Chocolate Pillow | How NOT to sell to people!
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How NOT to sell to people!

08 Aug How NOT to sell to people!

I recently began investigating the cost comparison between new car and old car, with particular interest in contract purchasing a new vehicle – oddly, this showed me a lot of flaws in the sales tactics of many people, that often see themselves appearing in hotel sales.

The story begins with my current car – a 14 year old car that albeit very reliable, is a bit of a nightmare to maintain – every year the bills get higher, fuel consumption is not that great and the cost of insurance is way more than the car is worth (even with 4 years no claims – we only bought a car for the first time those 4 years ago!) – as an ongoing cost, the car is getting more and more expensive and weighing up the options, a fuel economic low insurance car with low tax would actually save us money, even though we would only be ‘renting’ it. So we looked around and found the perfect car for us (well, choice of 3). Here is where the fun began. We chose a Vauxhall Adam or Corsa or a Ford Fiesta. They had the features we wanted and were by all accounts perfect to fit our needs. So we approached the main dealers as listed by the respective car companies; a 2-week long saga that left us none the wiser.

Here comes lesson one – ACTUALLY BOTHER TO RESPOND. I work in hospitality, so ringing me at a random time that you decide, is not a great thing (I could be in the middle of a function or elbows-deep in the potwash, or even pulling a pint or checking a guest in! And you can guarantee that it would be that time that they choose to ring!); so I sent each dealer an email, asking them to email me a quotation. For Vauxhall it was the Pentagon Group who have 2 branches near me in Eccles or Oldham. Anyhow… 3 days later, there was still no response. This is a ridiculous length of time to wait for a reply, considering my request was clear – provide a finance quote based on a specific model and time span. I saw a 2-year deal with 5000 mile limit, and I wanted a 3-year quote with 7000 mileage. If any hotel took this long to respond, the guest would have booked elsewhere! Time is of the essence in sales and the failed response only makes people distrust you when you do respond.

And herein lies lesson 2 – MAKE SURE YOUR RESPONSE IS ACCURATE. The reply I eventually received after 3 days was amazing…. Amazingly stupid! The reply consisted of pretty much nothing more than ‘Dear customer, thank you for your enquiry. If we can be of any further help please contact us on ‘ – well this would be annoying enough with the total disregard for the contents of my email, the lack of timely reply, the lack of information in reply to my queries and the distinct lack of any attempt to address my original email…. all of which are no-no’s as you should always reply with answers to all the questions and all of the information the person has requested. However this went one step further with an incomplete email! Basically there was half a phone number as the contact details… Yes! Half a phone number!

This makes lesson three – MAKE SURE THE CUSTOMER KNOWS HOW TO CONTACT YOU. Providing half a phone number was a clear indication of how much attention is paid to the email – and if you pay my email that little regard, then why would I bother to even consider you for any after sales service or care? Here I am offering to hand you thousands of pounds of business over the course of a few years, and you can’t even be bothered to send me a complete email! Being the forgiving and patient soul that I am, and being that I really liked the car, I decided to give them another chance and find their number and ring them.

Commence lesson four KEEP TRACK OF YOUR LEADS AND CONTACTS. When I rang, I was actually ringing head office for the Pentagon Group even though it seems like its a direct number for your branch when you ring – fantastic, it would be people who can actually help and quote. Wow, was I wrong! After explaining my brief history of contact with them, I was placed on hold whilst they tried to find my details… Lo and behold, they struggled to do so, simply because I have a double-barrelled surname, and of course, it depended on how my name had been entered in to the system as “different people put your details in in different ways” was the excuse I was greeted with.

This gives you lesson five – STANDARDISE YOUR FORMATS AND DATABASES. Every business should have all employees storing information in the same formats. This makes tracking leads, and more importantly tracking service, enquiries and actual sales, a hell of a lot easier, not to mention a better experience for the potential or existing customer. I was told someone would ring me back….

Lesson six imparts RING PEOPLE WHEN YOU SAY YOU WILL. Even if you cannot guarantee a time, at least give an approximation. Eventually, they rang back and had found my details, however it was then revealed that the email I sent to them, is actually then not sent to the branch.

Lesson seven therefore details PROVIDE YOUR SALES TEAM WITH THE RELEVANT ENQUIRIES AND INFORMATION. Finding out that my detailed request was actually pointless because the relevant people never received it, just makes more hard work for me in re-explaining everything to people time and time again. I was told the branch would ring me back… Well that never happened!

Lesson eight states A SALE IS A SALE, DO WHAT YOU CAN TO GAIN IT WITHOUT BEING PUSHY. Any seasoned salesperson will tell you that there is a fine balance between trying for that sale, and becoming pushy. Still being keen (and now on a mission to actually achieve a quote), I found the number for the branch and got through to someone in their new car sales. Well, I may as well have not bothered. All I received was a blanket response of “it will be about £20 or £30 more than the rate you seen’ (yes, he really did say ‘you seen’ instead of ‘you saw’ – not that I am a grammatical whizz kid but even I know the basics of the usage of structure in a sentence!), with no explanation if this was an extra amount monthly, weekly, annually, every 3rd cycle of the moon or every time the queen gives a royal wave… However the best part of the 5-really-long-and-almost-inhumane minute conversation, was the continuous half-request-half-demand of ‘well, if you come in we can have a look for ya’ – if I wanted to look, I would have been in already! I fang again to speak to someone else, and even left my details for a manager to call me…. That call never happened! I gave up and decided that Oldham wasn’t the branch for me, so rang their Eccles branch. This was a slightly better experience, although this leads me on to….

Lesson nine is IF SOMEONE IS INTERESTED, KEEP THEM INTERESTED! Ringing the Eccles branch was better, but here came a faux pas – I was immediately told why the advertised deal was not actually achievable – it included discounts from schemes that you had to be pre-registered for, and the mileage allowance would increase the cost quite substantially (seems like driving 2000 miles a year more, also costs you an extra couple of thousand in pounds!). I was told he would ring me back in about 20 minutes with a customised quote….

2 days later, I had just given up hope. Sod it… I will look at another manufacturer! But then I received a text message. It was from the dealership.. Aha! Maybe it was my quote… No! It was a text saying they had been trying to get in touch with me (must be an issue with my phone as I have not had any emails or missed calls or answering machine messages… Strange!) So I brave the furore ahead and ring them. Finally after over a week of trying and persisting, perhaps I can get someone to sell something to me…

So here is lesson ten – OFFER SOLUTIONS, NOT PROBLEMS. I finally had my quote, well a rough estimate of figures and not an actual quotation (I was told ‘it will be about £xxx or thereabouts’). This was of course after the feeble excuse of not being able to ring me back sooner because of an emergency…. Hmmmmm…. Anyway, this quote was double the advertised price! Ouch! But instead of asking if there was anything else I would be interested in, or even what my budget was, the rep just said that I had ‘his number if there’s anything else’. It would have been nice to know what options would actually work to my budget….

A similar thing happened when I emailed Ford – I had no reply so just didn’t bother chasing them up!

When relinquishing to the idea of buying a used car, I looked at a Vauxhall Corsa, only to ring the Network Q approved dealer (Arnold Clark) who had a car listed on the Network Q site, just to be told that ‘oh, that’s about 2 weeks out of date and always is, the car is sold’! So here imparts my final lesson – KEEP PRICES UP TO DATE AND ACCURATELY ADVERTISED! nothing is more annoying than being told something is one price and then finding out it’s actually another! Similarly, if you are selling anything that has limited stock (such as cars, bedrooms, events etc), keep your prices and inventory up to date! Imagine finding just what you want, then finding out that it no longer exists….

The final result from these sales people… A lost customer, and one lost for good! I will not recommend buying from Vauxhall, Ford or The Pentagon Group because they cannot advertise their prices accurately, nor can they arrange for a simple quote to be provided, and that’s if they get back to you at all!

Needless to say, this experience taught me a lot about how not to gain sales, and a heck of a lot about how to drive sales away from your business. Most astonishing though was the apparent lack of care that any of these sales reps gave to actually gaining a sale… Made me quite worried about ever buying a car to be honest!

So do you ever find yourself guilty of the above or know someone who is? Try being the customer of your own sales techniques and practices – it may teach you a thing or two!

Oh, and we still have the old car – spending more to keep her going and having regular visits to a mechanic, seems to just be a lot less hassle! By the time I actually find a sales rep who wants to sell me a car that exists at the advertised price, I will be a lot older and greyer, and my current car will be a classic automobile (that I will still be driving)! And it won’t be a Vauxhall!

Matt Shiells-Jones

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'

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