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Its a bugs life

I met Richard, an ex-colleague for a chat the other day; he had heard that I had hung up my boots and wanted to hear it from the horse's mouth. OK that's enough metaphors! I hadn't seen him in a while and from the way he was dressed, life was treating him well. He took out a box from his pocket and showed me his wife Cheryl's birthday present that he had just collected from a jeweller in Bond Street. Inside was a white gold Cartier bangle containing diamonds and it had cost him just short of £14k. He assured me she was worth every penny. Her silence certainly was.


They had been married for 35 years and they seemed genuinely content with each other. They met at school and became the archetypal childhood sweethearts, marrying at the age of 21 and surviving the ups and downs of matrimony. I jokingly asked him what their secret was and he replied, 'we know too much about each other to get involved in some acrimonious divorce, so its easiest just to keep going. We both live comfortable lifestyles and don't want to give them up. Thats our secret!'


Richard had always been a charmer. At school he could talk his way out of detentions and he honed his people skills working most evenings collecting glasses as the local pub. Despite his unimpressive physique, he was always the one the manager called on to persuade drunk and quarrelsome customers to leave rather than having to call the Old Bill.


He left school at 16 without any qualifications and was offered a job washing cars at a used car showroom where the owner was an old family friend. Before long it was obvious that his people skills were more valuable than his ability with a bucket and sponge. Promoted to Trainee Salesman he received a basic wage plus £25 bonus for every car he sold. Don't forget - people respond to incentives.


His tactics were somewhat unusual, but incredibly successful. He would ask the customer a number of questions regarding their needs, how big? petrol or diesel? 2/3/4/5 door? etc. He would then wait for the customer to select a car themselves and ask for more detail about it. At this point Richard would speak in a hushed tone and take the customer aside, "I wouldn't if I were you. The gearbox has a problem that we can't fix and i wouldn't want to leave you stuck on the hard shoulder' this immediately made the customer believe that Richard was actually on their side rather than the garage's. In reality there was nothing wrong with the gearbox, it was merely a ploy to make the customer feel beholden to Richard. Behavioural experts call this 'reciprocity'. Richard then had an easy job of selling them another car from the lot, usually for more money. The owner of the business was happy, the customer was happy and Richard was happy. What is not to like?


He was so good at selling that he was poached by a large Swedish car company main dealership. He was no longer a big fish in a small pond and the sales team here had a much more aggressive approach to sales. As the new boy he realised that in order to meet his monthly sales targets he was going to have to adapt. Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species, proclaimed 'it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”


Previous salesmen had been fired for failing to sell enough cars so Richard knew that the pressure was on. The Sales Manager took a percentage of each of his team's commission so Richard knew there was no place to hide. Sitting at home watching television one night, he was fascinated by a documentary regarding soviet spies and the kit they used to eavesdrop. The narrator mentioned that whilst 5 years ago much of the equipment was at the cutting edge of technology, it could now be bought over the counter for less than £50.


On his next day off, Richard visited a shop specialising in CCTV and electrical surveillance devices. The guy behind the counter demonstrated a pen that could pick up a conversation in a room and relay it to a receiver within a 30 metre radius. Perfect for Richard's needs. He paid his £50 and could not wait to get home.He explained his plan to his beloved Cheryl who helped him test it out and become familiar with how it worked.


The next day he returned to work and nervously eyed his fellow salesmen as they waited for fresh customers to arrive. As luck would have it, an old couple from his previous garage called in to trade up from the very car Richard had sold them. They ignored the other guys in their liveried anoraks and made a beeline for Richard. Richard greeted them like long lost friends and began his tried and tested patter. Instead of pointing out transmission frailties he made disparaging remarks about MPG and servicing costs and guided them to something 'more suitable'


Having already established their trust it was not a question of 'if' they would buy from Richard, but rather 'what and when' they would buy. He ushered them into the office set aside for sales negotiations, put his jacket containing his 'spy pen' on a chair and told them that there was no pressure to buy anything at all. He offered them a hot drink and laid out 2 brochures relating to top of the range models together with their prices. As he left he assured them that he would be as flexible as he could be with prices.


He then went into the staff toilets, sat in a stall and put on his headphones. He was pleasantly surprised at the clarity of the transmission and listened intently as they agreed that at last they had found a salesman they could trust and then, more importantly, their own negotiating strategy. The wife wanted the more expensive model with just about every extra available and hubby just wanted to make her happy. He said that despite their 'friendship' with Richard, he would have to play hardball and go for as best a deal as he could get. He would offer £15,000 for the car with all extras, knowing full well that this was not enough to buy it. He would then say that this was all the money he had but 'reluctantly' go up to £16,000 if Richard insisted. He whispered to his wife, 'I will go up to £17,000 if I have to but that will clean us out'


Richard returned and made small talk about his old garage and how this place was much better. The customer made the first move and told Richard that his wife had chosen the car she wanted but if Richard wanted the business he needed to strike a great deal for them. Richard explained that the list price with all the extras was over £20,000 and that his Sales Manager wasn't the most generous. Richard suggested he might be able to secure the car for them at £19,000 but no less. The customer laughed and said that he was thinking more of £15,000 as per the conversation Richard had previously monitored.


The offers went backwards and forwards, Richard enjoying the false cat and mouse game he was playing, knowing only too well that this guy was willing to pay £17,000 for the car if pushed. Richard played his final card and offered to sell it for £17, 250 with a full tank of petrol and the customer gladly shook his hand.


Over the coming months and years, Richard used this technique to sell hundreds of cars. He became Sales Manager within 2 years, Regional Sales Manager within 4 years and Sales Manager of the year 5 years running. He became a legend within the company and made a good living from this, however, he realised that the thrill he got from it outweighed the money he earned. Pretty soon he became bored and began to look around for something just as well paid but with more of a challenge.......

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