Thursday, December 14, 2006

The gift of selling

As I was driving along the 401 last night, I passed an SUV. It had one of those license plate frames with the words "Benton Fry" in the border. It was a Ford. It reminded me of an experience I had about 7 years ago. I don't remember what kind of vehicle I was driving at the time, probably because I really didn't much care. On this particular day, I walked into the Cobourg Mall to do a little shopping and came across a black Ford truck. Well, I was smitten. There was something about this truck that spoke to me, that I could identify with. I can't tell you what it was about this truck that I liked, but I knew that I wanted to buy one. I made my way across the street to the local Ford dealership. I don't think the salesperson bothered to get up from her desk, so I ended up walking out. From there I went to a Ford dealership in Brighton, then to one in Trenton, and finally to Benton Fry in Belleville. The salesman at Benton Fry greeted me outside the dealership. He immediately connected with me, and understood his role was to help me complete the process that had started in the mall. An hour later, I was the owner of my first Ford truck. I became a brand ambassador for Ford trucks. When it came time to trade my truck in, I traded it in on another Ford truck. This time around, I took advantage of Ford's zero money down, zero interest incentive to get myself into an even nicer model of truck for lower monthly payments. I was a satisfied, loyal Ford customer. When trade-in time came around again, I went back to the local Ford dealer where I had been a service customer for the past six years. I asked the sales rep a few questions about current promotions, and left without making a deal. I got a feeling that the sales rep really didn't want my business. Just to be sure, I went back to Benton Fry, only to find that my sales rep had retired. Again, I walked out without making a deal. I was still a big Ford fan, but it seemed as though Ford really didn't care. I was despondent. The truck I had was OK, I really didn't need to trade, but it was a pattern I had become comfortable with. One day, something drew me into the GMC lot in town. I wondered through the trucks on the lot, and spotted a white truck with the word "hybrid" on the side. Just as I circled it for a second time, a salesman approached me. Well, today I'm driving a GMC Sierra Hybrid. I love it. The engine shuts off whenever the truck stops, to save fuel. It also has a generator built in so I can plug power tools in to the bed of my truck when I'm away from a source of power. Now, I'm a raving fan for the GMC Sierra, partly because of a great product, partly because of GMC's marketing incentives that drew me onto their lot, and partly because a salesman sensed what I wanted, and helped me acquire it.
We have a team of seven sales professionals at Ste. Anne's. Some of them don't like thinking of themselves as sales people, they prefer the title "reservationist" or "customer service". They think that being in sales means being pushy and somehow underhanded. My experience is just the opposite. A good sales professional is a dream maker; someone who helps you realize what you want and helps you get it. This can sometimes be a material thing, like a truck or a new outfit, other times it can be less tangible, like good health, a change in lifestyle, a new beginning. Either way, people who have truly mastered the skill of selling are rare but gifted people, and sometimes hard to find. When we do find one we ought to celebrate, show them some respect, and tell our friends about them.

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