I was listening to a song by Jessie J called price tag, the lyrics ” Seems like everybody’s got a price, I wonder how they sleep at night when the sale comes first and the truth comes second” sparked a memory from way back

It was my first day on the ‘Controlled Selling’ course but by lunchtime, I’d had enough I decided it would be far better to sell good quality cars that customers decided they wanted to buy on their own and without me trying to mess with their heads, so after eating as much as I could at the buffet I jumped into my Chevette ES and drove home.

The suggested sales technique that tipped me over the edge was ‘if you want to get a truthful answer from your customer wait till they’re in a stressful situation ‘like turning right across oncoming traffic in an unfamiliar car’ and then fire the question at them.

Back in the 80’s Ncap standards weren’t what they are today and it occurred to me that when we were turning right I would be in the front passenger seat so if any oncoming traffic were to hit us it would be me that copped for it, I wasn’t tired of living in those days and my self-preservation instincts told me that a lot of customers were crap drivers at the best of times and on a test drive should have all their wits about them and be left well alone and not made to rack their brains trying to think up a lie.

Over the years I have attended many similar courses run by different manufacturers, basically, you treat your customers like idiots, ask them loads of ‘closed’ questions (which the only answer is yes)a word of warning, Does my Bum look big in this? is not a closed question so if asked think very carefully before answering.

The salesman’s job is to make your buying experience like the Meg Ryan restaurant scene in When Harry Met Sally, Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and before you realise you’ve just committed to buying a new car.

Another technique given was ‘do you want mud flaps fitted to the car?’ if you answer ‘Yes’ you’ve bought the car, answer ‘No’ and you’ve still committed, of course, if it was me I would say ‘Not only do I not want the mud flaps but I don’t want the car either you smarmy git!

A really invaluable sales tool when used properly is the ‘If’ statement, however In the world of controlled selling it can be the start of your worst nightmare ‘If I can get you what you the price you want for your part exchange will you buy my car?’ answer ‘Yes’, and the salesman writes up your order form and takes a deposit, but sadly that’s never going to be the final figures so then the real negotiations start and they try to see just how far they can push you.

The salesman trips off to see his controller and usually comes back with a despondent look on his face, ‘sorry I tried my hardest but I just can’t get my manager to agree to those figures, he says we would lose money on the deal and you do want us to still be here when you come to buy your next car don’t you?’ but what he has said he can do is give you (£x amount ) for your part exchange, have we got a deal? (hold’s out a hand to shake, thereby putting pressure on you and making you uncomfortable, hopefully, so that you will be too embarrassed to say no (the part exchange price usually a lot less than the deal you’ve asked for).

This process can go on for hours with numerous order forms written out then torn up, even if you decide you want to leave without further negotiations the really hardcore controlled selling boys usually have other tactics to hand, I have heard some terribly underhanded examples over the years, like oops I’m sorry the mechanic who was appraising your car has gone out on a breakdown, unfortunately, he must still have your car keys in his pocket and he could be out for a while, so why don’t we see if we can’t close this deal while he’s away?

In a very extreme example, the salesman threw the customer’s car keys on to the roof of the garage to stop them leaving, another one removed the tax disc from the customer’s vehicle, a prospective customers car was blocked in and there was no sign of the owner of the offending vehicle (it actually belonged to the garage and was the roughest part exchange they had on the lot, chosen just in case the customer lost his temper and reversed into it). One garage even had microphones installed in the office so that the salesman could listen in to the customers discussing how much they would really be prepared to settle for.

But the funniest story that I have heard was the salesman who was trying to deal a guy who presumably had nothing to do and all day to do it. The process of negotiating concessions by both parties had lingered on for hours and they were now at a standoff, the salesman was tired and fed up of going back and forth between his controller and the customer and getting nowhere, the customer too was fed up and had finally issued an ultimatum ‘either get your Boss to agree to this deal or I walk!’ The salesman knew there wasn’t a cat in hells chance of getting the deal signed off so he went to the canteen took a framed picture off the wall smashed his fist through it and put it over his head then he sauntered back into the office shrugged his shoulders and muttered sheepishly to the customer ‘You’ll never guess what my Boss said’