I had only just started in the Motor Trade and was working for a family firm we were all honest and sharp practice was never going to be a part of our day to day dealing, I had been sent on my first ever Sales training course it was a 2-day course and me and all the other delegates had gathered in the bar on the first night, most of the small talk was about wage structures and commissions but one guy was quite loud, he’d had a little too much to drink and was boasting about how he was making a fortune, the trouble was I knew he worked for a Main Dealer who was our direct “Competition” one of the reasons I was on this course was to learn how to improve my “Closing Ratio” (the average amount of customers you had to talk to before you signed one up) as we had been losing a lot of business to them, especially to this salesman, we were left wondering what we were doing wrong and had started to question our own abilities.
Back then I hadn’t been introduced to the seedier side of the Motor Trade and I was still wet behind the ears but not wet enough to let him know who I was and where I was from, I just sat quietly listening to him and I was horrified, apparently, he was selling lots of cars by not telling the customer how much the cost was to swap, but by breaking the figure down to monthly payments that the customer could afford, that was nothing new to me as I always did that too, but he was doing it dishonestly by giving them the price over 4 and even 5 years when the customer thought it was only a 3-year deal, his victims thought they were getting a deal that was too good to be true, and it was! he figured that he would have at least 24 months before he would get found out and by then he would have made a fortune and moved on, I couldn’t believe how stupid he was, and here he was laughing about it to other salesmen, the truth is that very few customers actually check the small print on the finance documents, however, it wasn’t the perfect crime as “Duey Cheetham & How” (not their real name I hasten to add) a local firm of accountants were calculating the write-down values of their clients latest additions to his fleet when they came across the discrepancy and alerted him.
Like us the Dealership he worked for was a small previously trustworthy family firm with an excellent reputation, they hadn’t been complicit in the scam and hadn’t realised that he was conning people, they just thought they had struck lucky and employed a truly gifted Salesman, when they discovered his dodgy dealings rather than call the Police and suffer the ignominy of bad publicity and get their Name sullied, they unraveled all the fraudulent deals with the finance company and compensated the customers it cost them a small fortune. I don’t know whether this incident was the catalyst or they were just sick of the Motor Trade but they sold their business a short time later.
If like me you cling on to the belief that Crime doesn’t pay and Justice will prevail, I can tell you that we are both wrong, the first customer to discover that he had been duped had bought several cars for his company, the extra payments were going to cost him a fortune over the extra term of the agreement, and he was enraged, along with a few other members of his staff, he drove the cars in convoy straight to the showroom blocking the road up outside he walked up to the salesman put all the keys on his desk then punched him in the face. Ha you’re probably thinking the salesman got what he deserved, and again you would be wrong as word had got around and the unscrupulous salesman was unable to get another job selling cars so with his ill-gotten gains he started his own business and it flourished (as far as I know he operated this one legally and above board)
I can remember registration number from cars I sold years ago, but tell me your name and I will have forgotten it by tomorrow however approximately 25 years later when a guy walked into our showroom, I had an inkling that I had met him before but I couldn’t remember where or when until I had sold him a car (My Closing Ratio Had Improved Considerably By Now)and was taking his details for the finance application he had an unusual name and I put 2 and 2 together, I didn’t let on to him who I was or that I knew of his past indiscretions but I was sorely tempted to add another 12 months to the length of his agreement for the new £80,000 Mercedes SL500 Convertible that he was treating himself to, Sadly I am now resigned to believing that there is absolutely no Justice in the World
Some Salesman are out and out liars, some are just Arthur Daley type likable rogues who bend the truth slightly to get the deal, their little white lies don’t really have a financial implication to the customer, and there is no real harm caused, they make the customer think he’s getting the best deal he could possibly get, whilst imposing a time limit and applying a little pressure to deal today dissuading them from going away to shop around in case they miss this Once in a lifetime deal that is on the table.
At the very same training course that I met the Con Man I also met a guy who had been a car salesman in Australia before coming to England and I learned a valuable lesson from him, and I still use it to this day I have always kept an “Opportunities to do Business Book” in which I write all the details of real customers/prospects who were “looking“ for a particular Make and Model of vehicle which I hadn’t got in stock at the time, Motor Trade Sods Law states that if you tell a customer whose hot to trot that you haven’t got a car in the morning without taking their telephone number, you will be offered a car in PX that would have suited them down to the ground that very same afternoon but you will have no means to contact them and do a deal!
If you’re not in the trade you should now have a vague idea of how an Opportunities to do business list should work so let me get back to the Australian Salesman, my point, and the second and final part of my story, the dealership where Ozzy worked was in the middle of nowhere they were the equivalent of our country yokels but they still had a few tricks up their sleeves that they could teach the city folk like me, In pride of place in the showroom was a large blackboard, on it was chalked a list of all the cars that they were supposedly trying to locate for “Red Hot” customers, the garage was situated at the end of a long straight road, the Sales Department had a lookout and his job was to sit on the roof and warn them when a customer was approaching, he also served as a “spotter” he was equipped with a pair of high powered binoculars and a Walkie Talkie, when a car turned onto their road, the spotter would note the, make, model, year and colour then relay it down to the showroom where one of the staff would write the details on the blackboard midway down the list (so as not to arouse suspicion) and alongside it a fictitious customers name and a few Asterix’s in the Urgent column.
When the customer entered the Showroom they were greeted by the duty salesman who would qualify their needs by asking what car they were looking for, how much they wanted to spend and then in the middle of taking details of their part exchange, but feigning a look of surprise the Salesman would exclaim
(I’m paraphrasing a little here)
“Well Tan My Hide and Stone the Crows, This is your lucky day Cobber” then they’d lead the bemused customer over to the Blackboard point to the freshly added details and go straight into their well-rehearsed tried and tested spiel, (
(Australian Accent Mode Engaged)
Look there Mate, 3rd row down on the board, We need a car like yours urgently we’ve got a live one chomping at the bit to buy that exact make and model, if you sign up today I’ll do you a Corker of a deal!
more often than not the customer couldn’t believe his luck and did a deal there and then
I learned 2 lessons on that course and both of them were learned in the bar that night
11) What we were doing wrong at our Dealership, was being honest and straight and our competitor wasn’t, I’ve since learned that being honest and straight seriously impairs your ability to make exorbitant amounts of money in the Motor Trade but it does make for a good night’s sleep and no jail time.
22) The Opportunities to do business close is a Godsend and works even better when you have a real customer looking for a car, you can actually afford to do a better deal for the customer and end up selling 2 cars and making more money