Blog: Dave LeggettCar sales stress

Dave Leggett | 5 August 2003

Watched an interesting BBC fly-on-the-wall 'reality' television show last night centred on a salesman at one of the huge car supermarkets we have here in England's Midlands. These are the sort of places you usually find loads of either new 'parallel import' or UK-imported surplus stock popular models and mainstream late-plate late-model used cars. If you're happy with a model's standard specification and a no-frills approach to the sale and after-sales service, you can save thousands on your new car, but these are not usually the places you go if you want loads of attention, a hard-to-find model or colour or to spend half a day customising up a new car order from a lengthy option list. That didn't seem to concern a continuous stream of customers.

Stressful seems the best way to describe the salesmen's working environment. If I heard right, the target is 8-10 sales a day, pay is commission-only and the metal is moved using pretty high pressure tactics, though you had to admire the professionalism of one bloke in particular, who had a sharp, well-focused response to any objection or query. There seemed to be a lot of disagreement between the salesmen as to whether you ambushed the customer as soon as he set foot on the lot, or let him have a look about first. Meanwhile, the boss - a Mercedes-driving, self-made millionaire - wandered about the huge lot, barking commands acted on immediately by support staff like a car washer, who, frankly, seemed scared stiff of him. I watched sadly as a dispute between two salesmen over tactics came to blows, and one of them, not the instigator, it seemed, was fired bang on Christmas time.

Reminded me of the two separate approaches taken by big Ford dealers in a city I once lived. One had his salesmen ambush potential buyers the second they put a big toe on the lot and, rumour had it, fired the bottom two sales staff at the end of each month. The other took a low-pressure, family-friendly approach and hired sales staff who were far less pushy. I don't know which was the more successful outlet, but I know which one was more pleasant for a mere browser - the bane of my TV show salesmen's lives - to visit. And, I suspect, to work at.
Graeme Roberts


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