What buying a boat taught me about sales today
A conversation with the person who sold me something I didn’t know I wanted reveals a vital strategy in selling.
If I tell you that I recently visited a boat shop with no intention of buying a boat, but left a new boat owner, you might be a little skeptical. Why go to a boat shop if that’s not your intention?
And yet it is true. And the person who deserves the most credit for arousing your justified skepticism has what I think are some key insights to tell us about the sale today.
His name is Bill Fischer, and shortly after he sold me this boat that I didn’t think I wanted, he graciously agreed to talk to me about how he did it.
Fischer’s first secret to success may seem unusual. Because although he has been in the boat business for a long time, selling boats is still a bit new to him. In fact, he only took his first full-time sales job three years ago, when he was 49.
Fischer got its start in parts and service. Even when he first moved to Florida, where we ended up crossing paths, he did so not to work in sales, but in the rigging department.
In other words, Fischer’s journey to sales had little to do with the art itself and everything to do with knowing the product he would end up selling inside and out. the outside. Which seems to have led him, accidentally or not, to a high-information, low-pressure sales “strategy” that isn’t very strategic at all.
“I don’t think I have a sales philosophy but a life philosophy,” he says. “My goal is to treat people the way I want to be treated.”
I knew this very early on about Fischer. My wife and I met him at The Boat House in Port Charlotte with the intention, again, of just browsing. But something Fischer said minutes after we first met let me know I was dealing with someone I could trust.
“Is there anything else you need before deciding what you want to do? Fischer asked us.
This simple question is the mark of a customer-centric sales professional. Fischer acknowledged that my wife and I had options. There was no need to rush us or impose some kind of artificial deadline. And, ultimately, these are things that Fischer would never have done anyway.
Between finding the right parts and servicing boats, Fischer was occasionally called upon to cover sales teams at stores across the country throughout his career. It was during these brief moments of direct conversation with interested customers that Fischer realized that his instinct to let them guide him, rather than the other way around, was correct.
In one memorable instance, Fischer got chewed out by a manager for ordering a boat for a family initially interested in buying a model the store already had in its showroom. To his manager, Fischer had made the mistake of not confirming the family’s first, but incorrect, instinct and moving goods that were already taking up space. To Fischer, this logic seemed retrograde. The family’s needs were simply not compatible with the boat they had come to buy. He had put them in the right boat for what they, and they alone, wanted to use a boat for.
“To this day,” he says, “I still try to spend as much time as possible with people to find out what works for them.”
The more he learns about sales, says Fischer, the more he realizes what makes him different. He even says he doesn’t worry about the stereotypical view of salespeople as a hurdle he has to jump over.
Allaying the fear of the lying sales professional “isn’t a goal I set myself,” he says. “I just try to be as natural as possible.”
Even still, Fischer can’t help but take small steps to differentiate himself in ways he deems important. For example, in a state where the days are sunnier than not, and in a job that often sees him battling fierce stares on the water, Fischer insists on never wearing sunglasses when testing. roads with customers. Conclusion: Nothing should interfere with eye contact.
“I want them to see what I’m saying is the truth,” he says.
Those instincts built up over a career of ups and downs in the boat business have served Fischer especially well during the most uncertain time in recent history to be a salesman.
Fischer, like everyone else, has competition. And during Covid, his under-promise and over-deliver approach has helped to accentuate the difference between him and other boat sellers near him. With supply chain uncertainty pushing back delivery times and driving up list prices, Fischer’s commitment to telling the truth about what anyone might want to hear has clearly served it well.
It’s a lesson I’m happy to share with you now, from the comfort of the new boat I never knew I wanted.