People Remember How You Make Them Feel

A client brought his boss to one of my workshops. Mike warned me the boss had been attending sales training for the past six months in another part of the country and he considered himself an expert in sales techniques. He practiced all the moves and Mike told me that he was good.  

The visiting boss, the national sales manager, arrived on time and, though pleasant, he was obviously looking forward to demonstrating his expertise to all the amateurs in the room. 

We were covering a key part of the sales process that day, how to establish the ground rules for the sales call. Our visiting “guru” had lots to say, mostly critical, so I invited him to demonstrate how it was done in front of the group.

A very nice young lady, one of the sharpest people in the group, volunteered to be the prospect. This lady is soft spoken and gentle and is a joy to work with. She’d make his task as easy as possible. Nevertheless, it soon became obvious “Slick Willie” might have learned the techniques, but he didn’t know when or how to use them. He screwed up the role-play big time.

This guy was so intent on demonstrating his command of the techniques that he lost sight of the big picture. And, the big picture, lest any of us forget it, is to have an open conversation with the other person so we can qualify or disqualify them as prospects.

This will not happen by using slick moves or making the other person feel uncomfortable. Ask yourself how you react when you think that someone is talking down to you, or somehow trying to take advantage of you? Do you open your arms, and your wallet, and embrace them, or do you get rid of them? 

A rule of thumb I live by, one that has helped me considerably through the years, is as follows: 

Always assume that the other person is at least as smart as you are, and probably a hell of a lot smarter!

Two minutes into the role-play, Slick Willie had completely alienated the customer. The sales call was over before it had even begun. Then he made it worse. He got desperate and used every fancy technique in the book to try to railroad the buyer. There is a well-known statement that describes that action

“Open mouth insert foot; open mouth wider, insert other foot.”

Nobody is perfect, so most of us make mistakes at one stage or another. I’ve certainly made my share. Selling is not about being perfect, but it is about respecting your customer. Sure, you’re there to do business. That’s how you get paid. To do that you need a process that includes building rapport and trust. Here’s an example of what not to do; how you can lose trust and credibility very quickly.

My wife was having her car serviced at the auto dealer last week. While she was waiting, a salesperson approached her. Fair enough. That’s his job. Then he proceeded to do all the stuff that gives car salespeople such a bad rap.

“We’re desperate for good used cars and we’re paying top dollar. Would you be interested in trading-in your car?”

He seemed like a nice guy, even if he was a bit pushy. It quickly became obvious he was focused on making a sale, not in acquiring a trade-in or in taking care of a customer. My wife was blind-sided because she had been taking her car to this dealer for several years. She liked and trusted them. Trusted them, that is, until this sales guy began his act.

The salesperson began by pushing the great features of the new car. When she told him, she wasn’t interested in buying a brand-new vehicle, he talked about the advantages of leasing versus buying. No, she wasn’t interested in leasing either.

He next talked about a newer model used car. He gave her a price and wanted her to drive it home to compare it. Nope, she didn’t want to do that either. Through all this, he threw out a bunch of confusing numbers and attempted to confuse the low-ball offer on her car. Finally, he handed her the written quote.

Remember, he’s dealing with a loyal customer of the dealership … someone who has been doing business with them for a couple of years. The price offered on the trade-in was about $1,000 less than the Kelly Blue Book value. The price on the model he wanted her to buy was $2,000 more than several comparable cars offered in the local market … same mileage, same year, same equipment, practically identical. OK, now he’s trying to take her for an extra $3,000!

To add insult to injury, he talked about effortless financing at 5.7% … double the going rate at the local Credit Union.

Maybe the guy was naïve? Maybe he made an honest mistake or three? All in his favor? Not likely. He was focused on a quick sale and immediate profit at the expense of the customer. He’s the type of “Slick Willie” who gives car salespeople a bad name.

Industry sources tell us the lifetime value of a customer is $175,000. That figure is probably a bit low since it’s 6 years old. It includes all spending: Future new and used vehicles, finance and insurance, parts and equipment, service and maintenance, etc., etc. It also estimates possible purchases by the entire extended family, friends and referrals.

Obviously, people want a good deal, but price is not always their main consideration. People want value, protection against a bad buy, and piece of mind. They want to feel they’re making the right decision when they buy from you. 

Customers remember how you make them feel.”

When my wife drove out of that dealership, she felt slimed. Slick Willie not only didn’t make a sale, he potentially cost his dealership a loyal customer. The trust factor was gone.

Selling shouldn’t be a win-lose interaction. Instead of thinking you are about to do combat with your prospect, look at it as a discovery process with a couple of possible outcomes.

The first outcome is you’ll both decide not to go forward. For whatever reason, it’s not a fit between you; it’s over and that’s okay. You can still maintain trust and goodwill. 

The second outcome is you’ll both decide to move forward with the conversation. Then together you’ll decide what that’s going to look like. It’s not about arm wrestling, it’s about win-win. Your customers understand you’re in business to make money. They don’t have a problem with you making money, they just don’t want to get gouged.

Yes, learn new techniques and better skills. Practice and perfect them. Use and update your skills constantly, but remember as you do business, people buy from people, not some slick technique ninja.

I’m Oliver Connolly and I help sales managers and owners create a sales force that consistently makes the numbers. I have no tolerance for the Slick Willies of this world.

Contact me at to see if I can help you. 

Check out my website for a ton of FREE STUFF at

Oliver Connolly