Sales Talk : The right way to do it…

Mike Humble

Personal taste aside – I saw the i40 and liked it enough for a closer inspection.

The other day I was bimbling along in my cocooned world of Rover’s patented leather and walnut when I was overtaken by a Hyundai i40. ‘What’s the fuss about that’, you may think, but I had to rub my eyes partly due to the fact that I actually found it to be a nice looking bit of tin. Being en route towards Gatwick, there also happens to be a Hyundai dealer there, so I decided that I would pop by just for a ‘blimp’. I trundled onto the forecourt and it was everything you would expect of a modern Pacific Rim dealership.

All the wares were parked in a slanted, row looking ship-shape and Bristol fashion with no gawdy whitewash screen scribbling or day glo boards thrown into the windscreens – just a selection of immaculate motors displaying the asking prices. Customer parking areas were clearly displayed, and in a rare case these days, you could actually park in them – not a single dealer sign-written demonstrator was in sight. Plipping the lock button, I left the Rover behind me, entered the showroom and headed for the i40 that was sat dead centre of the spacious emporium.

Some of you may recall the horror I encountered in a nearby Citroen dealer a little while back with disinterested staff and back row receptionists seeming to be far more interested in Facebook or text messages than looking professional. The moment I walked through the door, a office girl passed me by with a cheery ‘hi there’ and a sales chap sat on his desk gave eye contact and bid me a hearty good morning. Not hard is it? Right away I felt secure in the knowledge these guys (and gals) were on the ball.

Doing the usual walk round looking and obligatory opening and closing the doors, the sales chap spoke up by saying ‘have a good over it and I’ll speak with you in a moment when you have your bearings’ – wow! That could have been just me a few years ago. Sometimes a simple acknowledgement and appreciation of your presence is enough to suffice, better than being ignored or even worse, jumped on by some oik in a cheap suit before you have even opened your car door. As promised two or three minutes later, the exec raised to his feet and came over towards me.

He was textbook – shook my hand, gave me his name and asked for mine then asked me what had brought me into the dealership today – oh I could have kissed him. In no uncertain terms, I told him I was not in the market currently but rather than disappear with a puff of smoke like some kind of Genie from the lamp, he was happy to just to tell me about the car and answer any questions I may have. Now, I do know a thing or three about ‘pitch patter’ and while he was subtly still ‘qualifying me’ by asking me what my current steed was etc, he was a world away from the hard sell tactics.

In next to no time, I was no longer interested in the car I had come to view, but more in awe of his relaxed and friendly approach to handling customers. Spotting his in tray on his desk, I noticed there was a credible number of deal files that told me he had plenty of pending deals which is often a fair indication to a guys performance. So after becoming conscious of not wishing to keep him from his craft, I pulled the conversation around by asking for a brochure and choosing to leave. Even there, he did things just right – I was offered his business card though I did decline to hand over my personal details.

He was more than understanding in my choice to not offer my number or e-mail address, though I did cite that should I wish to take things any further, I would be in touch. A good strong handshake followed and I sauntered back to my car impressed with almost everything I encountered. Now this is why the likes of KIA and Hyundai do so well in the UK. They have exacting standards of customer care and satisfaction ratings that even the Germans fail to achieve, and it’s here you find all those MG Rover patrons of old.

Back in 1995 there was a dark cloud on the horizon, initially, only the size of a cotton bud in the form of Daewoo. They offered free this and that, but rather than the rest of the trade sit up and take notice, they opted to gang up together and in effect, run the new boys out of town. Subsequent far eastern marques are now established here in the UK and will remain to do so for so many good reasons. Funny how not so long ago owning a KIA was almost akin to burning tyres so far as social acceptance mattered  – today they are a runaway hit simply because of the promise of care, service & granite warranties.

Back in the good old bad old days, many Rover dealers did so well because the sales force often excelled with customer service. Selling flawed items like Maestro or Montego means you needed to have a USP (unique selling point) in other areas namely customer retention. Your average Joe Punter can accept a wonky car to a certain degree, especially if all parties are seen to be moving Heaven and Earth to put matters right. This is why so many customers stayed loyal to the cause despite issues over build quality or poor re-sale values – people will only buy from people, its that simple.

Not every potential customer is a red blooded petrol head who yearns for heritage or sporting prowess, many simply don’t care what they drive so long as its a five-seater steel umbrella – though everyone expects to be treated fairly, squarely and with care.  A good friend of mine bought an i35 from the same place recently and even though they had a right tussle for a discount, tempers never frayed and both parties got what they wanted in the end with everyone walking away happy.

Like I have stated all along – good money can still be earned by simply throwing straight dice and its nice to know there are still – a few good men!

If the late George Turnbull is reading this from up high – I salute you sir!

Old school KIA – As pretty on your driveway as an old soiled mattress, but today the brand is held in high esteem by dealers and customers alike.
Mike Humble


  1. as it should be done. My inlaws recently went into a Merc dealer in Chester looking at a £100k purchase. Drove in with a 6 month old Range Rover and they are known to the dealer staff, yet no one acknowledged their presence, for half an hour…same at Audi….customer service? courtesy? dead it seems.

    Perhaps they should buy Korean?

  2. i40 hatch isn’t a bad looking steed, like a cross between a Mondeo and a C5. Good to see a new competitor in the traditional “dad car” market sector, when the likes of Nissan and Renault have abandoned it.

    One thing we found, nursing the other half’s Getz back to health, is that the parts dept of our local Hyundai garage is not patronising, even when she went in herself to get an exhaust section from a brief description quoted from our mechanic.

    Though it always wasn’t rosy. Old fella works for an engineering firm with a car fleet. They travel all over the island by car/van, so need a good motor.
    Late 80s they were replacing their fleet of aging Sierras and mk2 Cavaliers, a Hyundai dealer was just setting up in town and they got a few Stellars in at a good price. Unfortunately the mix of old Cortina and Mitsubishi components didn’t seem up to the job, and when the dealer sales manager was invited to the xmas party, there was nearly a festive ruckus!
    After that they went on to late BXs and early Xantias with the XUD(T) engine and self-levelling hydraulic suspension able to take a boot full of heavy parts and tools.

  3. If only the dealership staff from more prestigous marques were reading this. How many times have members of my family and friends who have been looking to buy new BMWs, Jaguars and even Land Rovers from Westcountry-based dealerships walked away rather disillusioned because of the way they have been treated? And it is not by just the sales staff either, but also by the humble receptionist who clearly sued the charm school.

    Interestingly, whilst on holiday in Austria last year, the sales staff at the BMW/MINI showroom in Kaprun were very polite and accommodating when I went in there and asked in English whether I could have some sales literature for the MINI range. Back home I used to get rewarded by a grunt and plenty of tutting!

  4. I don’t think it’s fair to tar all prestige marques as being poor. My experiences have been as variable with the location as they have been with marque, and I give a lot of credit to Jaguar’s Worcester dealership for being equally robust.

    Our local Chrysler dealer, Heritage, was equally good – though their follow up has been poor enough that I’d taken the V8 Touring I’d spotted before they’d shown me any CRD Tourings from the network and I’ve yet to hear anything more from them (seems a bit rubbish to go in and go “Look, I bought this one” when they were so nice, though I kinda want to underline that I was actively buying a car, not just faffing about).

    The worst buying experiences I’ve had have been Ford & Vauxhall dealers. PSA fail primarily on aftercare, they’re usually alright on selling the car (IME). Croall Bryson in the Borders were a special case for Rover – their Fiat salesman, Ian, knew me and thus was always good and gave me time when I looked at Rovers after moving to that dealership, but the rest of the Rover staff (and Land Rover) were pretty poor. Similarly when they had a Jaguar showroom, the car enthusiast salesman there was lovely and patient when I was 17 and mostly just hanging around being a nuisance.

  5. I find the experience of a car dealership depends entirely on what clothes I am wearing when I enter a dealership. Work attire of shirt and tie attract nearly instant response. However, casual clothing seems to attract disinterest. My local dealers Nissan, Mercedes, Audi and BMW showed no real interest at all when I turned up wearing jeans. That means my Audi TT came from the dealer 10 miles further away because they actually cared and treated me well. This also meant that my parents bought there car from them as well. You need to treat everyone as they might no be able to buy a car from you straight away, but who knows what they will buy in a few years

  6. About 10 years ago my Mum decided she wanted to new Fiesta, and as I had been a dealer salesperson a few years before I knew a couple of the guys at the Ford dealership and ultimately they took the order.
    Prior to that though I insisted that Mum looked at some of the other cars in that size. We did the usual suspects in the area Fiat, Honda, Vauxhall, Nissan and indeed another Ford Dealer.
    I gave all the glaringly obvious buying signals but the only one that offered a test drive, a brochure or even asked to take her name was the Honda dealer.
    My sales manager would have given me an almightly bollocking if I hadn’t done any of those things when I was in the trade.

  7. @ Richard Kilpatrick:

    I certainly would not tar all prestige marques as being poor as there are certainly many out there that are very good. My own experiences may be down to regional variations in quality and the fact they are all part of a large garage group. My father often found BMW dealers in Somerset offered a far superior level of customer service than those in Exeter. Likewise I found the same for an MG Rover Group dealer based in Bristol rather than in South Somerset.

    Like you I have had poor service from certain Rover garages in the past (again in the Westcountry) and this was the most difficult to accept given my huge enthusiasm for the manufacturer and its products.

  8. It’s the snobbery thing with the prestige makes I think….to walk into a BMW, Merc, Jag or Audi showroom in your jeans and Reeboks is the kiss of death. I don’t give a toss personally – my money is as good as anyones IMHO. When I was shopping for my first A3 the first dealer I went to (dressed in my joggers….big mistake!) completely ignored us, in fact the sales exec made a point of VISIBLY checking all the cars in the compound was locked after I told him I was just doing a bit of initial legwork.

    Second one I went to (with me similarly dressed), got the sale. And I’ve had two further Audis from them since – so as you say – people buy from people. I just wish they’d leave their petty prejudices at home and get on with what they are paid to do.

  9. Agree with Mike on this matter. When trading cars, if I get a good deal, or should I say “palatable” deal I like to develop a rapport with the salesman which means we can exchange banter when I revisit the dealership for servicing or warranty jobs. it’s always nice when they remember your name too!!

    The new Hyundai i40 is rather attractive I agree, as is the Tourer estate version and the latest i30. Just goes to show how Korean cars have improved in recent times…

  10. The best dealer service I’ve ever had was from a Hyundai dealer- it impressed the hell out of me, and it would make me consider a Hyundai if I had the money for one.

    I agree that the i40, despite the silly name (the ‘i’ prefix that everything seems to come with annoys me for being derivative and unimaginative), is a fine looking car indeed- and a million miles better than the Hyundai Accent Coupe I once bought dead cheap (well, it was almost as dead as it was cheap).

    Dare I suggest that the i40 is a better looking car IMHO than the MG6?

  11. I knew the game was about up for MG Rover back in 2005 when I visited my local dealer that had moved to new premisis in Sidcup and the only member of staff on duty was a work experience who was too young to drive, the rest had gone on a two hour lunch break…
    My local Jaguar dealer are excellent, first rate sales people who take pride in the cars they sell and that is reflected in the general atmosphere and makes it almost a pleasure to have to take the wifes X Type to them for servicing and MOTs!

  12. 1999 I went into a Honda dealership in West Croydon asking about the Civic, the guy started waffling about pulling up against a Rolls Royce and seeing the similarity(?) I took a brochure and walked out.

    2005 I twice went into a Toyota dealership in Bromley and wandered around and over a Corolla for 15 minutes each. I was totally ignored.

  13. I remember reading a motoring journalist writing about looking around a Porsche dealership while wearing jeans & casual shirt and being totally ignored by the staff.
    When he left and opened the door of his Lotus Esprit Turbo he suddenly had Porsche staff running after him.

  14. ” Back in the good old bad old days, many Rover dealers did so well because the sales force often excelled with customer service. Selling flawed items like Maestro or Montego means you needed to have a USP (unique selling point) in other areas namely customer retention. Your average Joe Punter can accept a wonky car to a certain degree, especially if all parties are seen to be moving Heaven and Earth to put matters right. This is why so many customers stayed loyal to the cause despite issues over build quality or poor re-sale values – people will only buy from people, its that simple. ”

    Mike, this paragraph so much describes a once BL>MG Rover dealer in West Cumbria. I’m sure the BL>MG Rover market share in the surrounding area was higher than the national average and that many customers returned to the dealer time and time again, their purchase ranging from, say, Allegro to Rover 25. Why? As you say, the dealer service, as opposed to the vehicles on offer, was the key factor.

  15. Recently, I rolled into the Audi dealer on Piccadilly wearing jeans etc, and was immediately approached. On explaining that I was looking for information on LED headlamps, for an old motorcycle I am restoring, they were helpful, and gave me a card for the service department.

  16. There’s something to be said about doing things the right way. I remember back in the summer of ’87. I was 10, my brother was 7, and my parents had just made the last payment on their ’83 Dodge Aries, a horrid emissions era POS. They swore they’d only buy Toyota again. We went to two Toyota dealers, and I’ve never seen my parents treated so badly. The salesman yelled at me to stay away from the Celica in the showroom, and then ushered us to a Camry, which they wanted. We test drove it, with the salesman in the front and my mom in the back with us. He ushered us around the block as quickly as possible, then told my dad to sign on the line- but there was a $2500 ‘dealer fee’ for the car in addition to the sticker that was not negotiable. My parents- with immaculate credit and a Train Driver job promptly left and drove 45 minutes out of town to a small Ford dealer to look at the new Taurus wagon. The dealer took us on a 30 minute test drive- sitting in the back seat, and letting me and my brother ride in the ‘way back.’

    When we arrived at the dealer, he put my brother and me INSIDE the new Mustang convertible to play while he did the deal with my parents. When we got bored, he gave us a copy of every brochure- even the paint and fabric samples. My parents not only bought the Taurus, but sent 15 or more other members of our extended family and friends to that Ford dealer. They’ve probably sold 100 cars to my family and their friends over the years.

    In 2006, when they finally wanted a new Prius, they bypassed the dealer and got one from Costco just so they wouldn’t have to give them a ‘red cent.’ That Toyota dealership didn’t survive the recession.

    Interestingly, I hear the same thing from people who bought a Lada or Yugo in the UK- people were willing to drive these cars not because they were good, but because the dealers were. A mate here in the UK told me about a Yugo he had back in the ’80s, and when taking it in for a repair at 3 years old, the dealer saw the front fenders had some rust blisters- not holes, just bubbling paint, he replaced them with some he had ‘laying around’ and gave the whole car a respray for free. This was with only an apology for the service taking longer than usual- out of warranty and on a £3500 car. His friends then started driving Yugos from the same place. Now- how much cheaper were those wings and respray than a big shouty ad in the local paper?

  17. David @14, I presume you are referring to Edgar and Son, who now sell Nissans, Hyundais and Suzukis and run a Ford service centre. I have bought three cars from them and the customer care is excellent. You might pay a bit more than Arnold Clark, I bought a used Fiesta from Edgars after being treated like an idiot at Arnold Sharks, but it’s worth it as I got a free extended warranty, a free service, a free MOT and six months tax. You can see why Edgars have been in business for 90 years, it’s a family firm where customer care comes first.

  18. On or around the UK launch of the i40 tourer we added a diesel active style one to our fleet from the local dealer, it worked out better spec’d than an insignia but at less money than an astra.

    Bizarrely we had procession of the vehicle from dealer stock before they’d even bothered to ask for the deposit…

    Its not my car, but drives very well , looks very good with “pimp tints” & most people compliment the driver on their “Honda”

  19. The now sadly departed small Skoda dealers were just like this. Unacompanied test drives, friendly salesman that treated you as a friend. When 4 people of my family all bought a car from them, I even bought a 2nd car from them, and so did my ex g/f’s dad. When we were part exing a 4 year old Favorit, one dealer offered an insult for the car, and that dealer just took a quick look, and asked what we wanted for it. We said a figure, salesman simply said OK. The first car I bought from them, Upon collection there was a bottle of wine, and bouquet of flowers on the passenger seat, a full tank of petrol, and 12 months rent, all without asking, and it was a used car at that. 2nd car was brand spanking, free leccy windows & central locking, and mats & mudflaps,and another bottle of plonk.

  20. Its really nice to be talking about positive experiences of car dealers for a change- usually it is the opposite.

  21. the current range of cars from Hyundai and Kia are very nice looking conservative(well styled yet simple designed) cars. The Japanese and the Chinese (MG) need to take note. the question has been asked before is Japan the Britain of the 70/80s (the same outcome albeit with different problems)alex

  22. “Not every potential customer is a red blooded petrol head who yearns for heritage or sporting prowess, many simply don’t care what they drive so long as its a five-seater steel umbrella”

    Exactly. Enthusiasts struggle to comprehend how anyone could buy and live with something like an Astra or an Auris, but want a car with a brand they know, a price they’re willing to pay and a vehicle which does everything they want it to do reliably.

  23. Glenn @ 17

    Got it in one! Edgar and Son is exactly who I’m referring to. Used to live just a few miles down the very same road.

  24. I’ll never forget popping into a Ford showroom in Newcastle back in ’07 to look at the newly launched Galaxy, spoke to a salesman who seemed to ignore my wishes to learn about the Galaxy and tried to change my mind to an S Max, even after I assured him that it was the Galaxy I was interested in, he continued to refer to it as an S Max and not a Galaxy! He seemed totally uninterested in the cars themselves and knew very little about them, he decided to start pushing to get a deposit on a car even before we’d had a proper look around and promised us we could have a black one or a silver one to go onto the then new ’57 plate. When I told him I wanted dark blue or red and did he have a colour chart so I could see the choice of available colours he declined, saying there wasn’t any call for colours other than Black or silver and that we really should avoid “odd ball” colours like Red or Blue because we’d never sell the car on come trade in time!! Needless to say I left and ended up in the local Citroen Dealer putting a deposit down on a C4 Picasso…

  25. I agree a little and disagree a little too – it really depends on the dealership. I’ve owned both Hyundais and KIAs within the last 3 years. The Hyundai was bought in 2009 and the dealership was quite small but fairly well presented. However, the customer services was shocking, they weren’t interested in me, I had to go and find someone out the back because the showroom was devoid of staff for around 20 minutes (this was when the i10/i20/i30 and i800 were all newly on sale – no excuse not to be busy!) Following a few niggles and subsequent poor aftercare I swore I’d not have one again (I would, I was being dramatic) My experience of KIA was completely the reverse, same town, different dealership, excellent service all round, no bullsh*t, couldn’t do more for me – this was the dealership I traded the Hyundai in at. I got the impression that the Hyundai dealership had been great in the past but they could not keep up with the demands of bigger sales volumes – I found the same to be true of many Skoda dealerships, having owned Skodas for over 10 years on and off, I have a great view of how they changed pre and post Octavia Mk1. They have become more clinical, less personal, less interested with each passing year. When I bought my first Fabia in 2000, they couldnt do enough for me, when I bought my last Fabia in 2007 they couldn’t care less – it seems I had become a number on a spreadsheet rather than a person. Combine this attitude with increasing model prices and suddenly Skoda is not the attractive proposition it was for those years where I bought 5-6 new Skodas.

  26. James has hit the nail on the head when it comes to Skoda customer service. Nowadays, most of the dealers couldn’t give 2 tosses about you. I’ve heard lots of bad words about one of the motor groups in East Anglia that have the franchise, and are well known for putting their name on the bootlid of your car in a vinyl graphic, even when asked not to.

  27. I test drove a Feista ST2 a while back in the middle of winter. After the test drive the salesman made a cup of tea and didn’t offer me one.. annoyed I went to another ford dealership and bought a car. A while later the dealership was on Facebook saying how wonderful they were, I told them my experience…I had a nasty message from the sales manager sent to my personal Facebook messenger telling me to keep my opinions to myself!

  28. Adam : let’s face it, in present times most car dealers and employees thereof are standing on the edge of a precipice . This explains , but does not excuse , both the initial and the subsequent rudeness. It shows a gross lack of intelligence for them to conduct themselves in a way which, even in the best of times, is commercial suicide

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