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I had an experience lately that had me shaking my head. They say that things are getting tough in the Australian economy and they’d be right. The recent decision by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to reduce the cash rate to their current record low level of 1.5% is a fairly clear indicator that things aren’t so rosey in the lucky country. Which is why it’s even more difficult to fathom why someone in retail would not pursue a sale with a willing and able customer.

 I’m in the market for a new car. Cars are the second most significant asset in most Australian households so it’s a responsibility we take seriously. I do my homework made so much easier by the net in terms on online brochures and reviews. It could be construed without the application of much grey matter that most customers entering a car showroom come in much better informed than in previous generations. It’s probably reasonable to generalise that most going to a showroom are in the final phases of their purchase decision just wanting that age-old and primeval of experiences a kinesthetic connection with the product that is after all one I contact every day. It’s also nice to have a highly motivated salesperson use their considerable sales skills to try to get you across the line. As an NLP practitioner I like to spot the mirroring, pacing and leading to get rapport and the ever so subtle body positioning to get their final nail down into my right ear.


Imagine my surprise on Saturday when at my local Mazda dealer I had the complete opposite of this experience. It’s probably unfair to name the dealership outright but those cruciverbalists who read my blog Lewis Hamilton performs in one every other week or so. I’ll start at the beginning to highlight how the sales experience went wrong from the get go. I enter the gleaming showroom with my wife and are immediately pounced upon by the salesman. FAULT ONE: Let me go to the vehicle then approach me. Otherwise you look too pushy. The salesman steered us to the vehicle we were after without introducing himself and without a name badge he was not identifiable. This will become important later. FAULT TWO and THREE in quick succession. Always introduce yourself and have a name badge in case we forget it. That allows the exchange of names. Using our names builds quick rapport which is important as we may be spending around $65k with you. Walking us to the car and saying ‘here it is’ destroys rapport. I know what it looks like. I’ve viewed it so many times online from every imaginable angle that if I was a welder’s dog I could still find it in dark room. Treating a knowledgeable customer as a fool, or with any degree of patronising could be very costly indeed.

 Actually my reason outside of just ‘feeling the vehicle’ was to get a fix on Apple Play and when it might be available. I asked the salesman about this and the look on his face was priceless. He didn’t have a clue what Apple Play is. FAULT FOUR and FIVE. Firstly know your product. If you don’t you telegraph to me very clearly that you have no interest or passion for it. Apple Play is featuring in the model I am interested in, in the US. Don’t allow the power/knowledge gradient to change between buyer and seller. From that point forward the energy dynamic changed. I saw it, he felt it. He went away and came back with an answer which was a fluffy reply which essentially said ‘we don’t know’. If you don’t know when it’s becoming available say so. Be honest be authentic but hook me with something like ‘ I’ll contact Australian HQ on Monday and then give you a call or email.’ Guess what – you would now have my contact details and a legitimate reason for follow-up. Even a greenhorn real estate agent would never miss that sort of golden opportunity.

 The CX9 is an SUV with three rows of seats. With our children and their friends now no longer needing to be driven around I was interested in how the boot space looked with the third row collapsed. The pride of the CX9 fleet the Azami was my vehicle of interest so it was disappointing to find that it had a flat battery and couldn’t demonstrate any features requiring power. FAULT SIX and SEVEN. Never ever present a vehicle in a showroom that is below par least of all the pride of your fleet. Secondly if you can’t have a functional vehicle on demand how can I expect you to adequately service my vehicle.

 You can see things aren’t stacking well at this stage. The worst by far is yet to come. In the course of the conversation the salesperson, with I suspect poor EQ skills, construed completely incorrectly that I was either not a serious buyer or not one interested in buying from him. I mentioned that I wasn’t after a test drive at this stage whereupon he said he wouldn’t offer me one. Flabbergasted I asked why and he said he wouldn’t be ‘investing’ (his actual word) any further time in me as I wouldn’t commit to the purchase. It took a while for my jaw to lift itself up from the spotless showroom floor.

 Still bemused at the sales person’s ineptitude upon Monday on my return to work I rang the Mazda head office for Australia. I laid out my issue and the person on the phone shared my sense of disbelief. Clearly better trained he asked whether I wanted to have the dealership management talk to me. I was emphatic in my response. I had no intentions of speaking to the dealership ever again but was interested in how Mazda might delight me and try and woo me back as a customer. Not a trap – I am genuinely interested in how Mazda might handle damage limitation.

 FAULT err what number are we up to now? On Tuesday I received a call on my mobile. It was the Sales Manager at the aforenotmentionned dealership. After a brief diatribe about how this isn’t the way they do business we went through a hilarious charade of trying to identify the ‘offending’ party. Was he tall, short, bearded, did he have a mustache and my personal favourite was he overweight? Surely putting a name badge on the sales team would have avoided the need for such a ludicrous conversation in the first place. The Manager made it abundantly clear that he wanted to identify the culprit to give him a real kicking, or words to that effect. FURTHER FAULT – what sort of culture is it that tries to recover reputation by saying they will hang one of their team out to dry? Did this Manager attend the Gordon Ramsey school of management? Perhaps he needs to listen better to where I was coming from rather than second guess me. After all that was the original mistake of his team member. And as for Mazda HQ this is even more difficult to fathom in deliberately doing what I asked them not to do. Incredible really given the guy said he would record the call!

 I’m in commercial leasing. We get our fair share of ‘tyre kickers’ coming through our business. However our culture is a positive one. Every interaction is either a customer to be or someone who influences a customer who may be. We listen. Our entire team, me included, has been on mindfulness training to improve our listening skills, as well as Emotional Intelligence training to better read and respond to interpersonal exchanges. We are a fraction of the size of Mazda and have nothing like their budgets. It’s an investment I make for the professional and personal development of my people. Shame Mazda haven’t done the same, or if they have it didn’t work in my case.


Where to now in my pursuit for my new car? Well I’m putting my toe delicately back in the showroom water this Saturday – lets just hope I have ‘Oh what a feeling’ if you get my drift.