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AI Chatbot Tactics ~ Making A Customer's First Objection His Last

For a very brief period during university daze, I used to sell cars. This was in the era of high pressure car salesmanship where you ground down the customer until he/she signed on the bottom line.

On the first day of work, I was taken into the boardroom with a bunch of my fellow misfit newbies at Shyster O'Toole Motors and sat down in front a VCR. The sales manager hit the on button and went out to sexually harass the receptionist. The video tape had been played so often that there were hisses, snaps and odd interference lines running through the picture on the TV set. The reason why the video tape was so worn was that Shyster O'Toole Motors was a burn and churn outfit. They would hire anyone who would walk through the door. They knew that each newbie could at least sell a couple of cars to his acquaintances, friends or relatives in their first month of salesmanship. If they didn't repeat the sales by the second and third month, then they were burned and churned, and a new, rosy-cheeked naive batch took their place.

The scratchy video tape was narrated by a jowly character stuffed into a too-tight suit who spoke with a deep southern hillbilly accent that befitted a shyster televangelist. His name was Catterson, and he was gonna teach us to force customers to buy cars from us, come hell or high water.

There were many high pressure tactics, but the one that comes to mind now, is making a customer's first objection, his last one. The reason that I could dredge it out of my memory, is that I am making an AI chatbot called Honest John - a car-selling bot that is actually honest, and not high pressure. But I am developing strategy framework and one thing that any salesman, saleswoman, or salesbot has to do, is ask for the sale. If you don't ask for the sale, you are not selling. The consent to buy has to be present. During the course of negotiation, the customer may come up with an objection mid-stream that halts the consent to buy. Honest John, my chatbot needs a strategy to overcome the objection and that is why I thought of the sales training video that I had seen many years ago.

Essentially, the tactic of making a customer's first objection his last, goes somewhat according to this script:

Hy Pressher, Car Salesman: "Hello Mr. Lilywhite, I see that you are looking at the new TurboHydraMatic Coupe. She's a beaut ... ain't she?"

Joshua P. Lilywhite, Customer: "It certainly is a nice car."

Hy Pressher, Car Salesman: "I'll let you take it for a spin to see how nice she drives."

Joshua P. Lilywhite, Customer: "Ah no, I'd rather not. I am just looking."

Hy Pressher, Car Salesman: "What-sa matter. Don't you think that all your friends and neighbors would be jealous of you when you pulled up in this gorgeous set of wheels?"

Joshua P. Lilywhite, Customer: "No, I like it and they would be impressed ... but ..


Joshua P. Lilywhite, Customer: "I really can't afford to buy this car."


Hy Pressher, Car Salesman: "Are you telling me, Mr. Lilywhite, that the only reason that you can't buy this car from me today, is that you don't have the money?"

Joshua P. Lilywhite, Customer: "Yes. (hesitantly) "I guess so!"

Hy Pressher, Car Salesman: "Well Mr. Lilywhite, today is your lucky day. I can find you the money. Step this way."

Hy Pressher will immediately wire this guy into a sub-prime car loan at credit card interest rates. When Lilywhite starts to object, Pressher reminds him of his agreement to buy the car and seriously insinuates that Lilywhite would be welcher and not a man of his word.

Now back to the chatbot. If Honest John runs into a brick wall and the customer starts objecting to buying the car, Honest John will use the words "is that the only reason ..." but he won't use those words against him or her. Honest John is ethical. If a customer says yes, there is just one sole reason why he/she won't buy the car, then Honest John will ask the same follow-up that Hy Pressher uses ie "if I could solve this objection, would you buy the car?". However Honest John would add " ... provided that you are happy with the solution that I propose".

The difference between Hy Pressher and Honest John, is that although they are using the same tactics of making a customers first objection his last, Honest John does it ethically and gets buy-in on the subsequent solution. Honest John is an AI bot -- he learns as he goes to make a sale and make everyone happy. He keeps on getting better and changing for the better. Salesmen like Hy Pressher (and Willie Loman) don't want change, they want Swiss cheese on their meager after-work sandwiches.

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