When I was General Sales Manager for a Rolls-Royce dealership in upstate NY, we had converted an old grocery store into a luxurious showroom and service facility. We installed mirrored walls framed with mahogany paneling, baccarat crystal chandeliers, and even Sherle Wagner bathroom fixtures. We became a tourist attraction nearly over night. But given the demographics of the region most of our business was generated by our innovative and personalized marketing campaigns to major metro areas such as NYC, Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Miami and Palm Beach.
We were known as the place to receive great service, a personalized approach and that we would take most anything in trade. We even were the first to create 7 year financing to leverage tax advantages then available and to maximize the ROI on a Rolls Royce which contrary to any other brand, was an appreciating asset. I constantly heard how creative and open-minded we were as we seriously out performed other dealers nationwide. We were so proud of ourselves!
One afternoon, an older couple came into the showroom, I greeted them and then they began to look at several of the Rollers we had on display. They looked like the looky-loo’s we saw several times per week. He had on bibb overalls and she had on a dress that most would categorize as a “house coat.” They walked around several cars until they stopped at one and he said to his wife, “What do you think?” She said, “I like the color, what do you think?” And he said, “I like the color too darling.”
I smiled and walked back to my office and a few minutes later he walked into my office and said, “How much would that one we like be?” I said, “Well come in and sit down and I will add it up for you,” while giving him my best don’t you wish you could afford it smile. They both sat down and I quoted them the full near 6 figure price and smiled again. He looked at her and said “Well what do you think Darlin’?” She said “Well I like the color.”
He then stood up pulled down the flap of those bibb overalls (no shirt on, lots of body hair -scary looking), pulled off a money belt and counted out the full price in CASH! Then he leaned over my desk and said “Do you think you can get off your judgmental butt and deliver this car to my house downstate by 8 am tomorrow morning?” I jumped to my feet and said, “Yes sir, I will be there at 8 am sharp!”
When I pulled up the next morning he had an average looking split level house but it was adjacent to his massive wholesale construction company warehouse with at least 40 trucks getting loaded for the day’s deliveries. When he came out to meet me he had on a Fioravani tailored suit that was $6,000 if it was a dime. He looked me straight in the eye and said “What threw you off big boy – was it the bibb overalls or was it my wife’s house coat?” I sheepishly said “Well actually it was both.”
He then said, “I came to see you because I had heard how nice it was to do business with you, but a word of advice – you’re nice but you’re not very open-minded and frankly you have a long way to go in that department!” That hard to hear lesson has guided me all the years since.
I think of this story often because so many sales people and leaders talk about how open-minded they are, but in reality they aren’t. They talk about being open-minded but their immediate response to most anything new or different is “but,” as in “thanks, BUT we already have that pretty well handled or “Yes BUT, I am pretty good at that already.” Business suffers because the tendency is to pre-judge new ideas, new approaches or even how to find new prospects. Consequently they don’t invest in themselves, their team or their business.
The marketplace is changing rapidly. Keep doing what you have been doing and you will NOT keep getting what you have been getting, rather you will slowly go into decline. You never know in advance how much you can improve or where your next sale or referral will come from if you prejudge the outcome or the person in advance.
We learn two ways – from experience or from education. Take a moment now and learn from my experience so you don’t make the same mistake I did. Or as Isaac Asimov said so well, “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
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