Imagine walking into a new car dealership. You are looking around the showroom, trying to discreetly look at the prices posted on the windows to find the car you can afford, hoping two things: one, that the one that grabs your attention immediately is also in that range and two, that no sales person will approach you. Unfortunately, often the case is you don’t get either of those two options. You stop and stare at the vehicle you really want, knowing it is slightly (or not) out of your budget and the minute you stop moving you are approached by the most assertive rep in the showroom. Now as you try to back pedal and show your best “I’m only looking” face, the sales person does what the best ones do. They ask you if you want to take it for a test drive.

The test drive; the best tool devised in the auto industry to peak a potential buyer’s interest. Once you have experienced the feel, smell, handling and all of the other emotional experiences in what it may look like to own that car, it becomes increasingly more difficult to not go above your original budget. Now, add in a significant partner or kids and the “need” to get that vehicle goes up exponentially. The auto industry has known this for years and now many dealers don’t just let you take it for a test drive. They let you take it for the weekend. That way you get to experience the feeling of your friends and neighbors oohing and aahing over “your” new vehicle. In fact, you will actually feel like you really own the vehicle. And, the best part for everyone, no buyer’s remorse as no money has changed hands yet.

The value in the test drive is almost invaluable in the auto industry. Yet why do us as professional sales people not employ that process in all of our sales. I believe there are two reasons. First, many that get into sales have a competitive desire and sometimes the need to be “the” guy or gal who is so awesome at sales sometimes overcomes us and we let our ego get in the way. We don’t need to rely on used car salesperson tricks. “People will buy from me because I am awesome, and trustworthy and terrific and because they should!”

Secondly, many sell in the service industry. Whether that is advertising, business services, or any other professional services, you don’t have a tangible product and it is just plain difficult. How do you test drive something you can’t touch. So we try to get creative in our sales. We go and learn all the newest and latest closing techniques. We learn how to read people and how to say the right thing to “spin” them to our side. Not that anything is wrong with learning those sales processes.

But nothing takes the place of a good test drive. You may ask “how do I do that?” If you are selling a quality service, and let’s face it if you don’t believe it is of high quality why are you selling it, it will take more effort to create a test drive experience. What has worked for me is getting the deliverers of the service in front of the buyer. Then my client will see firsthand what they are investing in. They will get to “feel” a little what it is like to test drive your service. The buyers will get a sense of comfort in knowing the people they will deal with every day in the delivery of the service, whether you are a marketing company selling designs, an engineering firm selling competency, or any other intangible service.

You may say that could backfire if the connection isn’t made. If your deliverers of the service don’t “wow” the client you will lose the sale. If they can’t connect then, it will eventually go south on you anyway. I say it is better to not move forward in the first place than to have an unhappy client who then tells the marketplace that you don’t have something worth buying. And believe me they will broadcast that fact. Imagine back to the car example bringing home a test drive vehicle for the weekend and your significant other “hating” it. What are the odds you will buy? Slim to none in all probability. The car dealers know this, but the rewards usually outweigh the risk as they know that if you have made the move to actually test drive, you are probably a serious buyer and not just a tire kicker.

If you have the right solution, this kind of selling will work. The client will get the emotional “this is mine” sensation and if the service is high quality, your sales will increase.

Bill Leesman PEO Canada