Shopping for a car is much like shopping for a pair of jeans. Wouldn’t you agree?

Let’s run through it, and I want you to associate each shopping step the same way a car shopper does during the car-shopping process, and think about how shoppers come in contact with dealerships online and off line.

The other day, I decided I was going to wear jeans to work, which has not happened in two years. I grabbed a pair and slipped them on, and they fell to the floor. Hmmm, I really was that husky, or fat, a few years ago? I decided it was time for new jeans for that rare occasion when I am feeling a need to dress down.

I figured I would just stop by the mall after work and pick up a pair of Levi’s 501s, but then I started to think, are 501s a 1983 fashion look? What will my employees think if I am not wearing modern jeans? Do I get straight leg or boot cut? Do I get stonewash or no wash? Do I get loose fit or regular fit, or do they even offer slim-cut so I can show off my newer, slimmer, non-biscuit-and-gravy-eating physique? Oh, I am so confused—just like a car shopper is when trying to decide which make, model and LS, GS, LE, S, SS, Xi, 2.0, 2.4. And I was going to wear jeans to simplify my day once in awhile. Oh well, off to work I go and will figure it out later.

I get to work and want to get some opinions. OK, let’s be honest, I want others to assure me that I will be cool in jeans or, more specifically, a specific brand of jeans. So, I spend way too much time asking for others’ opinions that I respect. Actually, I want to make it known that I am going shopping and getting new jeans. I want to brag, “I am getting new jeans,” and what better way to brag than to ask for advice?

Imagine if a store had excellent customer service and a customer nurture program. Then, I could have possibly avoided what’s about to unfold in the shopping process.

Merchandising of Inventory Can Help the Sale
It’s time to get out of the office so I can ensure the work-life balance, and if I hurry I will make it to the mall to shop for some jeans. I arrive at the Levi’s store, which was unorganized, and the Levi’s were the same as I remembered from 1983 (ugly, boring and not so stylish). I search around for the salesperson and finally have to page that person since I can’t find the 501 button-fly jeans.

A guy finally appears who reeks of smoke, is very disheveled, and needs to pull his pants up since his underwear is showing. I thought, “Come on, my man, you are my age! So for the sake of not looking like you just got released from prison, pull your pants up and purchase a belt!” This sales associate—OK, slob—was not making me feel warm and fuzzy that Levi’s were going to accomplish what I was hoping to achieve.

Appearances and training are keys to selling success. This could have been the closed-sale point since I did not have high expectations, if only the inventory was organized and I had been greeted by a professional salesperson with product knowledge.

People Don’t Want To Be Sold To but They Love To Buy
As I visited the Guess store, I thought, “Wow, I need a tattoo to wear these or some weird body piercing.” My journey continued down the mall.  Abercrombie? Nope, they look cheap and the place is dark like a dungeon. American Eagle? Seriously, these are Toughskins for adults, and the nine-dollar rack did not help. Lucky Brand? Not in my size and the sales girl was a pest and did not even know if they came in a slim cut. True Religion? I will never be a rap star, and a ladder is needed to reach the jeans seven feet up. Tommy? Who’s Tommy anyway? So onto Ralph and his horses. Then I tried Se7en; perhaps there was promise there, but not for the vertically challenged. Diesel? No, don’t want that big name on my gluteus. And then I went to HUGO BOSS, which I liked the service and style, but felt there had to be more. I just had to be sure about my purchase since Boss Jeans are $195.

The motivating factor for my shopping tour was not price; it was to fill a need. However, most stores were trying to make a sale based on price alone. Why talk price when it was not even a factor that drove the shopper to visit? That’s Sales 101.
I Will Be Back. I Need To Ask My Wife
So, I promised I would be back since I was not ready to commit yet. I walked down the mall thinking, “They are only jeans, just plain ol’ jeans.” But, I still had a lot of questions. Do I get jeans with a design on the pocket or a plain pocket, or do I get the ones that feel thick and sturdy or the ones that are soft? Do I want a dressy jean or very casual style? Do I get the ones with white, gold or orange stitching? Maybe if I just get black jeans, it will make me look slimmer. I am nearly ready to give up and stay true to my casual attire of a sport coat and slacks.

Spending time with a customer and asking the right questions will close the sale eight out of 10 times.

It’s All In The Presentation and Word Tracks
Then it just appeared out of nowhere, a store like no other I’ve ever seen. It had great curb appeal, and I thought, “OK, this is a nice-looking store from the outside, so let’s try again.” I entered the store and the first thing I noticed was how everything was in place, lined perfectly, organized and merchandised to move you through the store. It was well thought out to increase a shopper’s time within the store (side note—time on site and time in store, see the resemblance?), and I instantly felt at ease since the store had a nice color palette, good lighting, was not cramped and even smelled of a hint of bergamot and a dash of leather. I felt a calming effect.

I was then greeted by a gentleman who was clean shaven, pressed, and wearing pair of John Lobb Hutton shoes shined to perfection and a very nice Italian-cut, 180-count, 3-button suit with a seven-fold tie and splash of color with his pocket square.

“Good evening, sir, my name is Walter, and thank you for stopping into Billionaire Couture. Have you ever had the opportunity of visiting us before?”

I did not even have the chance to say, “No, thanks, I am just looking,” so I just said, “Ummm, no.”

Walter went on, “Well, excellent, sir, and thank you for being our guest this evening. So if I may, allow me to briefly explain our clothing line. We are a haute couture line exclusively for men of discerning taste, style and fashion sense. Every garment we offer has a story to tell and a personality to reveal.” I was speechless, so I murmured, “OK.”

He asked, “So if I may ask your name, Mr. …?”

I said, “Call me Paul.”

“Thank you, Paul, and again, I am Walter.”

He then went into a very informative presentation of the Italian craftsmanship, the fabric, the warranty, the on-site alteration, and the VIP services and a few other things. “Wow,” I thought, “Walter has his why-buy-me presentation perfected.” He was impressive, well spoken, confident and knowledgeable.

I asked him if he was the owner and he said, “Oh, no Paul, but thank you. I am a client advisor.” He had my attention since he was so focused on me as his guest, and I was not his only guest.

Create a culture in your dealership so every team member knows the unique selling proposition and everyone must become your dealership brand advocate. This only happens with regular training.

Setting The Bait
Then he said, “Is there anything you are looking for in particular this evening, or would you like to browse?” I told him I would like to browse. He said, “Excellent, Paul, and may I get you a cup of tea or sparkling water?”

“No, thank you,” I said.

I spent some time looking at shoes, pocket squares and the most exquisite tailored shirts. He saw the sparkle in my eye, and he stepped in and said, “If I may, Paul, allow me to explain how our shirts are made, but before I do, are you sure I could not offer you a cup of Earl Grey?” I said, “Sure,” and then tea was served from another gentleman as Walter pointed out the details of stitching, thread count, fabric, hand-carved buttons and even a special cutout for the “modern male” who wears a larger watch. Oh yeah, that’s what I am talking about, a modern man.

He had me! I wanted the shirt. And when I pulled out the price tag, WOWZZA, but I stayed composed and did not blink or show my pain. After all, Walter is spending a lot of time with me and just gave me some tea, so I have to buy something. OK, I can justify it. The buttons are handmade, no other shirt maker has a warranty like this and he has a VIP program.

Wait, what the heck do I need a warranty or VIP program for on a shirt? I was sold in my own mind somehow. I was committed; this shirt was sharp!

 Create the stage and perform so a customer receives the “wow” factor.

The Close Was Easy
I said, “So Walter, do you have jeans?”

And I could see the twinkle in his eye, and without delay he said, “Yes, we do, Paul, and would you be a 33x30.”

“Yes, Walter, I think that would work,” I said.

“Excellent, Paul, and if I may, I would like to suggest the first pair you try on is a slim cut with a higher waist. It will allow a very comfortable fit but will look very modern and lean, and would look stunning with that shirt.”

He also went on to point out a few things about how the jeans were designed and cut. He also mentioned that they were very popular among successful men and were imported. So after I slipped them on and stepped out of the dressing room, they felt and looked great. Walter then snatched a very nice sport coat off the rack, swiftly added a vibrant-colored pocket scarf in the coat pocket and asked me to try the sport coat so I could really see the slim-cut effect.

Walter then asked for the turns, did a waist check, did the half-break check and said, “Paul, I think these jeans look fabulous on you, but how do they feel? Do you like them?” I was sold but did not want to show my excitement, and I knew after all of this special attention, the presentation, his knowledge, the tea, the store, the furnishings and the store name, it was going to cost me more than the Levi’s 501s from the guy with his butt cheeks hanging out would cost me.

Then I asked the big question: “How much?”

Keep in mind jeans are to serve one purpose—to cover one’s butt. I could have picked any of the other stores since they were all selling jeans and had sales events going on.

Make your customer feel confident in their decision and upsell them by displaying options without mentioning additional cost. Also, it’s not all about price unless you make it about price. Price is a factor, but customers will sell themselves if you present correctly.

Live By Price, Die By Price
So my shopping process did not start with me wondering if I could find a huge sale or a discount. I was focused on filling primal needs to look modern, appear slimmer and more attractive, and feel good about myself. Then, when I was hit with the price, I justified it since everything was right. Walter’s “Why Buy Our Business,” “Why Buy Me” and “Why Buy Now” presentations, along with his passion for the product and his appearance, were perfect. He engaged me, he spoke with me, not at me, and showed concern in what I wanted to accomplish. I was not just another sale, or so I felt. We connected.

So I ask you, does it really make sense to always start your mass media advertising with price? Does it make sense to always have a price in every TV spot, radio spot, print ad and direct mail piece?

I think not; in fact, I know it is a mistake. Again, the shopping process starts out to fix a problem or perceived problem and price is at the end of the shopping process for the majority of shoppers.

Oh, and by the way, I justified the shirt, jeans, sport coat and pocket scarf in some crazy way. It’s been seven months since my purchase, and I receive emails with items for sale specific to my story and personality. Also, when I log onto their website, my phone rings within one to two days with a warm “Hello” from Walter, just checking in and sharing the latest modern design.

Vol. 9, Issue 7

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