RIGID TIPPERS ARE such a common sight on our roads that it’s easy to forget they’re actually quite specialist bits of kit, and consequently not easy to find on the used market. What you really want is a dealer who knows a decent example when he sees one, and builds good enough relationships with his customers to be able to deliver what they need, as opposed to something vaguely approaching it. Mercedes-Benz dealership Ciceley Commercials has ended up with just that in the form of used sales executive Ian Heath, who joined the company just six months ago with a remit to effectively start again from scratch.
Initially Heath had a small amount of inherited stock but that was it, so the first thing he did was to get in touch with Mercedes’ flagship centre for used preparation at Wentworth Park and buy some vehicles worth selling –which to his mind didn’t mean tractor units, no matter how well-specced. “The regular stuff just seems to sit because everyone’s got the same thing,” he explains.
Utilising the Approved Used Commercial Vehicle Centre gives dealers access to up to 400 vehicles of all types at any one time, plus there are workshops, spray and bodywork facilities to turn an existing vehicle into whatever the potential customer asks for, cosmetically speaking. In practice, this is where the majority of Ciceley’s used truck stock comes from, and all dealers can arrange to visit the site with operators looking for something specific.
The internet means the used market has become far more nationwide in the past few years, making competition ever fiercer. As a result, having a reputation and ability to source the more unusual vehicles is a real bonus. Not all operators are ready for this brave new world yet, however, so Heath – who has nine years’ experience in used trucks – brings a bit of old-fashioned personal service to the process, a tactic which seems to be working. Since he joined Ciceley he has sold nearly 30 vehicles, an impressive achievement from a standing start. “If an operator gives me the spec he’s looking for I’ll just keep going until I find it,” Heath tells CM. “You have to be persistent because in some ways trucks are like suits – sometimes they’ll only fit one person.”
Most customers come to Heath having seen something being advertised they like. Some 80% of what he sells goes outside Ciceley’s traditional “patch” in north-west England, a lot going into the London area and as far afield as Peterborough and Haverfordwest. But that doesn’t mean the service becomes anonymous. “These customers in London don’t physically come to Ciceley,” he explains. “Instead I drive the vehicles down to them, purely to meet the customer, so they actually know who they’re talking to.” This personal touch – above and beyond the call of
duty given the distances involved – makes the world of difference to operators who are pressed for time running their own businesses, as well
as making customers feel confident in who they’re dealing with. “I once took a truck down to Mitcham for an operator to see and they bought it while I was there. I’d got on with doing my business leaving them free to do theirs,” Heath tells us. “I had to get a hire car back because
they took it on the spot.”
This face-to-face interaction, something increasingly rare in an online world, also extends to back-up, which in turn leads to repeat business. Heath is always the first point of contact for his clients, whatever issue they may be facing. “Having met the customers and talked about what they want, I’m then able to ring them when something comes up a month later they may be interested in,” Heath says. “I’ve even had customers add me on Facebook and post when they’ve got a new contract so I can go looking.” He’s a mild-mannered soul, so it’s obvious why operators feel at ease. “I think the old days of pushing people into a corner until they sign have gone,” he continues. “It’s got to be a mutual contract where you work together to get an end result.” The real measure of the trust Heath instils, however, is that customers turn to him for advice as well. “One customer rang me up recently because he’s actually trying to get rid of a vehicle having replaced it with new and needs advice on selling,” he says – advice he was happy to give despite there being no potential for gain on his side of the deal at all. When Heath says building relationships matters most, he means it.
Friday 8th December 2017