I address a situation where I walked an ethical fine line, doing everything I could to help my used car customer by acting in their best interest--but failed.
A Family Walks onto the Sales Lot…
Saturdays are the busiest day of the week at car dealerships. As Internet Manager, I was only asked to take walk-in customers when the floor sales staff was overwhelmed. On this bright and sunny Saturday afternoon the General Sales Manager made eye contact with me, and then pointed to a family that had just walked onto the sales lot. All other sales staff were with other customers so I quickly went out to help.
I was known at the dealership as “Mr. Softsell.” Even though I was one of the top sales people, I had a light touch; you would never experience undue pressure or a hard sell approach when working with me. Also, when I greeted customers, I would perform a casual “needs assessment.” In a matter of minutes—and from what appeared to be an off-the-cuff conversation—I discovered that this young family needed:
-- An economy car to take the strain off a tight budget. They also had a limited amount for down payment.
-- A fuel efficient vehicle to combat the rising price of gas.
-- A vehicle with low maintainance costs that won’t blow future monthly budgets out of the water.
-- A vehicle to last for years, to provide financial stability.
-- Big enough for the father, mother, and two kids.
-- A safe vehicle so the kids are protected when being driven around town.
Nissan Sentra to the Rescue
We had a low mileage, inexpensive, 4-cylinder Nissan Sentra sedan available for sale. This vehicle met all of this family’s buying criteria, listed above, and actually came in under budget. Unfortunately, they weren’t impressed. Instead, the dad kept walking over to and asking questions about—a Dodge Durango!?!
More tomorrow on the ethical pinch this put me in.
L. James Johnson is the guy who wrote the book on how to sell your vehicle online. HELP! I Gotta Sell My Car NOW! New Rules for Selling Your Vehicle Online! is available on Amazon.com.