When we think of car salesmen, most of us have an adverse reaction.

Heavy sales techniques, high pressure tactics, and emotional manipulation often come to mind.  I don’t know about you, but I hate to feel like I have been “sold” to, and I feel like that whenever I am at car dealership.  While I admire sales skills and could definitely use a few pointers in that area, I have an aversion to coming across “salesy” or manipulating someone to buy something.  Due to that preconceived mindset, it would probably be hard for me to stop for a moment and actually think I could learn something from a salesperson who uses sales “tactics” for a living.

But last week I learned something very applicable to the work I do from none other than…you guessed it, a car salesman.  Goes to show you that even yours truly has to work on the fixed mindset thing…every single day!

My husband and I were at a car dealership getting the batteries changed in our electronic keys (anyone else have a love/hate relationship with those things?) and were admiring the beautiful new model of our car in the showroom.  We had and still have no intention of buying or leasing a new car, but of course were swarmed with salespeople offering to help us.  When we politely indicated that we were just waiting on our keys, the swarm quickly dispersed and began scanning the lot for actual prospects for a sale.

Except for one salesperson.  He stayed and quietly observed us from a distance.  I was about to start feeling stalked when he very skillfully and proactively tried to silence my concern:

“It sounds like you folks are not in the market for a car— so I am not trying to sell you anything”, he began.

“I just want you to know me and what I offer so that when you are in the market for a car someday, you come back and buy it from me…”

Hmmmm…that was a different approach.  I relaxed.

He handed us his business card and explained,

“I have been selling cars here for 14 years and most of my clients are repeat buyers.  To really be good at this business, I don’t want to be seen as a salesperson.  I want to build long-term relationships with people…”

Okay so now I was curious.

“I just want you to know how I am different than most salespeople you have encountered.  I differentiate myself with personal service.  If you ever buy a car from me, you can call me anytime of the day from 6:30 am until midnight and I will answer within 2 hours except for major holidays.  I will be the liaison for you and the dealer for any question or concern you have, and I also will arrange shuttle service to the airport for you when you travel.  Check out my personal website on the card and you can read testimonials from my clients that attest to what I am telling you….”

He shook our hands, looked us in the eyes, and departed with,

“I look forward to doing business with you the next time you buy a car.  Have a wonderful weekend.”

What struck me the most was his non-pushy yet direct way of branding himself.  His focus was on branding himself as a “different” type of salesperson.  His differentiation was his approach, his follow-up and out of the ordinary service after the sales transaction had long ended.  He was selling himself and what differentiated him, rather than the car.

The interaction made me think of my clients and our discussions about personal branding.  We often talk about building a personal brand, and about really knowing what makes you unique and differentiates you from others.

What if you took a lesson from my car salesman this week?  Take a few minutes and think about the answers to the following questions:

What differentiates you as a leader or in your line of work?

Why would anyone want to be led by you—or obtain a product or service from you?

What do you offer that is special, unique, or different?

How will you let others know?

What do you need to do immediately to consistently differentiate yourself and build your own, unique brand?

I’d love to hear what you come up with….