A Look At The Perils Of Positive Thinking And Selling Cars

October 28, 2014


I was fascinated by a column in the New York Times that suggests that too much positive thinking can be a bad thing.

The author, psychology professor Gabriele Oettingen, has studied the effects of positive thinking and concludes that it “fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it.”

1962-Lesovsky-Indianapolis-Roadster-8She recommends a different approach, one that combines optimism and realism, which she dubs, “mental contrasting.” Her explanation of how it should work:

“Think of a wish. For a few minutes, imagine the wish coming true, letting your mind wander and drift where it will. Then shift gears. Spend a few more minutes imagining the obstacles that stand in the way of realizing your wish.”

This process, Oettingen asserts, gives us a sharper, more realistic sense of the next steps necessary to achieve a goal, as well as the energy and stamina needed to take those steps and achieve the objective. She also believes “mental contrasting” helps us establish goals that we’re more likely to reach.

As I read the column, I couldn’t help but think of the high hopes many dealers bring to their new and used vehicle inventories. In fact, the column helps explain why dealers put too much positive faith into specific new and used vehicles, and stick with pricing and retailing strategies that amount to symptoms of false expectations and hope.

I also thought of the best Velocity dealers. For them, “mental contrasting” is a daily exercise that relies on market data to define the potential obstacles each new and used vehicle may encounter. With these insights, the dealers are able to correctly assess each vehicle’s prospects as a gross-generating retail unit, as well as the steps necessary to maximize the unit’s profit-making potential.

Oettingen’s closing lines seem useful to help dealers temper their typically optimistic outlook as retailers:

“Positive thinking is pleasurable, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for us. Like so much in life, attaining goals requires a balanced and moderate approach, neither dwelling on the downsides nor a forced jumping for joy.”