I entered the car dealership to purchase a new vehicle. Did you just cringe? That's a natural reaction that most people have when confronted with stereotypical sales tactics.

In my case, I was fortunately in a Tesla dealership. Throughout my buying experience, the Tesla team avoided old-school sales methods.

By working in a new way, they built trust and earned my business. I discovered three surprising growth lessons when buying a Tesla and realized that old  sales methods just don't work anymore.

Seek The Fit, Not The Sale

Most books on the topic of sales use game or war metaphors. They suggest that the client is your adversary or opponent. When I entered the Tesla dealership, the tone was not adversarial. Instead, they asked me what I was seeking.

Since it is an all-electric vehicle, I was concerned about how far the car could travel on a single charge. So, I boldly shared that I wanted the car with the largest capacity (and highest price tag). The representative, Mikhial, suggested that we look at my travel patterns to make sure I get the right car to fit my needs.

I quickly realized that I didn't need the 300 mile range, but 219 miles would do. Instead of happily selling me the higher-priced car, Mikhial focused first on what I needed, even if it meant selling me a lower-priced vehicle. He put my needs first, and that built trust.

Only Sell What The Client Needs

When speaking at events, I often ask audiences to raise their hand if they use the term "upsell" in their business. Typically, most of the audience members will raise their hand.

Traditional car dealers upsell various add-on options that drive higher margins for the dealership, while not always delivering equivalent value to the consumer. During my Tesla Dealership visit, I went on the test drive with Guiseppe, a guy I am assuming must be behind the Wikipedia listing for Tesla vehicles. 

During our test drive, I told him I needed the sub-zero option for cold weather. He said, "Some people tell us that they just use the Tesla app on their phone to set the temperature five minutes before they need it, instead." 

Again, by not upselling, but instead educating, they built trust. They ensured that the car was configured for what I needed, not for what produced the highest sale price.

Ensure Happiness And Results

This car can almost drive itself. I placed the order, and they did something remarkable:  "We'll hold the design so you have a chance to review the details before it gets finalized. You can make changes or cancel anytime in the next week." 

The next day, I asked about another test drive. They said, "Great idea. We'd hate for you to buy it and not love it. Why don't you take one for 24 hours? Schedule a time when you have something planned that is far enough away to really give you a feel for the car." 

Whereas old-school car dealerships would try to quickly "lock in" the customer before they change their mind, Tesla understands that they do not want customers who regret a purchase. They give the customer a full week to review choices, and feel comfortable with their decision.

Put These Ideas To Work For Your Business

You can learn a great deal from the Tesla team. Here are the keys to putting their sales formula to work for your business.

  • Get On The Same Side:  Instead of a battle, metaphorically put a puzzle together with your client. When you are on the same side with your client, you engender trust and stand out from the competition.
  • Find The Fit: Your goal is not to sell whatever you have. Rather, discover the greatest area of impact and value to your client. If the Tesla team had been pushing features on me, I would have been resistant. Instead, by clearly putting my needs ahead of their revenue, they built rapid trust and I sold myself.
  • Avoid Selling Without Delivering Results: When your client sees that you are more committed to their success/results than the sale, you'll build trust for that sale and beyond. Ask what would make your service a success or failure six months out. Your commitment beyond the sale will build trust.

It's Your Turn

Not every company has a state of the art product like Tesla. However, what you offer in your business is undoubtedly of great value to some, and not so much to others.

If you focus on the right customers and put their needs first, you'll never feel like you are selling anything - all while seeing extraordinary growth for your business. 

When has someone "not selling" helped you to feel more comfortable making a purchase? Join in the discussion below.

Published on: Jun 15, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.