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Sales Strategies
September 10, 2001 13:57:39
Cats and the Internet Customer

Dennis Rushing
Internet Manager, McNamara Pontiac-Isuzu

Don't ever confuse me as a cat person. Anyone who ever has known me will attest to this. I have nothing against cats, but I would not have a cat in my house. They shed too much and I don't like the thought of the little treasures that lie in the mixture of oil absorbent that is used in litter boxes. Now don't get me wrong, I like cats. I grew up with three of them. Pinky was just a big old mean tomcat; Tabby was a calico and the mother of Janie, a pure black cat that we kept from the litter of kittens. I grew up in a family of 13 kids. There were only three cats among us. The competition to control the attention of the cats was always an ongoing battle, as you would expect from sibling rivalry. I must admit though, I did learn from those cats on how to sell cars through the Internet. I just didn't realize it at the time.

Janie was the sweetest of the bunch. She would always lie on someone's lap and loved to sleep to your shoulder. She seemed very secure. When it came to feeding time, she was not too finicky what she would eat. Whatever was available on hand was fine for her. Janie was an example of the Internet customer that you have sold to before. She might check out what another has to offer, but because you treated her right she always returned to familiar surroundings. Like Janie, these are always the sweetest customers. To get her that way required tremendous amounts of attention. One fact that was always evident, when she got done eating, she would always return to the exact spot she left you. If you were not there she would cry until you came back. If you did not return she would eventually find another lap to settle into. If we are to keep these types of customers, we must remain at one dealership so they can find you when they return. This was always the key to keeping Janie for the day. She, also like the repeat customer would tend to take what you have in stock instead of making you go buy canned cat food at the grocery store. If she selected you for that day, she would ignore everyone else. She could have easily sided with one of my 12 brothers and sisters. But to get Janie for the day was a huge treat.

Tabby, her mother, was a different type kitty. She really didn't care who she spent time with. The person that would get her attention was the one that kept her fed. As soon as she heard someone calling her to eat, she would bolt from her chosen position and be gone. She seldom went back to the same person again. But she usually chose the one that gave her the food. Tabby is like the Internet customer that puts in their request. She will always run to the one that gives her all the information that she requested. If you didn't have food for her, you were a useless human in her eyes. She was key in how I developed my overall approach to tackling the Internet customer. I learned form Tabby that if I gave her the right types of food she would always seek me out and ignore by brothers and sisters. But I had to get the food to her first before they did. One trick I learned with Tabby was to give her the food that she liked better even if they fed her first. If you get beat out by another Internet salesman in the initial contact, then give the customer all the information they request and then some so they will go to the person they view as the easiest to do business with. My brothers and sisters would give her the dry crunchy cat food; I would give her fresh table scraps. This is the equivalent of just giving them an invitation to come in and check out your inventory to giving them what they really want. What gets the Internet customer to react quickly is always giving them a wealth of information they did not expect. Speed in contact is the biggest factor, but always assume that they have already received a call from someone else. At this point, information is the critical factor in their decision to come to you. If you are first to contact and give all the information to them, you will be an impossible act to follow. If you can't be first, be better.

Pinky Lee was a big old tomcat. He was at times downright mean even. He would tend to lurk around and seldom would let you actually pet him. He was the true loner that would often be gone for days at a time and show up when he chose. The only time you could even touch him would be when it came to right before feeding time. Then, he still thought about it. I had about a 50-50 shot of petting him even when he was hungry. When one of us kids would be able to pet good old Pinky Lee, that was talked about for the next several days. It was a big event to be sure. It was kind of like being king of the cat people for a while.

Pinky Lee is that elusive customer that you can call and call, email and email. They never respond until suddenly out of the blue they are there because you did keep calling. At times Pinky Lee would be up in a tree and you could even see him, but he did not come down until it was on his terms. When he did finally come in to eat, he was good and ready. His hunger would finally get the best of him.

When I look to what produces high numbers on a consistent basis, month in, month out, the Pinky Lee customer is the one that pays off the most. If you keep calling and calling he will eventually come to the door. You may not be able to pet him, but at least you get a 50-50 shot. Pinky only understood what was to his advantage, if he were not ready to be petted, he would scratch you and hiss. You learned to observe the signs when it was safe to approach him. Only when all things were exactly in place could you reach out and rub his big old head. When he allowed you to pet him, he had the most incredible purr that was so loud nothing compared.

Internet customers are so much like the cats I grew up with. They can be very finicky when it comes to what they chose to purchase and whom to purchase from. The one constant that always came in play was who gave them what they wanted when they wanted it. This is how business must be conducted on the Internet if we are to be successful. Those who refuse to feed the kitty will not get the rewards of hearing the purr. Amazing what a cat can teach us.

Well, I must go for now. I see a cat in a tree and I have a fresh fish. Maybe he's in the mood for poultry though, I got some chicken just in case.

Dennis Rushing
2001 AIADA E-tail specialist of the year
Internet Sales Manager
McNamara Pontiac-Isuzu



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