It’s a really famous saying in sales and what it means is – make the customer and not the sale. The relationship is more important than the sale and if done correctly, will produce many more sales in the future.
So let me pre-empt some fallout before I begin. This newsletter is not intended to disrespect, discourage, or influence anyone to take or not to take any action and has absolutely no malice or anger attached to it. It’s just a fantastic example, a true story which clearly illustrates two companies, two dealerships, with two different business strategies. Both are driven by profit, and I am an absolute advocate of making a profit. But one however builds relationships and customers for life, while the other makes a one off quick sale and has customers that will never go back or recommend them to any friends, colleagues or clients.
So here are the highlights of my true story. CAR DEALERSHIP “A” VS DEALERSHIP “B”
My daughter Lea was 17 years old (soon to be 18), and needed a first car. We ended up at a car dealer. Very nice people and to cut a long story short, I purchased not 1 but 2 cars. I got myself the JC Works at the insistence of my kids and maybe also as a result of my midlife crisis. One or two snags on registration and a few disappointments with my vehicle but all good.
Bombshell!! Within days of taking delivery of the manual gearbox car, Lea was diagnosed with MS. A devastating event for the whole family but especially for our little girl. Without going into it, her nervous system is a mess and basically her body is attacking itself. One of the symptoms for her is that when she gets hot, nervous or scared her eye clouds over and her vision becomes blurred. We discovered that the stress of learning to drive a manual gearbox was not ideal.
We decided to look for an automatic car, which would better suit her and her new condition. So within a few weeks and after explaining our situation to dealer “A” from which we bought the two cars, asked if we could be quoted on an automatic car and trade in the basically “brand-new” one whose mileage was around only 300 km’s (driven mostly by me so that the battery wouldn’t die).
Now before the car people jump all over me. I know about car values. I know once a vehicle is driven out of the showroom it loses up to 25% of its value immediately. I know about profit, I know about business and and and, … But I had just dropped over half a million rand at this company and I was looking for a deal that I knew I would lose on, but was palatable. They offered to trade the car in as a second-hand, giving me second-hand values and priced the new vehicle at the new price. This meant I would pay in an additional R80 000. They are a profit driven organization, I get that. I was a profit and sales target dream. One customer could now net 3 vehicles, 3 sales. My daughters devastating disease meant another sale. Times are tough and business is business.
I decided however to decline the “deal”, keep the car for my second younger daughter who would need a car in another few years, and shop around for an automatic for Lea. Nothing wrong, no bad blood just very disappointed but I get it. I do.
Fast-forward a few weeks – I am addressing Peugeot (yes name mentioned for dealership “B”) at the launch of their new 208. In an attempt to illustrate the importance of building a relationship purpose driven company as opposed to a profit purpose company, I told my “dealer A” story and moved on. Within two days a Peugeot dealer offered me a much better deal without even knowing me, where my pay-in would have been about R20 000 for a smaller new vehicle.
THEN ALONG CAME A HERO! The next day Vaughn Marescia from Peugeot Pietermaritzburg sent me a WhatsApp message which paraphrasingly (not even a flippen word) went something like this; “I have the top of the range, not yet launched, brand-new Peugeot 208 with all the extras. It is not a demo. I will take your daughters car as a straight swap for this car. If you paid more I will pay you the difference, if you paid less I’ll call it even. (It was actually more expensive as a new car let alone a second-hand) I will add extra time to the maintenance and motor plan. When and where do you want it delivered?”
It happened to work out that her 18th birthday and party was on the Friday and the above conversation was happening on the Wednesday. He was in Pietermaritzburg and I’m inJo’burg but he said, “No problem – my sales manager Rory will leave tomorrow, sleep in Johannesburg and drop the car at your home on Friday morning while she’s at school”. This way it could be revealed to her as a surprise at the party on Friday night.
To cut a long and emotional story short – we were able to park the automatic car in the driveway hidden by all her friends who called her outside under the rouge of a massive group photo. As she walked out the front door they all shouted, “surprise”, and parted revealing her brand new, “MS friendly”, Peugeot 208 GT Line Turbo. I cannot explain or express all the feelings, emotions, love and humility I felt all in one. It was a moment that will live with me for the rest of my life. As a dad I could not prevent or fix her condition but I could make life a little easier for this remarkable, strong, beautiful young lady. My little girl.
Who made it possible? Who went the extra mile? Who said F the profit? Who said this is about building relationships? Who said it’s about people, a little girl, a dad, a family? Who said without being asked, how can I get involved and pay my privilege forward? It was Vaughn.
So who’s wrong, and who’s right? Is there a villain in the story? I don’t believe there is and no one is right or wrong. Someone is just near sighted and the other can see into the future. One company’s purpose and focus is profit and sales. Nothing wrong with that, and good for them. I’m not judging. The other also focuses on profit and sales but they do it by building relationships, making a difference and making a client and not a sale.
Over the years I really have thought I was mad doing all the charity work I do, helping small businesses, speaking at fundraisers, reducing fees and not billing for some events. But when someone gives back to you, more importantly to your children, it just makes you want to pay it forward again and again. Funny thing is that within the same month the Down Syndrome Association of SA contacted me to speak at a fundraiser for their children, and it was an honor to pay it forward at no fee.
A personal note to Vaughn: You are indeed a man among men. Peugeot SA did not step up; all the other dealerships in the room didn’t step up. I never expected anyone to. But YOU did. You placed people before profit and in doing so not only have you made a difference you have made a supporter for life. Thank you. Do you also get the massive brand building exercise this one dealer principal did for Peugeot ? This newsletter goes out to tens of thousands of people around the world, and before this amazing experience Peugeot was a car and brand that I never had a thought about.
There is no fault in wanting to make a profit. Dealership “A” are a profit driven company and good for them. Will I be buying anything from them ever again?
A good friend of mine, who’s a past disciple and employee of “company A”, heard my story and insisted that I tell someone at head office. Within days the assistant to some big shot at “company A” called me and I told him my story. He said he was shocked and disappointed and would definitely get back to me. That was four months ago.
I don’t believe that the story represents “company A”, its brand and its vehicles. I still drive my JC Works and it’s an amazing vehicle. I may even buy another one but there is one branch that I will not be going back to.
Now to the lessons: Build relationships, go the extra mile in all that you do and the profit and accolades will happen. Anyone can make a sale, especially where there is a need. Only the great ones, the people with vision who understand that business is a marathon and not a sprint, just like marriage and partnerships – will have success and referral longevity.
Have a great month and check out our FEBRUARY SPECIALS for small groups and businesses.