It was one of those days where everything felt great. I was enjoying the mild fall weather, checking the inventory on the lot and waiting for the next up.
I was on the front row of cars, looking back to the dealership with a great view of all the vehicles, when a young couple drove their car slowly up the row closest to me. They got out and started to read the buyer’s guide on the side window of a vehicle for sale.
I approached them, held out my hand and introduced myself. Almost immediately, the woman stopped in her tracks with an incredulous look on her face.
“How dare you use a fake accent to try and sell us a car!” she said with contempt.
Granted, I was born in Australia, and even after 17 years in the States, my accent is still evident. Yet I was still taken aback. I tried to explain to the woman that this was not an affected accent. She refused to believe me, anyway. Her wall was up.
I stopped, told the couple that they could speak with another salesman, and walked off. It was their loss, not mine. They didn’t buy that day, and if they did, they didn’t get the best possible customer service.
Maybe I should have stayed to help them, but I wasn’t in the mood to take someone else’s attitude that day. However, the incident has stayed with me. A couple of questions ran through my mind.
What causes people to be so quick to judge — and to judge in such a negative way? Has this woman experienced so many “fake” people that she just assumes they are not who they claim to be? Worse yet, am I so quick to judge people that I have missed out on friendships, opportunities and sales?
We train our staff, especially the salespeople, not to prejudge a customer and treat everyone the same. Yet something as insignificant as an accent, a style of clothing or a car that a person drives may cause us to put up barriers, make assumptions or even write that person off altogether.
Sales is a lot like life. Often, salespeople have to navigate the smokescreens that customers put up, and sometimes we put up our own. Unfortunately, we may miss the real deal because of it. If you want friends, be friendly.
In the end, I can’t control how that woman felt about me and my Australian accent. But I won’t let her negative perception affect me. Holding a grudge is usually a one-way street; it only affects the person who holds it. In a lot of circumstances, the other party just doesn’t care — or is even aware of it.
I am in control of how I feel, and it’s my choice. In fact, I’m a firm believer that our attitudes set the groundwork for the outcomes in our lives.
In a storm, we may not be able to control the strong winds that blow our way. Even so, we can adjust the sails to take advantage of these winds and gain the maximum momentum from them.