Referral = Obligation

I went to Mexico for a vacation on 3/25. On the 24th, I told a used car salesman that it was time for me to by a car. (Names are gonna be mentioned for clarity, not as plugs.) I told him that I was driving Lincoln Continental and that I’d buy another one except they don’t make them any more. So, I was thinking Cadillac, Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, Chrysler 300, Buick Lucerne. I also told him that people had suggested the Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon, but I thought that would be a tough sell for him. The salesman said enjoy my vacation and he’d see me when I got back.

I returned and sent him this email on Sunday night. “think back ….. and remember what’s wrong that I want to make right. Then call me Monday morning at (508) ______, ask me a few questions to make sure that nothing’s changed and schedule a time for me to come to your lot and buy a car or not buy a car early Monday afternoon.”

He did call me and we met at his lot on Monday afternoon. He walked me around his lot. Showed me a Chrysler 300 that was $15,000 over the budget that he’d gotten from me. He had a Maxima that was at the top end of my budget and he had about thirty cars that I couldn’t fit into. He had a Volvo at another lot an hour away. (Why wasn’t it here?) I left unhappy.

Fast forward a week. A friend of mine referred me to Randy Tucker at Baker Cadillac in Leominster. I called and told him my story. We scheduled an appointment for 2pm on April 10th. He showed me two dozen cars that were in budget, over budget, but they all fit me. At 5:57 I left with my Cadillac Deville. Very happy. My wife is happy.

End of story, not really. Wednesday morning, I’m at an 8 o’clock meeting and you know the topic. Dave asked if I thought he could get a Chrysler 300 for $18,000. I gave Dave Randy’s card and I immediately drove to Leominster to get my sticker. I gave Dave’s card to Randy and told him that he was thinking Chrysler 300 and $18,000. Randy wrote everything down on the back of Dave’s card. I’m sure by now they’ve spoken.

Buyers don’t want sales tricks. They want somebody to fix there problems. When a salesperson (especially a service provider like us) gets a referral, we are obliged to fix the person’s problem. Our mutual friend trusts us to fix the problem. If we can’t, we’re not supposed to waste the “prospect’s ” time. We’re not supposed to try to trick them into buying the wrong thing. Raping a referral is a good way to stop getting referrals.


6 thoughts on “Referral = Obligation

  1. After this article posted, I thought of one more point that I should point out. Many of us “wanna be RainMakers” are good at asking for referrals and introductions, but how many of us refuse to buy any other way? If you want to make your centers of influence strong, ask to be referred. I haven’t used the yellow pages in years. If I don’t know someone that sells what I need, I ask Marshall Katz(, or Steve Groccia (, or Dave Kurlan (, or Dan Verrico ( They are very good judges of character, have huge networks and honestly, if they don’t know somebody who sells what I think I need, I probably don’t need it. Happy buying and happy selling!Rick

  2. You make some great points here Rick. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the fact that we are going to give business to those that we trust to handle our referrals in the best way – the way we handle our own customers. I’ve been “clean and sober” from Yellow Pages for about 3 years now! Paul

  3. Rick, It seems as though this person had a couple of cars you told him were on your list and some mentioned by friends even though they were at the top of your budget. Those cars didn’t interest you? If they didn’t interest you or were out of your budget why did you mention them in the first place? How big of a car dealer was this place? I’m guessing if you went to an actual dealer you would have had more of a variety of say Cadillac or BMW to choose from. Do you really think this person was trying to “trick you into buying the wrong thing”? Did he “RAPE” his referral? Those seem like strong words in the world of sales.

  4. Tom, You made some very good points that I probably should have made more strongly myself. He did have one car that I mentioned, the Chrysler 300, and that car was $15,000 over the top end of my budget. The Maxima was also over my budget, but he knew that the Maxima would be a “tough sell”. No Cadillacs, BMW’s, Mercedes, Volvos, or any other models that I mentioned nor that were in the same class. Why didn’t he tell me, “Rick, I got nothing that’s gonna work. I have a 300 that’s $15K over your budget. I’ve got a Maxima, but you gave me the feeling that a Maxima won’t work. I’ve got a Volvo, but I’ll have to get it brought over. Do you want to come some other time? If he was straight with me, I’m gonna either change my mind or ask him what the future inventory looked like. HE WAS THE ONLY GUY THAT I HAD TALKED TO. I WANTED TO BY A CAR FROM HIM. I NEEDED HIM TO FIND A CAR THAT FULFILLED MY NEEDS OR HAVE HIM TELL ME THAT HE COULDN’T. He didn’t. Do I think that he was trying to trick me? No. He was hoping that I would get so excited about seeing that shiny 300, that I’d throw my budget out the window and buy the car. I didn’t want hope. I wanted him to be an expert. Find a car that fit the bill or tell me he can’t. Instead, he wasted my afternoon. “Rape” is a strong word. Is “screwing a prospect” a better choice of words? I heard once that the only difference between a con artist and a salesperson is intent. A con artist only cares about the benefit to himself. A salesperson cares that he’s meeting his customer’s needs as well as making a commission. I’m not saying that this guy was a con artist. As a matter of fact, I’ll tell you that he is not. What I am saying is that whether a customer buys the wrong thing at the wrong price because the salesperson is crooked, inept, or ignorant, the fact is that the customer bought the wrong thing and if it weren’t a common occurrence, we wouldn’t be warned CAVEAT EMPTOR. I wish I could tell you that this is an isolated incident, but it happens every day. The salesperson wastes the prospect’s time, hoping that the prospect will lower their expectations, change their budget, and buy anyway. If salespeople took the time to learn how to develop “speed on bases” and learned how to ask the right questions, maybe they could learn how to rely less on hope, less on prospects lowering their standards or giving up and more on their own expertness in uncovering the real problems and offering the right solutions. For help with this, I suggest that salespeople contact Mike Eagan or Chris Mott. Thanks for reminding me about this and I want to emphasize that I know the salesman and he’s NOT dishonest. He just, at this point, hasn’t learned how to find out why the prospect is talking to him, now. Practice. Practice. Practice.

  5. Some valid points. I always send my husband to buy my cars. That way I save myself from a murder indictment. That is one negotiation I have no patience for.

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