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I was visiting a domestic and import brand dealership located in a large metropolitan area with a diverse, changing and growing population of first, second and third generation immigrants from all over the world.
One of the youngest members of the sales team had a light skinned brown complexion, angular cheekbones and was very slim and tall. I walked up to him, introduced myself and asked him where he was from on the Horn of Africa. He beamed, shook my right hand firmly and replied proudly, “Eritrea! I will bet that you have never heard of it.” I laughed as I answered, “Well, I was going to guess that you were either Ethiopian or Somali, so I was darn close to being correct!” I told him that I was really impressed that his country had successfully fought a difficult, lengthy war of liberation against neighboring Ethiopia after having endured decades of Italian and British colonial rule. He kept smiling and invited me to sit down at his desk and to share a pot of hot tea.
As we sipped tea, he told me that he was struggling to sell low cost Korean-manufactured imports to local customers who did not seem to trust him. I asked, “Do these customers look like me in terms of my skin color?” He sheepishly replied, “Yes, one of them actually told me that I looked as if I had starred as a bad guy in the film ‘Blackhawk Down’, I was so surprised.” He expressed real anxiety that his appearance and customers’ reaction to it were limiting his ability to sell cars and support his young family.
I advised him not to worry. I put together a “google maps” war plan to help him build rapport with customers whose ancestors came to the northeastern USA from areas of the world located outside the Horn of Africa. Here were my instructions as relayed to him:
• Save “google maps” in your favorites and as a shortcut on your desktop. Keep it open and minimized at all times.
• Go on amazon.com and order a hardcover copy of Philip Caputo’s classic book, “Horn of Africa.” Keep it closed on your desk, facing your customers. (Watch how many customers pick up the book and ask you about it. Almost all of them!)
• Talk to your customers briefly about Eritrea and your heritage. Mention casually that Eritrea was an Italian colony and a British colony prior to achieving independence. Show your customers your Eritrean place of birth on “google maps” and then show them examples of Italian and British architecture in Eritrean cities on “google images.”
• Flip over to your customers. Ask open ended polite questions about their heritage and their ancestry. Ask them to sit by your side as you bring up “google maps” searches of their ancestors’ places of birth in China, England, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, etc. Bring up examples of appropriate architecture in any European or Asian cities or any countries of specific interest to them on “google images” and compare the architecture to the Italian and British architecture found in Eritrean cities.
The Eritrean salesperson took my advice and implemented this “google maps” war plan. When I followed up with him by telephone a few weeks later, he told me that he had been using “google maps” with success to break down cultural barriers that had separated his customers from him. He expressed delight that “google maps” did much of the work for him and made transitioning to talking about vehicle selection and pricing that much easier!
Yes, his closing manager, sales manager and GSM looked at him as if he had three heads and no brain, but he began to roll units with regularity (with solid CSI) to customers who, weeks before, would have been reluctant to trust him. In fact, he began to actively seek out Italian-American immigrants as customers because of the deep past Italian colonial presence in Eritrea, which fact was of interest to such customers who had no previous knowledge of it.
So, when in doubt about how to build real rapport instead of just building (mandated) fake rapport and checking a box on a GSM’s “road to the sale” checklist, just “google map” your way to gross! What you learn about your customers and vice versa during the mapping process will make you more knowledgeable about the exciting world in which we are privileged to live and you will sell and deliver more cars to customers who will tell all of their family members and friends about “google maps” … and about you!
Christopher Ferris c 603.233.8759 firstname.lastname@example.org