Last year my wife purchased a new Jeep Grand Cherokee.  She did her research up front. Before she ever walked into the dealership she knew more about Jeep Grand Cherokees than the people selling them.

She knew exactly what she wanted: silver exterior, dark leather interior, navigation system, and a sun-roof.

She’d compared prices across multiple dealers and her research was neatly arranged in a folder. The only thing left was the obligatory test drive.

She began the buying process in early July and on the last Friday in August she parked her new, white, Jeep Grand Cherokee, with a light tan interior, and no sun roof, or navigation system in our drive-way.

After all the research and nearly two months of going back and forth with the dealership, in the end, illogically, she drove away with a vehicle that did not match what she said she wanted.

The Justification for Irrational Behavior

When I confronted my wife, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, about how she ended up with a white SUV when she had her heart set on a silver one, she was incredulous.

“Wipe that smirk off your face,” she demanded. “Another dealership had the car I wanted but it was 30 minutes down the road and I didn’t have time to drive all the way down there!”

“What about the sun roof and nav?” I asked.

“Well everyone knows that sun roofs can leak and I’ll just use my phone for navigation. It is easier anyway. Why are you grinning at me? I made a good deal here!”

Meet AJ – Car Selling Jedi Master

I’d been watching my wife’s buying process from beginning to end and I knew better. I was grinning because of my admiration for AJ, the sales rep who sold her the SUV. His sales process with my wife had been masterful.

Carrie first met AJ in early July on her test drive. When she came home she went on and on about AJ: “AJ showed me this. AJ showed me that. AJ suggested that I take a car home for the weekend to see how I like it. AJ thinks the Grand Cherokee is a great SUV for the money!”

Over the next seven weeks, AJ systematically built a connection, earned my wife’s trust, and gained influence over her buying behavior. He never pushed. He was never cheesy. He listened and made her feel important. He was transparent, honest, and consistent. Most importantly he answered the five most important questions, buyers ask of salespeople:

  • Do I like you?
  • Do you listen to me?
  • Do you make me feel important?
  • Do you get me?
  • Do I trust and believe you?

With these questions answered affirmatively, when it came time for her to pull the trigger, Carrie bought AJ, not the SUV. On the surface, she justified the compromise she made on the specs with logic. But I knew the truth. Deep down inside she could not bring herself to let AJ down by going to the other dealership – even though they had the model she liked the most.

A New Sales Paradigm in the Age of Transparency

We live in the Age of Transparency where buyers have access to endless streams of data. Nowhere is this reality more poignant that in the auto industry where, to the consternation of sales reps, buyers show-up at dealerships armed and dangerous.

But, legions of salespeople across all industries are coming face-to-face with a cold, hard truth: what once gave salespeople a competitive edge — controlling the sales process, command of product knowledge, and a great pitch — are no longer guarantees of success.

In our hyper-competitive global economy, where buyers have an information advantage, it is the buyer’s emotional experience that has the greatest impact on their propensity to purchase from you.

In other words, the tangible attributes of a product or solution are less important than the emotions derived from the process of buying from you. Buyers crave real, emotional connections. And, when you connect emotionally, you gain the right and ability to influence rationally.

Neuroscience teaches us that people, including my wife, make decisions based on emotion first and then justify those decisions with logic. With humans, it is always heart, then mind.

Sales professionals, like AJ, who are adept at interpreting and influencing the emotions of buyers gain a decisive competitive edge. This is why, Sales EQ (sales-specific emotional intelligence) is the meta-skill for twenty-first century sales professionals.

Today’s post is by guest author Jeb Blount, founder of Sales Gravy and author of eight books including Sales EQ and People Follow You. He is a sales acceleration specialist who helps sales organizations reach peak performance fast by optimizing talent, leveraging training, developing leadership, and coaching skills.