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Dear RV Dealer, here’s why you lost a sale

Dear RV Dealers,

Last month our family purchased a new RV.  It wasn’t our first, and won’t be our last.  And while our purchase was very cut-and-dried with no trade in and our bank overnighting a cashier’s check for us, choosing a dealership was not as easy as choosing the RV.

It had been five years since our last fifth wheel purchase, and we had forgotten how stressful it can be to play the buying game. We just wanted an up-front, honest dealer from which to purchase the RV. We wanted no games, no manipulation, and no lies.  Finding one was harder than we thought it would be, and in retrospect, this is why we didn’t purchase from you.

1. Your salesman is not an RVer, but thinks that he knows it all since he sells them. 

Once a salesperson starts going down that path, he is just a snake-oil salesman to us. The truth is that after full-time RVing for more than five years, we do, in fact, know a little bit about RVs.  The minute that you started trying to sell me RVs that don’t fit my needs, or tell me that I can indeed pull that 14,000-pound toy hauler with a half-ton pickup, or that Brand X is built so much better than comparable Brand Y, we’ve already shut you out and are figuring out what other dealerships are close enough to visit in the next hour.

It doesn’t matter if you finally relent and show us what we were looking for at the beginning of our visit, you’ve already lost credibility since you obviously don’t make filling our needs as your priority.  On the flip side, we have the utmost respect for salespeople (whether they are RVers or not) who can say, “I don’t know, but I will find out for you”, and then do just that.

2. Your salesman does not listen to what we are saying, or thinks that he knows how our purchase will go. 

There is little that irritates us more than a salesperson who is trying to push an RV that he wants to sell instead of finding the RVs that fit our wants and needs. We are aware that money talks and some RVs have bigger commissions linked to them than others. But, if those RVs don’t meet our needs, they aren’t going to work regardless of price.

It is also bothersome when a salesperson treats us like tire kickers instead of buyers on a mission. For us, when we said that we were buying in the next week, we were buying in the next week.  Period.  Now, six weeks later and five weeks after taking delivery of our new toy hauler, we are still receiving calls and e-mails from salespeople asking if we are still interested in their coach — and offering it at a price that was lower than they initially said they could go.  Sorry fellas, but we really did buy one that week.

3. Your salesman and sales manager do not work together to be upfront about your price.

Do not lie to us and tell us your price is already under cost. We would have bought the first RV of our model that we saw on the lot, but the sales manager tried to tell us it was priced under cost when we asked if that was the lowest cash price he could offer. If your dealership is not willing to come down on the price, be honest about it. We would have bought that first one for the sale price anyway, had the salesperson and sales manager simply been upfront about the price.

Telling me that your price is already under cost — when it is definitely not — makes us wonder what else you will lie about. Also, e-mailing us a few days later offering thousands of dollars off the “below cost” price you couldn’t reduce any further, is tacky and irritating. We wanted that coach the most, but will not buy from a dealership that lied to us.

4. Don’t slam other RV manufacturers, RV dealers or other types of RVs.

We came to your dealership to find the best RV to meet our needs, not to have your salesperson bash other brands to try to convince us to purchase whatever one he wants to sell. Please do describe the features and benefits of the coach that I am interested in, as well as the cons, but let the RV speak for itself. Give me the facts, not bully sales tactics. You aren’t just selling me one RV, you are also setting the stage for me to return to make my next purchase — or not.

5. Make your “best price” your “Best Price.”

At one dealership, we had two different salespeople reply to an e-mail inquiry. Each one quoted a different “best cash price.” Remember, we didn’t have an RV to trade, so we weren’t interested in receiving inflated numbers to make a trade look better.

Needless to say, we did not entertain the thought of working with that dealership, where the price of an RV is dependent on how much a salesperson feels like marking up the rig. We don’t have the time or the desire to salesman shop within a dealership.

6. Consider your sales tactics. 

If you feel the need to pressure us, we feel the need to wonder why.  If we feel that you are making the decision for us, whether it’s by using scare tactics, such as “if you don’t make a deposit on this rig right away, then someone else is going to buy it;” or if you must use price manipulation tactics like “this special price is for a very limited time,” we will see right through it and want to purchase from another dealer who does not employee such manipulation.

When we were calling across the country looking for a specific model, we came across one sales tactic so off-the-wall that we called the dealership back to talk to a different salesperson because surely we had misunderstood the first one we spoke with.  The dealership, McGeorge’s Rolling Hills in Virginia, told us that we could not make an offer on an RV without giving them a credit card number and a deposit of at least $1,000. We were also told their sales manager doesn’t have time to entertain everyone’s offers because they sell through RVs so quickly.

What that tactic really tells us is that the dealership is short on customer service and most likely won’t have time to care about issues after the sale, nor will they have time to bother with any warranty work. We wonder if they will even have time to prep our RV in a timely fashion once they have us trapped into dealing with them because the dealership wanted to hold a $15,000 deposit for ransom. We were told putting $1,000 down wasn’t enough to hold the RV for the four or five days it would have taken us to drive to Virginia from Texas — even though this particular RV had been sitting on their lot for more than six months.

Yes, they had the RV we wanted, and we are always trying to justify a road trip because it is our passion. Yes, their prices were even slightly better than some of the other dealerships we had approached, but those money-grubbing business tactics left such a poor impression that we immediately ruled out buying an RV from them. We are people, customers and families wanting to make fabulous memories. We should not be treated as if all we are is a credit card number.

7. Don’t take it personally if we didn’t buy from you. 

There were TWO (yep, only two) salesman from whom we would have LOVED to have purchased an RV. They were professional, yet real. They were knowledgeable and honest, including telling us when they didn’t know something, and following through to get an answer.  Unfortunately, neither worked for dealerships authorized to carry the brand that we ultimately wanted. But, you can be sure that we have shared their names with everyone we know because others feel the same way we do about playing dealer games.

Kudos to Matthew M. at RV Land in Kyle, Texas, for patiently showing us several RVs, contacting those who could give us more information about the construction, and especially for being available for follow-up without being pushy.

Our other favorite salesperson was Joseph S. at ExploreUSA in Seguin, Texas. In his early 20s, Joseph is not a typical salesman. Through good old-fashioned hard work, he moved up from being a fork-lift driver at the dealership to being one of their most popular salespeople. We can see why. He was attentive, polite, and eager to showcase floorplans that fit our needs as well as listen to and address our concerns.

So, what did we look for in the dealership where we finally made a purchase?

  • The salesperson was informative and to the point. He knew the facts on the RVs, or at least offered to find answers, and actually followed through.
  • The salesperson focused on our wants and needs. He listened to what OUR priorities were for a rig, then showed us what the dealership had in stock and how it would meet those needs. He did point out considerations that we may have overlooked, but he let the buying decision be ours.
  • The salesperson was friendly, but professional. We were able to connect well enough to feel comfortable trusting his word, but we also wanted this to be a pleasant business transaction.
  • The salesperson was honest. How he treated us as a customer wound up reflecting on the entire dealership. Several less than conscientious salesmen put their dealerships out of the running when we were shopping.

We wound up purchasing our RV through Tate at Primeaux RV in Carencro, La. Our transaction was done primarily through e-mail with an occasional phone call, and the dealership bent over backward to get our toy hauler ready on short notice so that we could take possession before an unexpected business trip would take my husband, Vaughn, away for week. We appreciated the no pressure tactics, as well as the quick turnaround on replies.

Here’s the bottom line: RV Dealers, be real with your buyers. We passed up several coaches that we would have purchased if the salespeople had not been, well, salespeople.

You see, we are already RVers. They didn’t have to sell us on that lifestyle. In our six years of traveling, we have barely touched on all the places there are to visit and the many things to do in America. We don’t have time to play games on your lot because there is still a whole country of destinations to explore, of genuine people to meet, of new experiences in which to participate.  Just sell us the RV that fits our needs — honestly, and without games — so that we can get back to exploring what those new wheels give us the opportunity to experience.

About Dana Ticknor

Dana Ticknor and her husband, along with their tribe of 8 gypsy kids (they also have 4 more grown and flown) have been calling the road home for seven years. Traveling with a highly modified toy hauler, their passions are discovering local history and culture, as well as volunteering with disaster relief efforts across the country. You can follow their journey at OurTravelingTribe.com, where they write about fulltime RVing and the family friendly destinations they discover during their travels.

2 comments

  1. My buying experience was similar to yours. Where I finally bought (Couch’s RV in Ohio), the salesman was making demands for payment in full. I had asked by email if he physically had the unit on his lot & he just sent a vin #
    We were in Oregon at the time. After several attempts to deal with the salesman, I called the Owner (turns out the ordered unit was still sitting on the factory lot, not at the dealership). The salesman was trying to get paid his commission before even receiving the unit. Ultimately, I worked out a deal with the owner where I paid for the unit when they received it, and he stored it free of charge for me for 2 months. Today we have a 37′ Salem fifth wheel and are very happy with our purchase. Had I not had experience as a sales manager & salesman, I probably would have fallen for his trick and paid for a unit 3 weeks before they actually had it.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. As someone who has been covering the business side of the industry for 15 years, the stories I am hearing just seem unfathomable to me. But, now that I am an actual RV owner, my eyes have been opened to some of the things that RV owners actually have to deal with from businesses that make up the RV industry — and it’s not pretty.

      GREG GERBER
      Editor, Let’s RV

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