Back in the 80s I worked for a Main Dealer in a volume franchise, I won’t say who it was but I will say that the management were terrible, the DP was so tight he used to sit in his office with the heating on full blast while the rest of us were sat in the showroom freezing to death, the showroom was heated by 2 massive pipes that ran round the walls but only worked when the valve was switched on, the DP used to go out at about 11।30 and come back about 2।00pm looking slightly worse for wear and wreaking of beer, I hated working for this guy and amused myself and the other lads by turning the heating on full blast as soon as he left, and then turning it off when I saw his car turn into the car park, watching him trying to turn off a valve that was already shut was the highlight of my day.
I worked on a commission only basis, the product was undesirable at the time, the working conditions were terrible, when you did sell a car the workshop robbed you blind for reconditioning, and what was left I later found out was subject to a DP tax, which was exchanged at the local cash and carry for groceries and booze, at Christmas the DP’s car was loaded up so much that the boot was almost scraping the floor।
The team of salesman took it in turns for showroom duty leaving every other day free for prospecting, delivery of vehicles, and paperwork, these off duty days seemed to last forever, at the time I couldn’t think further than pay day at the end of the month so prospecting for the future which I knew wouldn’t exist for me at this place and was a complete waste of time।
So I had just got a new demonstrator and my weekly petrol allowance, it was a beautiful sunny day, and I wasn’t on sales, my mind was working overtime trying to come up with a plausible excuse to go out for the day, then it came to me “Fleet Sales” so I went to see the Sales Manager and asked if I could go out to the industrial estates and introduce myself to the Transport Managers of the local businesses, never missing an opportunity to kiss the DP’s backside the Sales Manager went and told him that “he” had come up with an idea to increase our sales and was sending me out to canvass the local Industrial Estates।
With my pass signed I promptly went and picked my girlfriend up and drove to the Lake District having a Salesman’s equivalent of Ferris Buellers day off but without the Ferrari, after a lovely day out, I was driving back down the M6 when it occurred to me that the Sales Manager and the DP might just want to know how I had gotten on।
As luck would have it there was a fairly new industrial estate just off the motorway so I drove around while my girlfriend made a note of the business names and telephone numbers, I then went to a phone box (no mobiles then) and began ringing the firms and asking the telephonist the name of the Transport Manager, and then if she would be so kind as to put me through to him, the whole thing couldn’t have taken more than half an hour, and I ended up with 2 appointments the next day।
I was right to cover my tracks as when I got back to the garage the DP and the Sales Manager were eager to find out how I had got on, our DP was anxious that I had come back with some concrete leads as he had been on to his boss at Head Office and reported that “his” idea was to become pro-active in the fleet market and had sent a salesman out to cold call. The DP’s office smelled like a brewery he had been out for his liquid lunch and his questions weren’t quite as difficult to answer as they could have been, he seemed to be squinting at my face and I thought he was trying to see if i was lying bit i realised later that while i had been rowing around Windemere i had gotten rather sunburned.
The next day I dusted my previously unused briefcase grabbed a couple of brochures off the stand stapled my business card to them and headed out to my meetings, by dinner time I had provisional orders for 140 vans and 9 Estate cars, I had just blitzed my yearly target in a morning!
All’s well that ends well, erm not exactly, the powers that be decided that the numbers involved were too great for me to handle on my own so the leads were passed on to head office for them to deal direct। This would also mean that I would not get paid for the deals, some would say poetic justice but I wasn’t too happy.
A couple of weeks later I discovered that Preston Town Council published a directory which had the name, address, type of business, telephone number, fax number, transport managers name and how many vehicles they ran, this meant I could now make all my appointments from my desk phone on my sales days and enjoy my off duty days in the Lake District, it also meant that I knew how many vehicles the firms ran beforehand and I wouldn’t waste my newly acquired skills making Head Office look good and not getting paid for it