Have you made a sale? Ilan na auto nabenta mo, hijo? Those are the questions I faced every day when I first entered the job market as a car salesman. For a young man like me with no experience in the field, selling cars for a living was truly different from the regular 8-to-5 desk job my friends had.
But why sales? There were other careers to choose from. Why venture into unfamiliar territory? I became a salesman because I simply wanted to understand the world of selling. I wanted to understand why people buy.
Selling is unlike any other entry-level job. No other job brings you closer to consumers each day. No other job allows you to develop personal relationships with your target customers. No other job distills the very essence of business. In short, it’s the best way to learn the “trade.”
When I started, I found it very challenging to close a sale within the month. Where do I start? Whom do I talk to? I visited banks to seek referrals. I called more than a hundred random mobile phone numbers. I dropped car ads and flyers into neighbors’ mailboxes. I left a stack of my calling cards in public places. I did a lot of cold-calling, hoping that at least one would express interest in our company promos. I handed out flyers in parking lots. I did all the prospecting techniques one could think of before I eventually got my first sale. I earned my first commission in the good old-fashioned (read: hard) way.
Selling is not for the proud or the highbrow. It requires humility—lots of it. You will be told to wait. You will have to call someone who doesn’t know you. You will have to call back more than once. You will be told to go somewhere you’re not familiar with. This is normal. It’s all part of the job.
You can’t back out just because selling is difficult in the beginning. You’ve got to have the determination to sell. Otherwise, you go home with an empty wallet.
In sales, there is much to learn from those who do it well. I seek the advice of the veteran salesmen in our company. I consider them my mentors. Here are the three most valuable lessons they have taught me:
- Listen as much as you speak. When I started selling cars, I always did what was called the “walk-around product demonstration,” where I explained the vehicle’s features, functions and benefits like a museum guide explaining an artifact.
“I religiously follow the walk-around technique but my clients seem unresponsive,” I complained to Carlo, one of my mentors. He told me that in the real world, one can’t expect to sell just by explaining the features of a car like an infomercial. “You have to build rapport,” he said. “Wag mong sabihin lahat nang mga good points ng kotse kaagad-agad… Let the product benefits unfold themselves during your conversation, and to do that, you have to listen as much as you speak…”
The salesman should always be attentive to the client’s needs and individual requirements. To build rapport, ask the simplest of questions. What do you like about driving? Where do you like to go for a drive? Which features and technology do you enjoy in the car you drive?
Only by asking these questions will a client be convinced that a car suits his/her personal taste. A sale is made when the product naturally fits into the client’s needs and aspirations. People buy solutions, not products.
- Close the sale like a pro. And one effective way to do this is the “commitment close.”
In the commitment close, once a customer has fallen in love with the car, I then carefully explain the product and the freebies, as well as all the costs to be settled. Then in one breath I let go of the closing line: “If I can get you this deal that would suit your budget of X pesos, would you be willing to make a reservation?”
Often, when the product is right in front of us, the client will make the reservation. This is the most exciting moment in the sales cycle—seeing the sale in their eyes. And getting your client’s valued signature on your sales contract.
- Begin by selling yourself. Bep, my other mentor, reminds me: “Before selling the product, always begin by selling yourself. Be likeable. Be pleasant. Be a nice guy to deal with.”
Selling yourself is easy. It means talking in terms of the other person’s interest, and never yours. Never be a hard sell. You must earn their trust before they even think about buying from you. This is where good conversation openers and manners come into play.
Let me share with you the importance of selling oneself first through one of my personal experiences.
Once I had a client, “Mr. Cortez,” who was choosing a compact luxury sedan from among three brands. He was about to purchase another brand’s model had it not been for a little thing that happened.
Mr. Cortez was a top executive of a telco that is a direct competitor of the one I am currently subscribed to. I put myself in his shoes and thought about the times I hesitated calling a mobile number just because it had a different carrier (Sayang ang load!). That same afternoon, I trusted my gut to get a new SIM card and started contacting him through it.
The next day he told me to visit his office. During my visit, he told me how happy he was that I had gotten a new SIM card for him and that he liked the car I was offering. He then told me to prepare the documents. I had made a sale!
In the luxury car segment, I learned that we salesmen don’t compete based on the price of the vehicle. We compete with the vehicle that offers a better brand promise, a better financing deal, and a more likeable salesman. It’s all about service.
Little considerations that put the client ahead in your list of priorities is a good philosophy that achieves sales success.
In sales, there are no regular office hours. Your work time is whatever your client needs it to be.
“The real sale begins once the customer drives off with the vehicle,” Bep tells me. Bep is a top salesman because he serves all his clients excellently. When it is time for his client’s yearly service checkup, he would politely issue the reminder and personally arrange the transportation of the vehicle from his client’s house to the casa. “What do I get out of my personal yet professional service to my clients?” Bep asks me rhetorically. “I get referrals, and so I get more sales.”
But, of course, referrals aren’t the only reason Bep actively takes care of his clients. There is no better place to learn the art of keeping clients than in sales.
Only God knows what will become of us young sales agents who daily walk the urban jungles of Ayala Avenue, Salcedo Village and Bonifacio Global City, seeking to uplift the lives of others with our products. Maybe some will go on to put up their own insurance empires, others will live to be great bankers trusted by many, and still others will have their own profitable car dealerships.
As for me, a young man with simple tastes, it makes me happy to know that I serve my clients with utmost priority, honesty and convenience. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my clients’ families grow closer together because of the products I have delivered.
Maybe I’ll go on selling cars. Or maybe I’ll be selling something different. Who knows what will happen in a few years?
But what a great story to tell my future children: that their dad began his career in one of the most challenging jobs in the world—selling cars, and perhaps a few refrigerators to Eskimos.
Nico Ordoñez, 22, is a sales adviser at Audi Philippines. He is the son of the late Minyong Ordoñez, “Gut Feel” columnist in Inquirer ‘S.’
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.