Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Why "No TimeWasters" is counter-productive

I do love Apollo Duck, and it must now be the leading website for those buying and selling narrowboats. But why is it that most advertisements there are so poor?

Sellers generally do so by uploading one blurry photograph, writing one sentence and expecting a buyer to fork out - on average - twice the annual yearly income on that basis. Oh, and then they have the temerity to boldly proclaim No Timewasters!
Eh? Where did that come from? No timewasters? So what's a timewaster then?
If sellers put up a decent description and decent photos, then buyers could make a decision about whether they should travel 400 miles to look at a boat. You think I'm going to think about 40,000 quid buying decision based on a holiday snap and a sentence? Me the timewaster? ffs, as they say in chat rooms. Any real salesperson knows that seeling anything is mainly a numbers game: the more that see what you are selling, the higher likelihood of selling quicker/more/for a higher price.

During the last 18 months, we looked actively for a boat and were astonished how poorly they were sold by private buyers. On once occasion I was told that it was OK to travel up to Cheshire from London. When I was five miles from the destination, I was phoned to be told it had been sold. "Sorry," they said. Exactly how are you defining the word 'Sorry' in this context?

On another occasion, when faced with a vague internal layout description, I was told that a cross-boat rear bathroom was reversible with "a little mechanical dexterity". Within seconds of arriving at the end of a long journey I discovered that "a little mechanical dexterity" would require heavy-duty steel cutting, welding and suitcase loads of banknotes.

At the other end of the scale, I discovered Virginia Currer, Nottingham Boat Sales and other professional brokers to be excellent, although even they were often hampered by their witless clients wanting far too much money or other such faux pas. In the end, we bought North Star through Nottingham Boat Sales, who provided excellent advice, friendly service and did what they said they would do.

I always bristle now when I see the term "No timewasters" because it is an exceptionally aggressive and subjective position. While searching for a boat during the last year, I was really put off going to see boats where "No timewasters" was stamped on the advert. On reflection, I can't quite put my finger on why - I'm generally a relatively assertive chap - but maybe it's because I am psychologically unwilling to be labelled a timewaster, even by people I do not know. Buying a boat is not like buying a car, and for most buyers there are many emotions involved; it's more like buying a house. It has to be "just so" and there are many inexplicable things that contribute to that feel-good factor.

I suggest that if you are selling a boat and you stick 'No Timewasters" in the advert, you will be putting off good potential buyers; it's counter-productive. This is why stores don't have 'No Timewasters' signs in their windows.

Be friendly, be helpful, be informative and recognise that the purchase price - for the buyer - is probably the single biggest cheque they will write in their life. There may be some timewasters along the line, but they will certainly be out-numbered by genuine buyers.

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