I ran into a couple of friends of mine, who recently bought a new car for their business.

These women are respected in the community and their field. They’ve owned a successful business for nearly a decade and are bright, intelligent and friendly. Knowing what I do for a living, they couldn’t wait to tell me about their experience with a couple of local dealerships

They couldn’t decide on an import or domestic business vehicle, so they visited stores representing each. What happened to them could have easily happened in any retail establishment. There are lessons for all.

When they first went to the dealerships, they were excited and impressed. Even though the import store only had parking on the street, its exterior was beautiful, clean and modern. Inside it was a bit stark, almost cold. There were no chairs in the reception area and the desk was more like a trendy podium.

The other dealership, the domestic one, was really inviting. It had plenty of parking and the interior was modern, clean and filled with warm colors and fresh flowers. They loved the cappuccino station!

I wondered if they were greeted right away at each place.

At the import dealership, a man almost immediately came out of the showroom as they walked the lot. He said hello. They assumed he was a salesperson. He didn’t introduce himself or offer a card.

He was dressed professionally with a tie but no jacket. He jumped right to selling by asking if he could show them a used car. Apparently, he assumed that’s what they wanted because they were standing near the used cars when he came out. He was wrong.

At the domestic store, they waited several minutes and if they hadn’t had such good cappuccino probably would have left. A professionally dressed saleswoman eventually greeted them, chewing her fingernails. She said “Hi, can I help you?” She was told they were “just looking.”

“Did you ever get their names?” I asked.

“Not at the import store, until we asked at the very end for a business card,” one of them said. “We knew his name because we read it on the card. And he only gave one card for the two of us, saying he ran out.”

The saleswoman at the domestic store introduced herself right away, but also was out of cards.

Neither salesperson got the two shoppers’ names or contact information. Obviously, neither would be in touch. “They must have asked what you wanted, right?” I said.

Not the guy at the import store. He seemed to be going through the paces and started to show a “cool” 2-door model he owned, until told these businesswomen wanted a 4-door. Then he went on about fuel efficiency.

The saleswomen asked what kind of car they wanted and if we were going to buy now. She must have been nervous, because she kept chewing her nails.

The import-brand salesperson took his customers into a parking structure to show them a sedan. The first thing he said was to ignore the sticker as this particular model was loaded with features they didn’t need, such as a navigation system. So without those options, the actual price would be substantially lower.

Then he showed the interior, trunk, seating, headroom, sensor technology and all the bells and whistles. He went through the extras like the USB port and sensors. He had them sit in the car, but left the doors open while the engine ran. The exhaust fumes became overwhelming.

The saleswoman simply pointed out different models, saying they were hot sellers, that “bigger was better” and that they should get the extras to impress clients.

She was pushing colors and models she either liked or was motivated to sell. She said things such as, “This is the hottest selling color” and “This car makes women seem powerful.”

I asked whether they got test drives.

They said yes. But the import-brand salesman, instead of telling more about the car or asking us questions during the demonstration drive, rambled on about how he met his girlfriend, where she worked, where she lived, what they had in common, what cars they both drove, and how lucky he was to have met her.

He lost them early on. The other test drive was more successful and the saleswoman provided detailed answers to questions. “But she kept asking if we were going to buy the car now and if the price were right,” one of my friends related.

In my next column, we’ll see if they liked the cars and which, if any they bought.

Richard F. Libin is president of Automotive Profit Builders. He can be reached at rlibin@apb.cc or 508-626-9200 or www.apb.cc.