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Asking Questions and Saying Thank You

A few months ago, just days before my big birthday (the one that makes me eligible to get vaccinated later this week), Jack and I went to test drive a car. My car lease was expiring in a few months and I thought it would be fun to test drive a car model that I had never driven before. I wanted a fast car and a sedan.

So, Jack convinced me to test drive a Jaguar. I’ve never had a Jaguar, and they have a cool-sounding name, so I thought it would be a fun afternoon. We met at the Jaguar dealership on my way home from work one day in late October. Jack had already selected the car he thought I would enjoy driving. We hopped into the car—me in the driver’s seat, Jack next to me, and the sales guy in the back. Yes, we were all masked up!

That car was fast. Like a rocket! I loved it. It was after I floored it and was going 80 mph within seconds that the sales guy told me it was an all-electric vehicle. Not a hybrid—a 100% electric car. A Jaguar i-Pace.

The whole evening went by so fast—the excitement of driving a super-fast all-electric car was so mesmerizing that I decided on the spot to trade in my Lexus and get the Jaguar. It was like an early birthday present to myself (I took delivery the day before my birthday).

Here’s what’s interesting. The car salesman only asked me one question that evening of my purchase: what color did I want? That made me assume that every vehicle had the same features, with the only difference being the color. He didn’t ask me a single question about my driving habits. For example, he could have asked me, do you drive long distances because this i-Pace only has a distance range of 210 miles? Nope—he didn’t ask me that, and if he did, he would’ve discovered my round-trip drive to work is 100 miles, and if I go up to see my daughter in L.A. it is a round trip of over 150 miles.

Or, have you thought about how you are going to charge the car? Will you install a car charging contraption in your garage (at a cost of nearly $1,000) to charge your car, or do you plan to locate and then charge your car at a ChargePoint station, where there’s a fee per kilowatt every time you charge? And, of course, he could’ve said: you will need to download the ChargePoint app to locate charging stations along the freeway, in case you need to charge your car when you are “out and about.”

Or, my favorite question he did not ask, is it important to you that your trunk pop open when you click your car fob for when your hands are full of packages? Nope, he did not ask that question either.

Can you tell that I am still a bit annoyed by this whole experience? As I have reflected on my car purchase over the last three months, what bothers me most (besides the fact that I made a hasty decision) was that the salesperson did not ask me a single question. He seemed so anxious to make a one-time sale that he didn’t take the time to find out what was important to me. And because of that, I am 100% sure that I will never recommend that car dealership or salesperson to anyone. The lifetime value of me as a customer is nil.

What makes a great salesperson? Someone who takes the time to ask you questions about what is important to you. After 30+ years in sales I have learned that it’s all about doing your homework and that is the approach we take at my company Frieda’s, to really understand the needs of our customers.  And if you uncover that your product or service is not right for the customer, then you help the customer find a better match for them. Remember the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” where the Santa Claus at Macy’s referred customers to a local competitor (Gimbels) to find the gift they are looking for. The result? Incredible publicity and loyalty to Macy’s for doing what was best for the customer. People actually became MORE loyal to Macy’s after they started referring customers to other stores….to make them happy!

Have you ever encountered a salesperson who was super anxious to make the sale, so anxious that they kind of made you uneasy and made you think that maybe you were being taken advantage of, or would regret your purchase later on? That’s exactly how I felt after my Jaguar purchase.

Now, truth be told, I do like driving my Jaguar. It’s fast and quiet. But when I go super-fast (which I like to do), my driving range drops from 210 miles to about 180. I never have to take it in for maintenance service—just a once a year update for the internal electronic programming. I don’t miss stopping at a gas station to fuel up my car, but have had to always make sure I plan ahead on charging my car based on my next days’ driving plans.

I admit, the final, impulsive decision to buy the Jaguar was mine. And I learned a valuable lesson about not making such big investment decisions so quickly. I do realize that better decisions are made after some reflection, rather than on impulse. I plead guilty and am never too old to learn!

So, here is the pièce de résistance of this experience. I received a handwritten thank-you note last Friday. Well, actually, the card said “Congratulations!” on it. Three full months after I made the purchase, I received a card that said, “Congratulations and thank you.” Three full months later.

The guy didn’t have a baby or get married—for both occasions one is allowed an extended acceptable period of time to write thank-you notes. But for the purchase of a rather expensive car, during which you didn’t ask the customer a single thing about their wants and needs, it felt par for the course for him to send a thank-you note so long after the purchase.

So, for anyone who is in sales, please heed my advice:

The best salespeople will always take the time to ask questions to seek an understanding of the wants and needs of the customer. Your job is not to sell them something, you are there to help them buy.

And if you want to be a classy, memorable salesperson, you will immediately send a handwritten thank-you note, or a quick text, that demonstrates your genuine interest in and gratitude for the customer. Don’t wait three months, as you are demonstrating what a non-priority the customer was to you.

I haven’t had the heart to text my Lexus service consultant and tell him that I sold my Lexus a few months ago. I loved my Lexus service consultant Don and actually looked forward to seeing him every 3-4 months when I took my car in for service. In fact, he is the reason my next car will most likely be a Lexus.


Karen proudly standing next to her new Jaguar i-Pace with large red bow
Me, when I picked up my new car the day before my birthday – thus the bow!

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