Don’t Make Assumptions About Anyone, They All Deserve the Best From You.

“A man is great by deeds, not by birth.”  Chanakya −290BC

It was my first week working at my dad’s used car lot and I was 15 years old. It was the late 70’s and things were a little different. My father did not think twice about letting me drive one of his used cars to the corner to get coffee for him, without a license. We did not consider it unusual to spray paint cars in a wooden garage without a mask. It was an innocent time. Jimmy Carter was president, interest rates were 20% and being in the car business was hard.

don't prejudgeWe had just immigrated to the USA from Ireland and my dad started a small used car lot on a shoe string. Immigrants are the original “boot strappers,” because they usually cannot borrow money, yet they possess a ridiculous work ethic. To say we barely had a “pot-to-piss-in” was an understatement. I was the middle child of six and my parents had spent all of their money on a home and that used car lot.

You are thinking, “what has all of this to do with making assumptions?” well the answer is, everything. Because in that predicament I should not have assumed anything about anyone, but that is precisely what I did.

At the side of the garage, my father had a small camper that he used for his office. We were sitting in the “office” one early afternoon having lunch, when a man pulled into our lot driving a very old and rusted Chevrolet Pickup. My dad said, “Kevin, why don’t you go out and meet that man, lets see if you can sell him a car?”

I was horrified. At the time, I had never sold a car, I had never talked to a customer. My first reaction was to come up with any excuse in order to hide my inexperience.

“Dad, he can never buy a car, look at how he is dressed!” I said as we both looked out at the man, who was now opening the door of one of our used trucks. “He could never afford that.” The man was dressed in greasy coveralls with one shoulder strap missing, a torn and unwashed grey t-shirt and old steal toe boots with the metal exposed in the front from years of ware.

Without a word, my dad was on his feet, in ten long strides he was at the mans side shaking hands and smiling. Within minutes the hood of the truck was open and the man was looking at the motor. Every once in a while my dad would look back at me smirking. After the third look from him, I finished my lunch and went out to help.

My dad introduced me and then introduced the man. It turned out that he had just left his job site where his was building a strip mall. The man was so pleased with the progress from his construction crew, that he decided to buy his foreman a replacement truck. It was the foreman’s rusty truck he was driving. The man standing next to me was one of the wealthiest  commercial builders in Buffalo, but to my presumptuous young eye, he was poorer than us.

Years later, I still teach this lesson on assumption in my workshops and one-on-ones, because a common mistake of young inexperienced sales people, is the error of prejudgement. Even if a person is dressed poorly, has bad credit, and appears to be only shopping rather than buying, they should not be ignored. Every customer deserves your best efforts.

One of my earliest trainers was Grant Cardone, he discussed the 100% rule and I used it for the rest of my life. It goes something like this: Give 100% effort, sell the customer 100% of the time. Even if you don’t succeed that day, give 100% effort in getting the customer to come back.

Later when I became a finance manager I practiced the 100% approved rule. No matter what their credit rating I was always able to get the customer approved. If they were attempting to buy a $10,000 car, and the bank said no, I would repeatedly call the bank and ask how much money down it would take to get the person approved. In almost every situation, I was given 100% approval. In some cases they asked for $6000 down, but I learned it was better for the relationship with the customer never to say no, to always give hope. In the future that customer will remember how hard you worked for them, even when it seemed impossible to gain approval, and it will be you they return to when their credit score has improved or they have saved enough money to make a purchase.

I could talk about treating customers fairly and not making assumptions for hours, but for the sake of time, try this: Look into their eyes, not their cloths. In other words, treat everyone with utmost respect and they will buy from you like you are a natural.

Even after my father died, the man from the used car lot and his family still buy from me. I have lost count of the number we have collectively sold them over the years. He was my first customer and my first lesson in sales, which has forever shaped the way I sell for the better. You never know who a person is or when their situation may improve, someone with a poor credit score today, may be wealthy enough to buy a Mercedes tomorrow. Put prejudgments aside, and always give 100% effort.

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