“Don’t take me for a ride!”

In 1995, the legendary billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian, disappointed with the performance of his 36 million shares of Chrysler Corporation stock, approached the Chrysler Board with a plan to take the company private and hand over the reins to former CEO Lee Iacocca.

The approach was treated as hostile by the Board, which precipitated the eventual merger of Chrysler with Daimler-Benz in 1998.  In their 2001 gripping account of Chrysler’s undoing, “Taken for a Ride,” Bill Vlasic and Bradley A. Stertz follow every move among the top players at Chrysler and Daimler, especially Bob Eaton, the feckless Chrysler CEO.

I loved reading this book ten years ago and it’s still a good read today, because it shows the extent to which desire for power, pride and emotion often interfere with rational business decisions, a subject I often write about on this blog.

Let me share one story from the book in today’s Fable Friday, in which co-author Bill Vlasic gains an interview with the reclusive Kerkorian.  Vlasic asks Kerkorian a series of questions about his motivation to take the company private in the first place.  “Was it because you hate Bob Eaton?  Or was it a play simply to drive the stock price up?” He suggests a number of Machiavellian motives to Kerkorian, who only shrugs and says, “It was none of those things.  I was simply trying to get my money back out of this investment.”

Makes perfect sense to me. I’ve often found myself questioning why people do things only to learn that the motive was just common sense, as was Kerkorian’s.

Perhaps you’ve been at the receiving end of this kind of questioning when you’re trying to sell something.  You’re thinking, “I’m just trying to do right by the customer and make a sale here.”  But often the customer doesn’t see it that way, and ascribes a number of devious motives to your offering or your company.

One that always tees me off is “your company makes too much of a profit on this deal.”  Or phrased another way, “Your company makes a lot of money so your pricing must be too high.” Yes, there are people who simply don’t want you to make a profit, even though they are in a profit-making company themselves. This is an easy one to defuse; just don’t panic.

Ask the customer, “Given that your company sets out to make a profit also, I’m sure you understand that everyone’s pricing has some profit built into it. What concerns you about our pricing?”  And just let the customer talk.

You want to end up with this summary, after listening to your customer’s point:  “So the issue is really not that my company makes a profit, as we are all trying to do that.  The issue then is fairness. You want to be sure you are being quoted a fair price.  So let me address that issue.”

At this point you never refer to the price again. Instead, explain what the customer is getting for the price.  “I want to make sure you see what we’re bringing to the table and that you are paying a fair price for it. If you feel our price is too high, you may be missing some key part of our offering. Let me go over again what’s in it for you in this deal.”

Feelings and egos are a big part of every deal, so you must ensure your customer doesn’t feel he’s being taken for a ride.  All you have to do is…

Think Like Your Customer!

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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