Stories of the Covid-19 lock-down from a small-time salesman and his dog

Day 22, Tuesday 14th April

Back to work today and I have a huge amount of our database to contact. So set about it with great earnest. Some salespeople despise prospecting and if it’s just for the sake of it so do I, but when you have a clear message and need then it’s great. I mean I get paid to talk to people.
Making the call is the biggest psychological barrier you have to get through, once you’re on the phone its fine. If you spend to long looking at the inquiry or thinking about it you will find more reasons not to call than you will to call. So in my eyes it’s simple, head down and get on with it. By lunchtime I am more than halfway through and running out of steam. I do like doing it, but it is a little bit ground hog day after a while. There is only so many ways you can ask the same questions. The trick is; in my mind to make every conversation fresh and personal. I have worked in plenty of places and sat in plenty of training sessions that will tell you their script is golden. ‘Stick to this boys it will sell you plenty’!
Rubbish; people buy from people. If you don’t build rapport, a relationship, then they will buy from anyone or worse anywhere. I want my customers to buy from me. I want them to remember me, not necessarily the company I work for, but me. The biggest compliment you can get as a salesman is a referral from an existing customer. It means you have done your job right. I like to think the conversation goes something like; “where did you get your new motorhome from?” “Andrew, I’ll give you his number”.
For that reason I don’t use scripts. Don’t get me wrong, I have a few. I have even written a few, but for me they are guides. It’s all good to get you point over, but don’t follow them to the letter. People aren’t stupid, they will ping a scripted sales call or one from a struggling salesperson straight away. So don’t bother, talk to them like you know them and make friends. It’s an easier call all round, you come off the phone feeling buoyed by the whole thing and hopefully your customer does to. The next call is even easier.

So that’s my day, I break off at one to listen to Dr Bloomfield and have a little lunch.
If ever there was a man for the job at hand this is the man. A true public speaker who genuinely knows his subject inside out. I am not too sure about the others who get a go when Dr Bloomfield and Jacinda aren’t available, but these two I can relate to and be confident with. They have sold themselves to me, much like the rest of the general pubic I guess?
He does read his points from a script but most of what he says I get the impression is from the man himself. Watch him next time, particularly how he answers the questions. Honest, genuine, he’d make a good salesman.

In an end of day debrief with my boss we get on to the subject of mystery shoppers. Now I know everyone needs a job and feedback is a great learning tool. But these people are parasites! Waltzing around car dealerships wasting salespeople’s times so they can go out for a jolly in a nice new car and report back how badly you did at trying to sell it to them. I have never liked these people; I know it doesn’t show!
I have always argued that each customer is different and the process to sell them a car or whatever, is different every time. So what’s the point of Mr or Mrs Mystery-shopper coming round to check you have met all the requirements? It’s as irrelevant as the criteria you have to meet. Sure there are certain things you kind of have to do to sell anything, demonstrate it and ask if they want to do buy it for two. Now this might sound flippant but you would be amazed how many sales people don’t ask for the business. But then there are other things that are outside of your control. Spoken to within five minutes of walking on the forecourt! There are two trains of thought on this too. Do you leave the customer alone to browse or do you jump on them within five minutes of them arriving. Each customer is different but the criteria for mystery shoppers is the same.
Anyway I digress from the story I was going to tell. The story of my first ever mystery shop.
Still relatively new to the motor trade I had just started working for Honda UK. I hadn’t been with them very long and was still learning the ropes so to speak. I had a lovely little desk at the back of the showroom, where I could survey all. And n this fateful day I was watching our assistant sales manager (ASM) trying to juggle his customers. I have always hated this from any salesperson, you can only deal with one customer at a time and as soon as you try to do differently it goes wrong. What our dear ASM used to go was collect all the internet leads and pop them into his diary. The rest of the sales team would be scratching around but he would have appointment after appointment. Today was no different, he had picked up a walk-in customer knowing he had a pre-booked test drive at the same time. The rest of the team were busy and I was just happy to watch this unfold. Now our friend the test drive was getting very agitated, with hindsight more so than a normal customer. Consequently after about twenty minutes of floundering around said ASM called on me to take the gentleman out for a test-drive.
Now honestly I had been with Honda about a week, I knew all the cars but when it started getting down to the minutiae I had no idea. So I go fetch the car, I can still remember it. A 2.0ltr CRV SR 2WD Auto. A nice car but probably a little underpowered for British roads and certainly not the best on fuel.
Now, we had a strict, salesman drives first policy. For good reason, not only where we on a particularly busy road. But the highest point of agitation for the customer is the first three minutes of the test-drive. So if that’s the case I would rather be driving than them.
My friend wasn’t having a barn of this and if I am honest I didn’t put up much of a fight. So off we go, more points already lost. I am doing my best to get the guy back onside, talking about anything but the car. He was a drummer so needed a big boot, tick for the CRV. I am chatting about music. What style does he play, all of that? But he keeps trying to talk about the car. I have learned now; generally speaking people like to talk about themselves, they are proud of what they do. When they don’t be worried, it’s either a robbery or a mystery shopper. Anyway I am all new to this, I am naive. It’s at this very point he jumps in with what is a very simple question, one of which I have all the answers to now. But not then. So he says “what’s the fuel economy like?” To this day I don’t really know where it came from but in reply to this very simple question I chose these immortal words. “Fuel economy? You won’t get passed many petrol stations in this!”
What I didn’t tell you about mystery shoppers is that they are like spies and have a little cameras pinned to their tie or wherever. I have learned now to look carefully, I may in later years have leant across the desk to address the tie directly to ask if they would be buying the car today?
But not this time, I am still green. So back to the dealership we go. I offer our friend a coffee. There is points for that, so a small reprieve. Pass him back to the ASM to try and work his magic on what I can only imagine was a disastrous situation.
A month or so had passed and I hadn’t really given it any though. Or at least until I could hear my sales manager roaring from his office behind me. He was watching my first screen play. It would be fair to say I had some explaining to do, but the ASM took the brunt of it for not managing his time better. I got let off with the immortal words, we all get one bad mystery shop.
It turns out he had been caught once lounging against a car in the showroom. When Mr Mystery-shopper had asked him about the car he slid the brochure across the bonnet at him, telling him “all the information is in there, come back and tell me which one you want”.


  1. DPATT

    Oh yes……it’s a bugger when they are mystery shoppers !!!
    How rude !!!….what a waste of our time……BUT…….maybe we
    should treat all customers, as if they are….a mystery shopper…

    It could be a good game……. :)

    • DPATT

      Nah….don’t think so…….. :)

Thoughts and feedback most welcome