By Keith Ward
I’m shopping for my very first RV (gulp). That means tons of Internet research, including forums, YouTube videos, etc. It means budgeting, and not buying more RV than I can afford. It also means talking to multiple RV sales reps. And boy, they are not all the same.
Just as there are large differences in the types and quality of RVs available, there are similar differences in RV sales reps. I’ve been working with two reps in particular, representing the top contenders for the travel trailer I’m going to get.
I’m shocked at how different the reps are, and how much better one is than the other. Let’s start with the poor rep, “Bill” (I’m going to use fake names to protect the innocent – and the guilty). Bill works for an RV dealership that carries numerous brands. He knows – or should know, based on our initial contact – that I’m a serious prospect.
RV Sales Rep Bill
You wouldn’t know it from Bill’s indifference toward me, however., that I’m a serious prospect. I’ve asked him several questions, and have waited multiple days each time for an answer. The first few questions, in fact, were never answered, and I had to reach out to him to get answers. He responded that he’d “overlooked” my questions. Not good, Bill.
The next time I asked him questions… well, Bill still hasn’t responded, and it’s been a week.
RV Sales Rep Jack
Now let’s move on to “Jack.” Jack works for a smaller manufacturer that has a good reputation. I’ve asked Jack a handful of questions, and don’t think I’ve ever had to wait more than an hour for a response. Jack even gave me his personal cell number if I couldn’t get through on the regular number.
When Jack didn’t know the answer to a question, he said he didn’t know, and pointed me to resources that could help me. Jack didn’t push the sale at all, but he didn’t have to. His responses told me a lot about both himself and the company.
So there’s Bill, and there’s Jack. One is too swamped or uninterested to engage with me. The other shows genuine interest, and gets that potential customers have questions that need prompt answers.
This also gives me clues as to which is more likely to take care of me after the sale. As every RV owner knows, things go wrong with these mobile dwellings. If Bill can’t be bothered to respond to simple emails about the sale itself, what are the chances he’s going to go to bat for me when I need repairs?
Now, given these factors, who do you think got the sale?
Things That Matter
Look, I get that RV sales reps are busy these days, with sales exploding. But I’ve had two diametrically opposed experiences with Bill and Jack, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. If you’re in the sales side of things, you should know that these interactions matter. A lot.
If you’re looking to buy an RV, like me, pay attention to how you’re treated, and what signals that might be sending.
Jack, I’m looking forward to seeing you when I pick up my RV. Bill, I hope you learn something from losing a sale.
(What have your experiences with RV sales reps been like? Let me know in the comments below!)
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Keith is a journalist with more than 30 years of writing and editing experience. He was bitten by the RV bug in 2020, and takes delivery of his very own rig in May 2021. In addition to non-fiction, he also writes fiction, including fantasy, thriller, and drama. Find his books at https://www.amazon.com/Keith-Ward/e/B00HU64HAG.
It sounds like you’re working with a mass produced, higher volume dealership in Bill as opposed to the smaller manufacturer supporting Jack. Given today’s brand of corporate leadership, I suggest the possibility of higher quality in product and service lay in Jack’s favor.
I agree with your assessment on RV sales people but with one caveat, beware of the sales person that is super before the sale but absent after the sale. I feel it important to have some interaction with the dealership owner as that is the person that guides the actions of the associate sales people. Some owners are unscrupulous and will do anything and say anything to make a sale, but their promises and interest in the customer’s needs evaporates once they have completed the sale. Stay away from those dealerships.
My experience with RV salespeople has taught me never to deal with the dealership’s top salesperson. That person will be able to close deals but probably has no other skill. It’s easy to identify that person, he/she will loudly proclaim it, wearing it like a badge, thinking it is a positive selling point. It is not.
Our Winnebago salesman was friendly and knowledgeable. However, he didn’t tell us the two important things all salespeople omit:
Of course, they also forget to mention it will be hard to find a place to park/camp.
You just described “Chuck” (your story “Jack”) at Apache Camping Center in Portland. Just like in your story, he gave me his personal cell number, returned calls and answered questions promptly. If he didn’t know the answer, he would admit it and would offer to call the manufacturer and get the answer. Now, this is a sales guy you can trust!
When I purchased my second TT I was way more educated in what I liked, what I needed and what I did not need.. I had a great salesman. We were replacing our TT due to an accident. First place we seen was perfect. It was used but less than a year old. Then we find since we were using money from a full replacement policy that you have to purchase a rv that has never been titled. Yes there is a clause in Full replacement insurance that says that. So now finding one that compares at that price point. My salesman was great. They finally ordered one with everything I wanted at price I was wanting. I could of replaced with exactly what I had but newer year that was totalled and owed nothing. I was wanting to upgrade. I was very clear with what I wanted and what I did not want. Love my home on Wheels.
In Central NY we have a plethora of dealerships running from the national chains, regional chains and the local mom and pop dealership. We talked to them all when we in the market for our TT. Long story short, all but the mom and pop steered us to things we could not tow with our tow vehicle. We ended up at the mom and pop dealership. We had our minds made up that used was the way to go. We ended up buying new unit that better fit our needs and spending less money. No pressure, we dealt with the owners, and we paid less than expected.
We deal with a small local dealer, that only sells used RVs. We have bough a TT, a 5er, and 4 class A motorhomes. The owner and staff are friendly, helpful, and honest. He has steered me away from units, telling me that they will not meet my needs. If I need a repair, he asks when do I need the coach back, and it is ready when I need it. His word, is better than a contract. I once made a deal over the phone, with him, while I was on a trip. when I arrived home everything was as we had discussed, and my new rig was ready to go. It is unfortunate that there aren’t many dealers like him.
When we bought our current RV (2011) Coachmen Mirada 29DS we had been looking for something as short as possible without giving up important (to us) things. My husband did a lot of research & comparison online as well. We went to some RV shows, a few dealerships, in search of that combo. Turned out you couldn’t get dual pane windows in any Mirada 29DS on any lot in Colorado. So we ordered from a dealer near Elkhart to get what we wanted. They did a good pre-delivery inspection – so good it had to go back to Coachmen to fix the main slideout before we ever left to get it. They took us through every system & had no issue with me videotaping the whole orientation. It all went smoothly. We never go back to any sales person who fails to listen or treats us with less than full attention & respect.
I’ve not had your same experience with RV shopping. I’m fortunate to have had good interactions with RV sales people. How ever did have similar experience while shopping for a motorcycle. I had decided on a particular model Harley. There were 7 Harley dealers within a 50 mile radius. We rode to each of them on our Honda’s. Only one treated me like they really wanted to sell a bike. They realized that gone were the days Harleys sold themselves. More importantly was the respect they showed my wife. You see she rides her own bike. Even though they knew I was the one who was going to be getting a bike they talked her into test riding a Sportster while I test rode the bike I was interested in. When we got back 2 salesmen spent about half an hour debriefing her. After hearing all the reasons she didn’t like the Sportster, they recommended a different model, she rode it and loved it. In a period of 6 years between the wife and me we bought a total of 5 brand new bikes from that dealership.
You’re fortunate you found a good dealer, I lived in north AL 28 years 40 miles from Huntsville. The experience I had with Rocket HD left me with a very negative attitude about HD in general. They act like they are doing you a favor if they say good morning. I’m completely turned off to HD by that dealership.
I bought my latest Class C RV last year. I went to a local dealer, who was very nice and accomodating, but they didn’t have the floor plan that I wanted. I did a lot of research on the internet and found the brand and models that were what I wanted. I used a national listing service and watched for those models. I found the perfect unit in Texas. I emailed the dealer asking my questions about the unit, but the dealer wanted my cell phone number which I was reluctant to give. When I declined, he refused to answer my questions or respond to further contacts. I eventually posted my story on Yelp with the experience that I had.
A couple of weeks later, I found the same model and year, cheaper with less miles. This dealer promptly answered all questions. I arranged for a RV inspection service to review the unit with no issues. I bought the unit over the internet and flew out to drive it home to California. I have been happy with my purchase ever since.
My view of this narrative is a 30 something that has grown up with the internet and it’s “”instant”” answers to whatever questions they have.
Instead, consider Bill, his boss has told him that he has to sell these particular units that are still in inventory,”high end motor homes”, because they have been in inventory longer than the whole rest of the remaining fleet and they are costing the dealership big bucks a day in interest every day that they sit there. AND “Oh yes, Bill, the service manager is leaving on vacation tomorrow and I want you to fill in for him while he is gone. And while you’re at it make sure that the showroom is picked up and looking good for tomorrow’s presentation of that new line of adventure trailers we’re looking at offering.
And Bill, yesterday there were 2 different couples that had to wait too long for you to show them around the lot. I noticed that you were on your computer while they were waiting. I don’t want that to ever happen again. Understand?
Bill needs to find a new boss.
The ones I despise the most are the ones who assume who are or what you want, the ones who have you “pegged” as you step onto the lot. I’ve bought 6 RV’s, 3 boats and many cars and trucks in my life. I’ve learned to research, come prepared and try to know more about the product than the sales person would know. I won’t show any disrespect, after all they’re just trying to make a livin’, but I will not be disrespected myself. And on more than one occasion I’ve asked for a different sales person, or to talk directly to a manager. All in all, knowledge is power… and it will usually give you the upper hand.
I also am a researcher and this goes back before computers. Many times at a car dealership I know more about the car/truck than the salesman, IMHO if I know more than the salesman then I should get the commission off the sale and I told the sales manager that as I walked out the door. This was back when all the research came off brochures. If I can read them and work 40-60 hrs a week then the salesman should be able to read them during his slack time instead of BSing with the rest of the boys.
We bought our Mercedes Sprinter/Winnebago/Itasca Reyo motorhome in 2015 on a whim from a dealer in California…we live in a stick-built in Georgia…
we had both been camping as children…but we were complete neophytes when it came to RVIng…the brand-new Winnebago worked flawlessly on it’s inaugural trip through California and all the way back to Georgia…
yeah, we had problems once we were back in Georgia so like all neophytes, we took it to our Camping World affiliate for repair under warranty…
after six weeks of no action, we took it back and completed another fifty day trip…
.we are now scheduled in Winnebago at Forest City to fix all the problems under our extended warranty prior to our extended warranty expiring due to mileage…
Many years ago, we were interested in purchasing a class B motorhome. Went to a local RV show, spoke to a salesman from a dealership about five minutes from our home. Fast forward to the next weekend…went to our local dealer, spoke to the same salesman who gave us the brush off. Would not allow my husband to test drive a vehicle and stated that we would have a problem obtaining a loan for an RV. The words loans and financing never passed our lips. Went home and called the next closest dealership about two hours away. Spoke to a salesman who had a model ready for us to try the next day. Drove out to Ft. Myers and ordered it on the spot. To rub salt into the wound, I spoke to the manager of our local dealer and relayed our experience with his salesman. He sputtered a lot and did not know what to say. A nice sale lost because of assumptions and arrogance!
Harris — exactly! Thanks for sharing.
The third type of salesman is someone who expects you to sign a deal TODAY. We ran into one like this in CA. If you’ve seen the tee shirt that says, “Be Nice To Me or I’ll Put You in My Next Novel,” then you know what happened to this particular fellow — he ended up in the first chapter of my latest novel and not in a positive way. We ended up buying an RV at a different dealership and were happy with that place; unfortunately they folded within a month 🙁
Ellen, I can relate! I write novels as well, and these are experiences that do tend to end up in a book… 😉
I spent over 35 years in “sales”. The first 22 years were invested in building a sales relationship with business owners. The products I represented created a profit flow for their business and their customers. We were partners in profit. The same was true in my next endeavors it was the same….college business courses taught me one very important rule…a great salesman is in fact a great problem solver….all buyers have a problem…in the case of a RV shopper their problem is simple and yet complex….they need a RV that fits their needs…not too big….not too small…it must fit their life style….the salesman (problem solver) must guide the buyer through the maze of RV choices and give him what he wants….not what the salesman wants to sell.
when shopping for a RV first shop for the right salesman (a honest problem solver).
He will find your perfect RV.
Great info and advice, Patrick. Thanks! 🙂 —Diane at RVtravel.com
Thanks for that perspective, Patrick! Wonderful advice.
I’ve bought my last 5 from 1 dealer and 2 salespeople that work there. Good prices and service. I know them and they know me. If I’m there I’m ready to buy. I know a service writer and 2 techs. They know my voice on the phone and my face. I’ve never had to wait more than 3 days for service, I may have jumped ahead of you in line. I stop in for stuff at times and have taken them to lunch. CW in Myrtle is great and Sean K and Susie in sales, Bradley in service. They have saved me a lot of money too.
Those relationships are worth their weight in gold! Thanks for the comment.
I like the picture you posted of a salesman. Looks like a typical sleaze willing to say whatever it takes to get you to sign.
Tommy, when I saw that, I knew it was the one.
A sales person is just that, someone pushing a product, and I never rely on them for my decisions, I do my research before I hit the lots. As for service, I’m an RVer that actually travels in my RV, so I will only buy a brand that has nationwide authorized Service Centers. With our current rig, I travelled across 3 states to get the best deal, and have never returned to that particular dealership. I’ve gotten any necessary warranty work done as we’ve travelled, by authorized dealers, in several different states.