Last weekend, I went car shopping and was offered a slight discount on the initial price under two conditions:
First, the salesperson had to convince his manager to approve this special discount. Second, I had to commit to purchasing on the spot if his gamble was approved.
After I affirmed on both counts, he disappeared briefly before returning with a big smile and his hand extended. After receiving the good news I enthusiastically shook his hand and signed where needed.
The question is, why is this predictable and familiar ritual so effective?
As someone who’s been on all sides of the equation many times (salesperson, customer, manager), I can think of three reasons.
First, as the customer I get to save face by proving I’m a competent buyer, neither weak or easy to take advantage of.
On the other hand, the salesperson gets to save face by proving both to themselves and their manager that they can competently handle a tough and resistant buyer.
Not to be left out, the mysterious manager also gets to gain face by demonstrating the power and ability to approve something a lowly salesperson could not.
He or she can even reasonably stake a claim for MVP, as the deal technically couldn’t have been completed without his or her generosity!
Second, “let me check with my manager” provides an easy story – more importantly, a cover story.
In his book “All Marketers Are Liars”, Seth Godin explains why people buy. His ultimate thesis is that people don’t buy facts or products, they buy stories.
While this is true, I believe the particular story Seth is talking about is most important before the purchase. There is a second important story that inevitably arrives after the purchase and it is the story of how we acquired the product.
The beauty of “let me check with my manager” is that it provides an easy to pass along tale which describes our feats of strength as follows:
I am came in and they told me a certain price. Then I played hardball – Like I should! Then I got an even better price – their bottom line. How do I know this? Because the salesperson had to leave my presence to speak to the manager – even convince him!
Third,“let me check with my manager” works because we know it’s a ritualistic charade.
However, we are keen enough to realize what is truly being offered is an easy to accept dance to which the steps are predictable and inviting.
Accepting the dance implies the unspoken truth that we all want this sale to happen, yet neither of us can appear too quick or eager in the moment, or even after the fact.
So we decide to go ahead and disregard the charade. For the sake of the time we’ve spent, the sake of the time we can save, and the satisfying feeling of progress.
The spirit being, Let’s not lose what we’ve built – Shall we?