I was having lunch with Simon, an old forty-something colleague of mine from my aerospace days, who told me the most appalling (yet, not wholly surprising) true story about the way he had been treated whilst trying to buy a new car. Let me explain…
Simon is a Porsche man; he’s mad for them.
He loves the cars, the design, the speed, the driving experience, the looks he gets from the envious, the customer service…the whole shebang. At this stage, I should explain that he has a pretty long daily commute to work and having driven numerous Boxsters into an early Porsche grave, he decided to go for something a little less “boy racer” and more, well, stately and grown up.
He had done his research and decided to trade in his Boxster S for a Jaguar XKR. He arrived at the Jaguar dealership and was met by a well-dressed, middle-aged salesman who invited him into his office.
“Before we start,” explained Simon, “I love my car, but feel the time is right for something else and I’ve decided that I want a Jaguar. Can you help me?”
“Well sir, let’s see what we can do,” answered the salesman.
Simon explained that as well as the value of the Porsche as part-exchange, he had an additional £5,000 to put down as a deposit and outlined his monthly payments. The salesman scribbled this down and tapped away at his calculator. No more words were spoken and after a few “hmmms”, raised eyebrows and some huffing and puffing, the salesman looked up and said:
“You can’t afford a Jaguar, Sir.”
Simon was more than a little startled at this news. He had been a Porsche driver for years, had a very well paid job as a sales director and most certainly looked every inch a Jaguar driver.
“Surely, there must be some mistake. You must be able to offer me something. Anything?”
“I’m sorry,” replied the salesman, “you just can’t afford a Jaguar”
With nothing else on offer and with all of his boyish enthusiasm sucked out of him, Simon left…without a Jaguar.
Fast forward a few weeks, Simon decided to visit his local Porsche dealership. He explained to the salesman that he wanted to upgrade from a Boxster to something more substantial and that he had £5000 to put down. The salesman, who could tell that Simon knew Porsches well, went on to ask him a series of questions – from the distances he travelled to his preferred choice of colour.
“Leave this with me,” he said, “I know we don’t have what you’re looking for at the moment, but I’ll make a few calls and see what I can do.”
Within one week, Simon received a call from the Porsche salesman. He’d found exactly the car he was looking for and wanted him to come over as soon as possible. The car hadn’t yet been serviced or cleaned, but the salesman explained that would all be dealt with at no extra cost. The only fly in the ointment was that the car was more expensive than Simon had budget for.
“Come into the office, Sir and let’s look at what we can do for you.”
The salesman scribbled down the details and tapped away at his calculator. He constantly asked questions, wanting to know more about Simon’s circumstances and budget. After a few minutes, he looked up, smiled and said: “Congratulations, Sir. Having looked at the finances, this car will cost you slightly more but then the 911 is more of a car than the Boxster and is worth the extra.”
Within a few days, Simon became the proud owner of a beautiful Porsche 911 AND was happy to pay the extra for it. Interestingly, he later received a letter from Jaguar asking him to complete their customer experience survey…
This parable touches on so many sales and marketing issues: listening, salesmanship, meeting the customer’s requirements, brand loyalty, customer retention and the power of recommendation (or bad press). Consider:
- Simon will now never buy a Jaguar. Ever. Moreover, he will advise his friends, family and colleagues to never buy Jaguar. Think six degrees of separation and there may be a lot of people who may now think twice before buying the brand.
- Very few brands have been immune to the recent economic downturn, but it appears that Tata-owned Jaguar has managed to buck the trend with an 8% increase in annual sales (see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/jan/13/jaguar-mini-detroit). This certainly should not excuse their inexcusably pious attitude. What kind of salesman actually lets a customer walk away from a deal? How many other buyers have had similar experiences with Jaguar and what could their potential percentage growth actually be?
- There are always deals to be done. Surely, they could have offered Simon something which could have whetted his appetite for a Jaguar; he was clearly prepared to pay more.
- Ask questions. The Porsche dealer wanted to know more about Simon and worked out that he loved the brand and may have been prepared to pay more than he originally budgeted. Guess who won the business?
- The Porsche salesman obviously understood the concept of customer retention. All things being equal, Simon will remain a Porsche customer.
The last point is key.
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business, so ignore them at your peril. Through regular contact, excellent service and demonstrating an understanding of their needs, they may even increase their spend with you. In fact, they may be your customers for ever. Food for thought, I’d say…
Vaughan Gordon, Director – VG&A