You’re in the market for a new car. You’re not having luck finding what you want online through the local dealerships. So you write a blog post expressing your frustration. Less than five minutes later, you have an email from somebody who wants to help you find and buy the car of your dreams. You purchase a new car from him a few weeks later.

Crazy? Maybe. But it’s not fiction. It’s how Chris Brogan, head of a marketing agency, purchased a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS.

Minutes after posting about his troubles with dealership websites, Brogan was contacted by Aaron Smith, who runs a company called Motorphilia, which helps its customers acquire cars through auto auctions.

According to Brogan, “If I hadn’t met Aaron a few times in person (he even gave me a ride
around Austin in a Prowler), I might have been a bit less likely to
trust a website-based car sale
,” but even so, Brogan provides plenty of other reasons why Smith and Motorphilia won his business and a local auto dealership didn’t.

Brogan admits that he’s not exactly your typical mainstream consumer, and he isn’t claiming that the auto dealership is going to be dead tomorrow. Is buying a car from auction sight unseen going to be the most popular way to buy a car in the future? Probably not. But nonetheless, I think there are some lessons here that apply well beyond the auto industry:

  • Being proactive counts for a lot. In the world of startups, it’s not a secret that ‘if you build it, they will not come.‘ The same can be applied to sales: if you wait around for buyers, they may not come. Reaching out to qualified prospects who have signaled that they’re in the market to make a purchase is, for obvious reasons, a recipe for success. 
  • Think of yourself as a helper. Plenty of buyers generally know what they want to buy, but could use some expertise going the last mile. In these cases, it can be wise to consider that you’re helping your potential customer make a purchase as opposed to trying to make a sale.
  • Don’t underestimate trust. Many individuals will spend good
    money on big-ticket items, like a car, sight-unseen without ever having
    met you. The barrier to closing a sale, however, can seem like a big
    one: gaining a high degree of trust. But by no means is it insurmountable if you’re honest,
    transparent and patient.
  • Different stokes for different folks. A different business model may provide the opportunity to tap into promising niches, even if the business model doesn’t generate immediate scale like those maintained by your competitors.

Photo credit: Charles Williams via Flickr.