I want to start by saying if you work in car sales and don’t employ any of the tactics I’m about to discuss, I both apologize in advance and I commend you. I’d also like to ask you to contact me; my husband and I will consider working with you in the future if at all possible.
I had a different post planned for today, but after my experience this weekend, I thought I’d discuss this instead.
My daughter is about to start driving. And she’s nervous about it. She’s already put it off for a year. We decided there’s a line between not rushing her and making her face her fears—and she had crossed it, so we’re kind of “forcing” her to test for her permit. The problem is, or was, before Saturday, I had a big vehicle. A really big vehicle. Wide, long, three rows of seats plus cargo room in the back and engine space in the front. It was like driving a miniature movie theater. It was really comfortable to ride in, and we all loved it (well, maybe not my husband, but the rest of us), but there was no way a terrified driver was going to drive it in a straight line down the street, let alone navigate turns.
Not that we’re saying she’s going to need those features, or anything.
But that’s not the point of this story.
We once counted how many vehicles we’ve purchased since we’ve been married. We’ve lost count now, but we’re estimating around thirty-three. My husband’s first job out of college was selling cars for the biggest dealership in Western Pennsylvania. He later worked for the automotive industry. When we tell a sales associate that we know how the process works and we don’t want to waste time playing games, we just want the final number, we aren’t kidding. We mean it.
We’ve trained several associates, managers, and finance people over the years in four states. We’ve found a few who were easy to work with, but we had to get through the initial crap first. It’s a pain, but we get there eventually. We thought—let me stress, thought—we had a sales associate who knew better than to try to play the negotiation game with us. I mean, come on, we all had better things to do on a Saturday. We were wrong. This conversation actually occurred when he came back with a ridiculous number.
My husband: That’s an insult. We’re leaving.
James the sales guy: Wait. I’ll see if we can do better.
My husband: James, don’t bother. You know we don’t play these games.
James the sales guy: No, really, wait. (James goes in the finance room to “talk his managers down.” There is an animated discussion where James tries to look like he’s really working for us.)
My husband: James, give me my keys.
James the sales guy: No. Wait.
My husband, to me: Did he really just tell me no?
Me: (sharp whistle, everyone—customers and employees alike—looks at me) James, give me my keys.
James the sales guy: Well, I’ll let you hold your keys, but you can’t leave yet. They aren’t done running new numbers.
Me to my husband: Did he just say he’ll let me hold my own keys?
James the sales guy exits the office, clutching the keys like he isn’t going to give them to me.
My husband propels me out the door. He’s seen me make similar scenes in furniture stores and probably doesn’t want to witness another when he knows we have a long day ahead of us.
At that point, we were both in foul moods. Really foul moods. And neither of us started in great moods to begin with. (Why would we? We were car shopping.)
When we finally did buy a car at a different dealership (the negotiations there weren’t much smoother, by the way), my husband notified James the sales guy via text. He didn’t reply.
Why do I share this story with you? Because we all market ourselves every day. Some of us more than others. But there’s a right way and a wrong way.
The wrong way is standing at the door like a vulture waiting for carrion. The wrong way is holding a customer hostage. The wrong way is telling the customer no. The wrong way is insulting the people who come to you interested in your product or service.
The right way? Be welcoming without overwhelming. Be available without being stifling. Tell the customer yes. Don’t be insulting, but be helpful. If you can, be proactive with your efforts, and don’t necessarily expect anything in return.
Now more than ever, we all have to market ourselves to sell our books, our brand. Don’t be the car salesperson who offends everyone, taking over social media with only self-promotion links. You have to share information that will help others, promote other writers, be generous, and engage in conversations. Broken records are thrown away, fascinating artists are here to stay. How do you become a fascinating artist? Share interesting information about your genre and have conversations with other people. Remember, it’s called social media, not hermit media.
We’re all looking for connections in our lives. We all market ourselves every day. We’re parents, children, employees, friends. We want to be the best we can be. We can only do that through open and honest communication, not one-sided braggadocio. Are you putting your best foot forward in all your relationships? Or have you become the sleazy car salesperson at home or at work? Did you maybe not even consider that your personal relationships have a marketing aspect to them? Let’s talk about it.