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Step into my office ... Featured

9:42am EDT July 22, 2002

I was driving my rental car in Dallas and had three hours before my flight home. As I turned a corner, there in front of me was a building with a sign, “DALLAS FINE CARS ... Luxury Automobiles at Their Best.”

I have never stopped to look at these high-priced indulgences, but I hear this mid-life crisis thing is coming, so my wife tells me it’s OK to look at sports cars ... as long as that’s all I do.

I pulled into the lot, got out of my car and peered through the showroom window. In the middle of the floor, was the biggest, reddest, most beautiful Mercedes Benz I have ever seen. All I wanted to do was sit behind the wheel of that car and fantasize that I owned it.

But there’s that issue of the stereotypical car salesperson. You may have had a great experience with one, but overall, we still have a stereotype of a car salesperson. Adjectives such as sleazy, slick, dishonest, aggressive, pushy and Herb Tarlick still roll off of most peoples’ tongues. And I admit, I had the same stereotype as I pushed open the door of that dealership. But before I even got through the door, my stereotype was completely shattered.

A woman approached me. Now, I would venture to guess that you wouldn’t have thought of a woman when I asked you to stereotype a car salesperson. But then she asked me what most people ask in any retail situation: “Can I help you?”

It’s a pet peeve of mine, so I responded defensively, “No thanks. Just looking.”

Without another word, the woman looked me in the eye and ordered, “Step into my office!”

I thought I was hearing things. I could have sworn she had just ordered me into her office. Then, without hesitation, she repeated, “Step into my office,” as she turned her back and walked away. After the shock wore off, I decided it was time to hightail it out of there. But as I turned to leave, she had walked swiftly to the back door of that red Mercedes, opened the back door and slid into the back seat. With a smile, she yelled at me once more.

“Step into my office!”

Before I knew it, I found myself sitting in the back seat of the car with this salesperson, when she barked another order. “Shut the door.” I complied.

My new friend told me to smell.

“Shouldn’t we introduce ourselves first?” I tried to stall. “Just smell.” She was getting impatient.

I did, and I found myself overwhelmed with the smell of leather. “That’s what your kids are going to smell when they are sitting in these seats,” she explained.

All I could say was a very profound, “Wow.”

She asked me to look around the front seat. I observed a leather-bound steering wheel and wood paneling

“That’s what your kids are going to see when you are driving this car,” she said. Again, all I could utter was, “Wow.”

“Sir, do you like to go fast?” she teased. “Yeah, really fast,” I mumbled.

“This car is the fastest car on the lot,” she boasted. Another, “Wow.” Next came an invitation.

“Imagine your hand on that stick shift; shifting from fourth into fifth at 80 to 85 miles per hour.”

“Wow.”

Then came the kicker. “Do you have the money?”

I replied honestly, “No.” “Bye,” is the last word I remember.

Do your clients have a stereotype of the experience they are going to have with you? Whether it’s an internal client or an external one, we must constantly figure out ways to shatter the stereotypes our clients have of us or our product or service, or of doing business with us.

Perhaps it’s physically changing the environment or surroundings. Maybe it means holding that weekly meeting in a different venue. You could simply change your voice-mail message.

Do whatever it takes to understand the stereotypes that exist in your business — and then shatter them ... creatively.

Jeff Tobe, a certified speaking professional, thrives on helping businesses develop an outside-the-lines marketing approach to set them apart from the competition and build brand awareness. Reach him at (412) 373-6592 or visit www.jefftobe.com.