Sharp tactics have not moved on in 20 years finds Jim Duffy, as he puts double glazing reps to the test over his patio doors
One of the films that I encourage all entrepreneurs to watch and digest is Glengarry Glenross. It’s a brilliantly dark movie that tells the story of some shady practices in selling that took place in the USA in the 80s and 90s. Alec Baldwin is a brutally focused top of the line salesman with the expensive watch and sharp suit to boot. Baldwin delivers an iconic sales lecture to the team assembled in front of him on a rainy evening, just before they hit the phones and start selling parcels of land.
It reminded me of the decidedly dodgy sales tactics many of the UK double glazing firms employed at that time. I recall having a well-known double glazing and conservatory company quote me for a small conservatory in the early 90s. I almost fell off my chair when the slick salesman looked at me and said, “I can offer this price tonight only. It’s £15,000 and I’m giving you the shirt off my back on this price.” Suffice to say he never got the sale, and I thought that double glazing sales tactics had moved on in 2017. But this is not the case…..
As luck would have it, the locking mechanism on my patio doors gave up at the weekend. It’s one of those tilt and turn jobs, so not an easy fix and I later discovered that they do not make this type of locking system anymore. Okay, I thought, time to get a nice new one. Like most people now, there are no yellow pages lying around so I Googled in the hope that following the European Courts this week fining Google €2.6 billion for allegedly being naughty on search results, I would get an honest result. In the search bar I stuck in ‘double glazing near me’. Up popped the top “paid for” ads, where companies pay to be top of the pops. The usual candidates populated this – what one might call the big boys. It took me two pages later to get to local firms.
I decided to employ a big boy and local company strategy, where I would have two bigger players quoting and two local firms also having a go. I went to all their websites and filled in the contact me page. Now, this was a Sunday but within 30 minutes, I had both big boys on the phone. Mind you, it wasn’t them directly, it was the call centres they employed to book calls with me. I advised both of them I wanted a quote for a patio door. I had no preference as to whether it slid open or closed. I was told that a sales rep would be out at 4pm and 7.30pm respectively that day. Pretty quick I thought. And guess what? No-one turned up for either of these appointments.
The next morning, I received no less that 10 calls from these two bigger players. It was hilarious and sad at the same time, as the call centre ladies obviously did not speak to each other, nor have their systems speak to each other, as they booked and double booked sales reps to come out. At one point, I think it was call 10, I was rude and while I did not swear or take God’s name in vane, I was pretty blunt. Nevertheless, I had two visits booked for that day and I was assured they would be there.
Later in the afternoon, Alec Baldwin MkI showed up. He sat down and asked where my partner was. I advised him that I would make the buying decision and that he could continue. He was not happy at this. He then proceeded to get out two big ring binders full of laminated inserts. What are you doing? – I asked. I have to go through all of this with you for compliance. This would take 30 minutes. No chance I stated. Give me the three-minute version. Again, I had put him off his stride and he was miffed. He prattled on and quickly finished.
He eventually got up and reluctantly measured the patio door. He then did some calculations and said he would have to phone his manager. Which he then did. The conversation with his manager took place as if I wasn’t in the room. How surreal I thought. I could only imagine David Brent from The Office on the other side of the phone. He then ended his call and said “I’ve spoken with my manager and while this door is £9,000 retail, I can get it to £4,000 today only. Our prices went up this morning. How does that sound?” I said ‘No thanks’. He then waffled on about marketing and admin costs and spurted out £1,900 is my final price. ‘No thanks’ I said. Within five minutes he had left, telling me that if I used company X they would stiff me. I hadn’t even mentioned company X - his competitors.
About two minutes later, he knocked on my door, offering me the patio doors for £1,650 as his manger would strip out the admin fee.
Alec Baldwin MkII was even worse, as he told me I was ‘stupid’ installing Alec Baldwin MkI’s doors as they faded within five years due to weathering. He never got the sale either.
Double glazing sales tactics have not moved on one iota from the 1990s. Alec Baldwin would not be happy as these two characters ended up with no sale. Time to change the script guys.
Jim Duffy MBE is co-founder of The Moonshot Academy. His new book, Create Special, about how to think and act like an entrepreneur, is published by Harriman House