When sales go wrong: the real cost to brands of bad sales

A car salesroom should be like Disneyland – a place of magic, where life smells wonderful and dreams really do come true. So much resource goes into making that possible. The warm environment, the sparkly cars, the people, the music, the freshly brewed coffee … Everything should be an unapologetic charm offensive designed to inject reassurance and a sense of joy. When it’s done properly, it’s a show stopper.

But over the weekend, my trip to start searching for a replacement to my very tidy but ageing Peugeot turned into something closer to Nightmare on Elm Street: a clipped salesperson talking to me in a patronising tone and treating my spouse with disrespect. No charm. Just offensive.

Which meant in effect that all the hard work and huge money that the car brands had invested for all those years to entice me to consider them was decimated in less than ten minutes.

No introduction, no familiarisation questions, no needs assessment, no scenario setting, no credentials, no storylines … This guy needed a skills upgrade and a serious attitude transplant. Perhaps he wasn’t quite losing potential money on a per-minute rate as fast as the trader at UBS, but he seemed to be giving it a damn good go. There was goodwill all over the floor.

Here’s why it matters – from both a brand and a bottom line perspective.

Let’s start with the money. I’ve been doing some work with Feedback ASAP and their research shows that top sales people (those who consistently deliver customer satisfaction scores of 70 -90%) are generating 24% higher sales per hour on average than those achieving satisfaction scores of 50 – 69%.

The guy I dealt with over the weekend delivered an experience that would have been well down the bottom quartile by my estimation. If that happened consistently, that would make him a very low-yielding resource.

As for the brand, three distinct lessons for me from the experience:

1. Investing in sales is investing in your brand – because if the delivery staggers, the promise falls.

2. There is no stop-loss on a bad seller. The damage is done in minutes and not just for that sale. In fact, the cost to the brand keeps accumulating long after the disgruntled customer leaves the showroom. And there is nothing you can do about that. Mystery shop every touchpoint for all you’re worth – because, whether you’re the brand or the distributor, that’s exactly what could be at stake.

3. Look for the leaks because no brand is unsinkable. People who can’t sell or who can’t retain customers are like icebergs on a still night. They may not get your attention, until it’s too late. Run all the numbers, particularly the ones that scare most brand owners. Don’t just run top line analyses, run cost-benefit analyses on all aspects of sales. What are you investing as a brand vs what are your representatives returning in total sales – and by that, I mean in direct sales, in referees, in return sales, in retained business? There’s no point in having great per month income if you’re promptly losing customers or potential customers out the other side via reputational damage and/or churn.

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