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Hunter Swift

Hunter Swift Manager of Market Development

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Negative Selling

 

With the president election in full swing I have noticed that the majority of president hopefuls often use negative selling and mud-slinging attack campaigns. It has grown to something I expect from politicians but not from salespeople. Yet recently I experienced some negative selling tactics that I thought I would share.

The first occurred when I was a shopping for a new car a couple months ago. I had decided on what make and model car I was planning to buy but wanted reassure myself that I was making the best choice by looking at some other vehicles. When I visited a different dealership and I mentioned I was doing some research on two vehicles, I was surprised at the salesperson's approach. He immediately began to negative sell by talking about how bad the gas mileage was, that it didn’t score the highest safety ratings, and weaknesses in its performance while failing to point out any of the strengths of his brand. It was a big turn off for me and I ultimately bought the car I was original looking at.

I know this isn’t always a common occurrence but for some salespeople they get fearful and defensive as soon as the competition is mentioned.

It is ok to acknowledge that you have competition but there is a fine line between negative selling and pointing out differences between two products while focusing on your strengths. Knowing your competitions weaknesses is important, but this information should be used in a tactful informative way that is not offensive to your consumer. Too many sales people forget to focus on the strengths of their own product and services.

Salespeople that trick themselves into believing that they can make up negatives about a competitor are kidding themselves.

The second occurrence of negative selling happened last week in my own job. I work for a CRM company and often get the impression that some of our competitors negative sell on occasion. Recently a dealership I was working with was told by another CRM company that the integration we had with a particular DMS was not great. To resolve this concern, I immediately conferenced in a person from the DMS company that was referred to who reassured the customer of our great integration. We ended up getting this customer, but not because of our integration or us negative selling. The dealer said that the moment he knew the competitor had lied they lost all trust and began to doubt the positives of their product.

Spare the negative talk. Henry Ford said, “The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.” Focus on you, your company, your strengths and most importantly your customer.

My business and my reputation are built on ethical standards and selling my company’s superior service, not bad mouthing rivals. Just because you are my competitor doesn’t mean we can’t be friends either. We can chat and talk about industry issues at trade shows, conferences, and through social media. I have referred dealers to others when I thought they were a better fit. And in turn, other companies have sent business my way.

Strong competitors drive me to be even better at what I do. The automotive technology space is growing and I love the idea that more players are joining in. Yes, it is more competition, but I think there’s enough business to go around and it grows the overall performance of automotive industry. 

 

Hunter Swift is a Sales Business Analyst at DealerSocket and has been with the company since 2005. In addition to his current role he has fulfilled the responsibilities of customer support, consulting, training, and sales. He specializes in helping dealerships improve processes through the use of CRM technology. Prior to DealerSocket he sold cars and is a graduate of Pepperdine University.
Follow him: @HunterSwift

 

Good article Hunter. I also had a recent experience when shopping for a new vehicle in which my purchase decision was influenced by the salesperson who focused on the strengths of their brand. I was considering the Hyundai Veracruz, Mazda CX9, Cadillac SRX and Volvo XC90 (I needed three rows). I'm always very upfront and honest when shopping and shared with each dealership what I was considering and why. The Volvo offered some really cool technology, but it was the first off my list when the salesperson started going negative on the Hyundai Veracruz (or more to the point, the Hyundai brand). He did not focus at all on the strengths of the Volvo, even when I continued to point out that I had no issues with the Hyundai brand and wanted to learn more about the Volvo. The other dealerships all did well focusing on their vehicles and demonstrating their strengths and features. In the end I did end up with the Hyundai Veracruz (it felt very close to my Lexus RX350 and the cooled center console really got me).
Chris Costner
Great read Hunter and thank you for sharing both occurrences. One word comes to mind: Unprofessional. It shows a pure lack of motivation to learn the craft they have chosen to support themselves and family. It certainly is hard to respect anyone who undermines others and my advice to those who conduct business in such manner is to "get right or get out." Did you leave any feedback to either party where the "bashing" originated?
Michael Correra
Awesome post! One of the best results of the Internet making information so easily accessible is that the days of winging it and making it up as you go are dwindling. That’s not to say that there still aren’t salespeople that will try mind you, but the folks that take their career seriously know that they need to be more on their game now than ever! Many times our customers know as much about the product as we do and when they ask a question that is answered with something not accurate it only validates the already negative stigma we have and we have it hard enough in this day without proving to our customers that we are as bad as their friend/neighbor/family member said car sales are! It’s been my experience that the ‘sell by negative’ style is a direct reflection of the salespersons lack of skills and insecurity. Many times new sales people are hired and then thrown out on the lot without thorough guidance and training where they learn their skills from the folks around them which may not be a good thing as the ones that have time to share their ‘wisdom’ probably have that time because they ARENT with a customer! Without proper leadership a new salesperson can quickly contract the cancer of negativity and know all the ways to best NOT sell, all the excuses why the customer they had isn’t a real customer and all the ‘cool jokes’ to make about the customer after they pull off the lot to go find a salesperson they can buy from. The only way we can begin the process of improving the image of our industry, and while doing so take the car business to the place it CAN be is through consistent, never-ending training. There is never a time when no more training/maintenance is needed, I tell my team that each day with a sports metaphor; The best baseball players go the batting cages EVERY day. Now, most of those guys have been hitting that same ball since they were 4-5 years old but they still walk into that cage EVERY day and swing that bat. The car business is the best industry there is, I love this business and I truly believe we can take it to the level of respect that it deserves and watch the days of “our cars are better because theirs suck” go away! That’s my $0.2 at least :)
Hunter Swift
Thanks for chiming in, great comments.
Jim Bell
Thanks for sharing Hunter. One thing I have always told salespeople is NEVER bad mouth the competition (dealership or vehicle). It will only make you look bad in the end andyou will lose just for talking bad about someone else or someone else's product. Just learn to sell what you have in front of you and back to basics of selling yourself, the dealer, and then the product.

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