We’ve been living through a time of tension, and not just from COVID. People are divided over politics, religion, race, gender, and more. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination, but sometimes we can unconsciously offend someone because of our own lack of understanding. This last year has seen an uptick in awareness of unconscious bias and training for diversity and inclusion. Despite the awareness and the available training, we often forget some of the practical implications. And salespeople cannot afford – literally – to offend a prospective customer.
You should provide a neutral, safe space so that you can sell without overcoming barriers you might have created.
Take a look at your office and put yourself into the shoes of someone who has never been to your dealership or seen your office. Would you trust the person who works in that office with your sensitive information? Does this person seem open-minded and non-judgmental? Some obvious steps are to put away all files so that it indicates you take privacy seriously. Tidy your workspace and make sure it appears clean.
Something not as obvious is to take a hard look at the things on display. If you have some memorabilia that could be offensive or insensitive, take it home. You should provide a neutral, safe space so that you can sell without overcoming barriers you might have created.
When I was about 10, I exchanged “love notes” in school. My older brother found my cache and read them, which made me angry, but my mom passed on a great lesson: Never put anything in writing that you don’t want the whole world to read. That valuable advice could hold true for social media. Be careful about your personal platforms, both in what you post and comments on others’ posts. Most companies have policies related to that topic, but it’s still wise to be cautious.
Dealerships also have social media accounts, and many of our customers view these prior to visiting the store. What’s posted there? Do you have pictures balanced equally among all demographics? Your store may inadvertently indicate various populations aren’t represented, which might make the customer either go elsewhere or come to the store in a state of defensiveness. If you’re in charge of posting anything, try to balance the content so all are included.
A character in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” gave rise to the saying that clothes make the man, although Mark Twain’s twist always makes me laugh: “Clothes make a man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Since we thankfully have to wear clothes, we need to consider how we present ourselves to others and therefore influence society.
How we dress for work is important. Take a look at yourself before you leave home. Do you look professional, or do you look like you’re ready to tee off or are in need of a dry cleaner? Would anything you’re wearing offend someone? When in doubt, leave it out.
Dale Carnegie is best known for his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” One of his comments bears keeping in mind: “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.” All of us have some kind of pride and vanity to consider, but we need to put other people’s feelings first or we can lose a sale before we even start. Check your office, your social media, and your appearance to make certain you don’t accidentally put up a barrier.
Lori Church is an experienced F&I manager, a graduate of the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, and director of compliance for Holman Automotive.