It was 1991 and I had a pocket full of cash. I wanted to buy a car for my wife, and having been married for a while I knew better than to tell her what car she wanted.
We looked through the adds in the paper and a local car dealer claimed to have a large inventory of Ford Explorers. That was what the Wife wanted and as I researched the car I found a lot to like. The ergonomics were brilliant! The use of space made Chevy’s offer look pretty bad in comparison IMO. Even the rear tire storage was well thought out, it was totally out of the way and made part of the energy absorbing system in the back of the car. It was also easily lowered to the ground on an elevator! All that space inside of the vehicle was usable!
We walked into Korum Ford, the place was packed. Soon a Salesmen approached us and asked if he could help us. I told him his job was going to be easy, we wanted the Explorer four door, and we wanted to pay cash.
That’s where the trouble started.. First he attempted to educate me on investments, he said I should buy the car on credit and put my cash in the stock market. I told him I was pretty much set on paying cash, and all he needed to do was show us a decent color like blue, tell us the price and we’d do the sale.
You might not believe this, but I swear he produced a paper for us to sign that said we’d agree to buy from Korum IF they made the price right. He explained there were just too many window shoppers and they needed to concentrate on serious buyers on their lot.
I told him we were pretty much old fashioned, we expected him to give us a price, and we’d decide if we’d buy or not.. after getting our names and phone number, I told him we were going to coffee to think things over.. we did that, and then drove a few miles north to Scarff Ford.
We told the Salesmen there, “we’re here to buy an Explorer, we have cash”… about an hour later, we had all the paper work done and my wife drove her Explorer home.
So what is the lesson?
For me.. there were all kinds of lessons, and it really has taken years for some of them to sink in. Not taking investment advice from a car salesman was too obvious, no need to learn that lesson..
But over the years this experience has passed through my mind dozens of times. It has become a fundamental foundation block for critical thinking, and I am embarrassed by how many times I’ve failed to apply what I learned from this shopping experience. You need to avoid the passion, you need let your brain make the decision.
For those of us who know something about sales, we know that Korum had bought into one of those ‘Sales Programs’ that come and go.. the Salesmen had a process to follow, and we just didn’t ‘fit’ the program. They lost us as a sale, but I’m sure there were many people that had no problem signing that paper, I wouldn’t do it on principle, and who really knows, I may have paid more money at the second dealer in order to do it my way.
The long term lesson is all about Critical Thinking. What would I have lost by signing that paper? I could have played both dealers for the lowest price.
When it comes to sales, and if we are honest with ourselves.. we buy stuff from people we like when we need choose between two or more.
I was on a tool truck the other day, the vendor had a a set of pliers designed to remove snap rings. He showed me a knob you turn to set them to remove either an inside or an outside snap ring. As I attempted to move the knob, he said “don’t force it.” then he showed me a button you depress. I bristled, I wondered why I had grown so irritated by his comment? I guess it was because he could have accomplished the same thing by simply saying.. “there’s a button you need depress before you turn the knob instead of suggesting I was about to ruin his pliers. I put the set back on the shelf, and changed the subject.
Sales is an art… if you are a Salesmen, you need choose your words carefully and understand what motivates people to buy from you.
This is all about human behavior…. if we are able to stay focused on the mission, it’s likely getting the quality we desire for a fair price.. but it’s very difficult to stay focused on the mission isn’t it?
I guess we are all salesmen since we must sell ourselves in order to get a job. But what I realize is just how much I’d need to keep to myself in order to be an effective Salesmen. A Salesmen I am not.. although I have studied what makes an effective salesmen my whole life.
Oh… I almost forgot to mention.. my Wife is still driving the 1991 Explorer. she has looked at so many vehicles that might replace it some day, but nothing seems to be a better fit.
No payments for over 20 years, dirt cheap insurance, never an emissions problem and never a major repair of any kind. There may be other lessons to learn here.. one is you can buy an American name a get value.. God only knows how many countries were involved in making a 1991 explorer, but as it approaches 250,000 miles, I’ve got to admit.. it was one heck of a team effort.