In a previous muttering, I explained how ‘messers’ are the most universally loathed folk in the motor trade. Too often I hear people bemoaning about the shark infested car showrooms and how sales staff seen to sink to unheard of depths in order to get your moniker on the dotted line.
Much of this is quite true, but you should be a fly on the wall in a closed room with a dozen sales execs and hear some of the stories about some of the feral, feckless and downright useless customers that bumble through the doors and waste everybody’s time.
Used motors are the biggest headache for me and I have always tried to avoid used vehicle sales when working in a glass house, yes I peddled used PSVs for a while, but those customers seem to understand that used means exactly just that.
Used car sales however, requires a level of patience, tolerance and understanding I just seem to lack, and my cap is doffed to those who work the trade of the used motor car. I did try it once when my sales role with Renault was merged to sell our used stock too – selling new Renaults was soul destroying, but used ones as well could drive a man to drink – or dignitas!
Of course, then there is the case of selling your own personal smoker. Here is where the fun really begins as you have to filter the dross and the time wasters in order to maximise every potential interest, again – all emotional stuff.
A recent example comes with my very own Rover 75 of which I decided to sell for no other reason than a change and something different. Avoiding the usual internet auction sites and free papers, I opted to advertise locally by using our local shopping parade and of course the obligatory laminated home printed A4 notices skilfully stuck into the rear and back door windows.
I also advertised the car on the club website and many of you will have also seen the car advertised here, latterly where most of the interest has come from. Despite careful wording asking for serious enquiries – the normal jokers and picture collectors were pinging their emails to and fro but one or two fairly serious possibilities came to fruition. It is at this point I bring to your attention the heading of the story whereby expectations need to be carefully managed and enquiries also need to be handled correctly in order to make the sale as smooth riding as possible – or so you hope anyway.
For those not in the know, management of expectation is where you explain the good and the bad in equal measures when describing the product, that way you reduce the chance of an objection and hopefully nothing comes as an unpleasant surprise to the buyer.
Besides that, I regard myself to be a square dealing kind of person who has a conscious and wants all parties to go their separate ways happy and contented, I applied the same standards when selling new motors too. Anyway, after the usual picture file sending and some text mentioning the general stuff of the car took place, the next step of the process kicked in.
The buyer stated in another email that he wanted the car and I felt that someone was walking before they could run. Asking the person to call me (no dialogue had taken place at this point) this duly took place whereby I went into considerable detail about the car – again to manage the expectations, a deal was struck and arrangements were made for a deposit to be made.
A receipt was made in the form of an email stating that should they not buy for good reason, half the deposit would be kept to cover time and expenses involved owing to me delivering the car some 150+ miles away.
The plan was to deliver the car and Keith Adams was to meet me there and we would both then drive back to his place and sign the Xantia over into my name and I would then head in a southerly direction to leafy Sussex – good plan huh? Well it should have been but the wheels of the deal well and truly fell off upon arrival a few days later. Now trust me when I say this but I am fussy when it comes to appraising cars, but the most thorough inspection took place whereby every door was opened and closed five or six times and nothing was overlooked – nothing wrong with that really but it got worse.
I could tell by the body language that the buyer was doing his very best to looked clued up but again, the level of attention to every detail was more intensive than I ever saw when a customer took delivery of his brand new car. We are talking about a £1200 Rover and not a 50 grand Jag but I kept quiet and let him get on with it though I knew deep down he was going to stall on me. A test drive followed that went on for about eight miles – again nothing wrong with that but I could sense a case of objections was going to opened very shortly.
Arriving back at his house more opening and closing of doors boots and bonnets took place an by this point both Keith and myself were frozen to the bone. Looking back I’m annoyed that I didn’t do more to take stock and simply say ‘what’s the craic then?’ but I didn’t, I was actually watching this scenario with wondrous eyes having never seen such an over the top inspection of what is in essence a cheap used car with plenty of life left in it. After a little while, he ran out of steam and coughed out the words I just knew he was going to say an hour earlier: ‘ I’ll think I’ll have to pass’
Asking what his objections were, it transpired they were regarding the items already discussed by email and phone but judging by the array of Autotrader print outs that covered his dining room table showing all models and engine sizes of all price ranges, the real reason was he didn’t really know what model to buy. There was an issue regarding the steering column adjuster I had genuinely forgotten and I even offered to mend or discount it, but there was no further headway to make – the deal had cocked. The whole gig had cost him £100 and a day’s worth of travelling for Keith and me – all disappointing stuff.
The following guidelines are by no means covering all bases, but by keeping your senses and wits about you, all parties involved will enjoy a smooth and hassle free private sale…
If you are selling
- Always try to give a full and frank description of the car mentioning both the good and the bad.
- Have a file of decent digital images to ping over to interested parties – the more recent the better.
- Make yourself contactable and be keen to respond to missed calls / answerphone messages.
- Never accept a low offer from the first viewer or discuss bottom prices on the phone.
- Invite email enquiries to real time dialogue – if they wont call you or keep emailing… chances are they are a messer.
- Leave the viewer to browse around the car and speak only when required keeping a safe distance so no to pressurise them.
- Always accompany the viewer on the test drive and check out insurance cover for this purpose.
- Never ever feel obliged to sell the car if you feel the buyer will be hassle or trouble – its your property after all.
- Avoid cheques or part payment in goods – Cash / bank draft or electronic money transfer every time.
- Request a deposit should they not have the readies there and then – make it enough to make them want to come back. 10% for every £1000 for example and clearly state a percentage retention should they back out at the last minute with no good reason.
If you are buying
- Upon arrival to view, if its not for you say so and save everyone’s time – no one ever took offence for just saying no thanks.
- Have a clear and exact idea what you are looking for model wise – do your homework and research model by model.
- Always have a good deposit with you to nail the sale on site – quick transactions often steal a good deal.
- Expect even the nicest example to have some flaws – manage your expectations to avoid disappointment.
- Ask as many questions before viewing in order to risk assess the vendor as well as the car.
- Never hide behind your keyboard – if the vendor invites a chat then call for a chat, it shows your commitment and genuineness.
Any doubts? any gut feelings? then say no and walk away – Never feel pressurised to buy regardless of your circumstance or distance travelled. If the vendor knows the game and senses your desperation he is bound to work at this and only you will end up paying in the long term.
Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications
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