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Marketing Lessons from the Best Salesperson I Ever Met

When we were in our early twenties, my husband and I walked into a car dealership for the very first time. The “beaters” we had been driving for many years were on their last legs, and we finally had the money to buy not-exactly-new but new-ish cars.

We were terrified.

We had heard a lot of stories about pushy car salesman, and we didn’t know much about cars. We really didn’t have a clue about what we wanted or needed. So we tried to do some research on our own and found a car we thought we might be interested in purchasing.

With great trepidation, we headed into the brightly lit showroom and cautiously looked around. The sales manager spotted us right away and came over to help. We told him which car we liked and informed him in no uncertain terms that we were just there to check it out and didn’t want to buy anything that day.

“No problem,” he said. “I’ll hook you up with my best salesman.”

This was not what we wanted to hear. Surely his best salesman was going to be the pushiest of all. We headed out for the test drive steeled for the worst.

But we were wrong.

His best salesman wasn’t pushy at all. He was a grandfatherly gentleman who was retired from the military. Everyone called him “Chief.”

For the next forty-five minutes, Chief entertained us with stories about his life, and we told stories in response, not realizing that the whole time he was gathering information about us. The only time he talked about the features of the car was when we couldn’t find a particular control or didn’t know how the radio worked.

When the test drive was over, Chief surprised us some more. “This isn’t the car for you,” he told us. He then explained the features he thought we needed and offered several suggestions for vehicles that might suit us. He said he didn’t have anything just right for us then, but that he would look for a car for us and call when he found the right one. He finished off the visit by telling us that he didn’t want to sell us a car that day… he wanted to sell us the right car when we were ready. And he wanted us to come back to him every time we needed a new car in the future, and some day, he wanted us to send our kids to him to buy cars.

In the years since that experience, I’ve realized that Chief taught me some valuable lessons—not just about buying a car, but also about B2B marketing.

How often as marketers do we jump ahead to touting our products’ features instead of taking the time to get to know our potential customers? Do we really understand their needs and our products so well that we can suggest the perfect match? Do our materials respect where they are at in the buying cycle and provide the sorts of information they need? Are our marketing campaigns maximizing the potential profit over the long term or just going for the quick sale?

The best salespeople, like Chief, have a lot to teach us marketing folks.

You’ll find some of the most important of those lessons in “How to Think Like a Masterful Salesperson.” This tutorial covers the seven questions all good salespeople ask and four shortcuts for finding the answers. It’s full of practical tips that are easy to implement but can make a big impact on the effectiveness of your next marketing campaign.

And the next time you head out to buy a car, I sincerely hope you encounter a salesperson like Chief.

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