Zen & the Art of Leasing

by Linda P. Kester May/June 2008

Can you be Zen-like in sales? Of course! In analyzing the seven types of salespeople, Linda Kester discusses the value of going Zen when trying to capture new customers, and what it means to use the Law of Detachment in Zen leasing.

Very few people understand what makes up a successful salesperson. Success in leasing sales comes when you meet your goals by helping other people get what they need. Success is not something achieved at the expense of others. Equipment leasing salespeople can be broken down into seven levels.

Level one is the “high-pressure salesperson;” the one who epitomizes the negative stereotype many people have of salespeople. The high-pressure salesperson is the cigar smoking, backslapping, poorly dressed sales guy who keeps one foot in the door while the prospective client is trying to close it.

Salespeople at this level are manipulative. They frequently practice unethical behavior. They are likely to pull a “bait and switch” where they tell the lessee the deal is a $1.00 buyout, when in fact it’s booked as an FMV.

Level two is “the charmer.” This salesperson is a slight step above his high-pressure counterpart, because he or she uses pressure in a more subtle way. The charmer relies not on intimidation tactics, but on personality, on being liked. The charmer uses flattery to work on the emotions of the prospective client.

A pitch at this level might be something like “You have a great business. My company has pre-approved you for a lease.” There is no pre-approval, they just want to get in the account. The charmer has a big ego and thinks: “The lessee is going to love me!” The charmer can sometimes get in the door quickly, but they get dismissed just as fast once they demonstrate their lack of competence.

Level three is “the numbers guy.” The motto of the numbers guy is: “If you throw enough crap against the wall, some of it will stick.” The positive side of this guy is that he’s working. He is not lazy. The negative side is that he never grows into a true sales professional. He will always land the easy low hanging fruit deals, but he’s like a fossil, never changing. He is opposed to any type of sales training because he thinks it doesn’t matter. Making calls is all that matters. He relies on the Law of Probabilities.

Level four is “the problem solver.” At this level, the salesperson makes a conscious effort to help the customer. The problem solver knows that the job of a leasing professional is more than just producing sales and earning commissions. The problem solver is concerned with giving good advice and with fixing the specific problems a vendor might have.

I’ve witnessed this type of salesperson at many captive leasing companies. The reps care about their customers, but they never move beyond this level to become a true resource.

Level five is “the creative salesperson.” Instead of reacting to a customer’s problem, the creative salesperson anticipates problems before they occur. This salesperson attempts to understand the customer’s situation so he or she can make recommendations that will be valuable to the customer in the future.

When I was at this level, I made laminated cards for my vendors that had 36- and 60-month lease payments for their different equipment types. The reps would keep these cards in their shirt pocket and could instantly give the end-user an estimated monthly payment. I thought I was so clever!

Level six is the “consultative salesperson.” At this level, the salesperson becomes more valuable to the client than the product or service he or she provides. The consultative salesperson has clients, not customers. This salesperson is concerned with all the client’s needs, including psychological and personal needs.

For example, if a client is under time constraints because of a problem in a different area of their life, the consultative salesperson knows this and does whatever they can to help the client. By developing a deep understanding of the client and his or her needs, the consultative salesperson creates a climate of confidence and trust, and thus forms long-term relationships with clients.

Level seven is “the ethical salesperson.” He or she practices what I like to call Zen leasing. Zen is a form of Buddhism that originated in China and became widespread in Japan. It focuses on deep meditation as a means of achieving intuitive enlightenment.

Zen leasing uses the Law of Detachment to achieve sales. The Law of Detachment says that in order to acquire anything in the physical universe, one must give up one’s attachment to it. This does not mean that the salesperson gives up the desire to make a sale. Rather, the salesperson gives up his or her attachment to the result.

The Law of Detachment is more than a technique to increase sales volume; rather, it can be cultivated as a way of life. At this level, the salesperson strives to present the truth as clearly and directly as possible. He or she has a sincere desire to help his client, and lets the chips fall where they may.

I have had the privilege of coming into contact with many leasing professionals who have achieved success by practicing ethical leasing.

For 15 years, Curt MacRae has successfully run Midwest Leasing Group. Many of his lessees have five or more deals on the books. MacRae has one customer for whom he has written 45 leases. When asked what makes his customers keep coming back to him, MacRae responds, “I don’t evergreen, and I don’t surprise my customers. People want to be treated honestly.”

Chuck Seergy has been in the leasing industry for more than 20 years. When I asked him how his company Leasing Partners Capital remained strong he said, “Our policies provide timely end-of-lease notifications to our vendors. Also, our customer service team does a great job of communicating with the end-user. They create a lot of goodwill. We really partner with our vendors to make sure they get the next deal from the lessee.”

James Dubos of Premiere Funding Group said, “We are concerned with what is best for all of our customers. We present them with the truth and that is refreshing in itself.”

To achieve success, the salesperson must remember that people want to be treated honestly. Lower level salespeople, the ones who resort to high pressure and flattery, are constantly looking over their shoulder, fearing that the competition is coming to lure the client away. Leasing companies that pressure employees to make money at all costs quickly lose customers and eventually go out of business.

Upper level salespeople have confidence in themselves, their company and the services they provide. They achieve success by helping the client achieve success. The bottom line is that integrity sells.


Linda P. Kester is a bestselling author and professional speaker with 20 years of experience in leasing sales and marketing management. She has helped hundreds of salespeople increase their volume. Her book, 366 Marketing Tips for Equipment Leasing, has produced results for leasing companies in the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia.

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