Full Version: Snake oil

From: Michael [#1]
 6 Jun 2005

This is prompted by a short email exchange with the Laserpro distributor for Missouri.

I can go to any new car dealer within 100 miles and, if I can dodge the salesmen for 15 minutes, get a price quote from/for any vehicle on the lot. If the dealer has a web site I can, in most cases, get his price for any vehicle on the lot. If not, a quick email will reveal the mystery. If a salesmen, or 2 or 9 or however many are working today catch me I can get verbal quotes for any vehicle on the lot and even begin to dicker if that is what I want to do. No strings attached! They don’t care if it’s a personal or business choice, they don’t demand I sign up for this service or that, they don’t require me to give them any personal information at all. If I ask the price they tell me.

If I want to buy a laser engraver (which I do and for which I’ve been trying to make appropriate financial arrangements, but because so many distributors refuse to provide needed information I don't know how much to arrange) I can get a price quote from 3 dealers. That’s it. I received a quote from the Brewers, from Terry Viles (Missouri Epilog distributor) and Signwarehouse has their pricing structures posted on their website (boy, isn't that a 'nother story? :S ). That’s it.

The remaining 6 or so dealers/vendors/resellers I’ve contacted by email refuse to provide quotes unless I give them information that has nothing to do with a price quote. I ask for quotes on specific models and wattage (as they are listed on web sites). I ask for prices on specific accessories. Nothing complicated, nothing magical, nothing from outer space. One vendor told me he knew from my questions that I had already done a good deal of research but he wouldn’t give me any information until HE had determined what I needed because HE wanted a personal relationship with me. Well, actually that seems to be the theme song of the majority of price hiders.

LADIES, GENTLEMEN! Wake up. People are not as stupid as you tell them they are! When you tell me you are going to tell me what I need you’re trying to sell snake oil. When you demand personal, professional, business or other information before you will answer a question, you are selling snake oil. When you try to sell snake oil everyone loses; the manufacturer, you, the potential client, and his potential clients. Manufacturers, when your distributors tell someone how stupid you believe they are, how much money do you think that person will spend on your product?

If you don’t want to deal with people that are looking solely at prices, well, that’s your problem. It just shows your only interest is the price you are going to charge.

I heard or read somewhere in the past few months that the most distrusted professionals in the United States are attorneys, and that the 2nd most distrusted are car salesmen. A car salesman will answer simple question including pricing. Where does that put the snake oil salesmen that pretend to sell engravers?

I don’t think there is an engraver anywhere that will buy an engravable product without knowing the price. Are engraving machines that different that prices have to considered something to NOT tell a potential customer?

To paraphrase the immortal Frank Boetger (famed insurance salesman and author), salesmanship consists of two things: finding out what the customer wants and helping him get it. My addition is rather simplistic, but I see it as a truism: WHEN THE CUSTOMER TELLS YOU WHAT HE WANTS, BELIEVE HIM AND HELP HIM GET IT EVEN IF IT IS SOMETHING AS SIMPLE AS WHAT YOU WANT TO CHARGE HIM FOR YOUr PRODUCT!

Can you guess who won’t be getting my business?

From: sunny (SUNSHINE) [#2]
 6 Jun 2005
To: Michael [#1] 6 Jun 2005

It's not just engraver salesmen that are selling snake oil.

We are building a new place and my husband is finally going to get his shop. Several post and frame companies were like the experience you had. No they couldn't give prices, they had to refer me to the saleman in my area that "might" call me back --in a couple of weeks. Well, we are going to choose the dealer that has called me back and worked with me to get the design right. Guess those big name guys really don't want my business or my recommendation (given that we come in contact with thousands of horse people - not a good choice).

From: Jim (RETAIL74) [#3]
 6 Jun 2005
To: Michael [#1] 6 Jun 2005

Before you attack salesman, you might want to remember that you are about to become one. You will have customers who may call on you and just want a price. You may decide that you want to know a little bit about what they are doing so that you can offer suggestions to save them money.

I no longer sell equipment. But when I did, I was always welcomed at the area's busiest and best shops. Those shop owners knew that I was in and out of some of the most successful businesses in the area. They could call me if they needed a plastic on the weekends, software or parts in a pinch, or a logo converted quickly. They knew that I knew what was selling. They could try accessories and equipment before buying. I could also get them in contact with someone that could provide wholesale services.

Some of the industry's best salesmen are great teachers. They have engraved on everything. If you are starting a new business, you could learn a great deal. They may even know more about the products than you do. We don't all sell snake oil.

EDITED: 6 Jun 2005 by RETAIL74

From: Michael [#4]
 6 Jun 2005
To: Jim (RETAIL74) [#3] 6 Jun 2005

"...you are about to become one." My first real sales job was selling shoes. I was 18 (more than 30 years ago) years old, a high school senior and didn't know a thing about salesmanship. The job paid an hourly wage or commision, whichever was higher for the week. The only week I missed commission was the first week I was employed and that was because I was not permitted on the floor to sell. And I have enjoyed selling many other things since then.

In the 4 years I've been operating this business from my home I've built it to the point where I receive requests every week from strangers for prices on different products. I anwer every request without requiring any information. I don't care if the mug is going to be a gift, if the shirt will be worn only on Tuesdays, or if the potential customer has enough money to pay for it. I give them the price. If they want to tell me the shirt will be worn on Wednesdays, or the mugs will be used for iced tea and not coffee, I find that interesting and it might even help me provide a better service to them. BUT I DO NOT REQUIRE IT as you snake oil salesmen do. If you ask "how much?" I'll tell you. No strings attached.

From: Dee (DEENA-ONLY) [#5]
 6 Jun 2005
To: Michael [#4] 7 Jun 2005

I agree a salesman needs to give you a price. However, first they need to make sure you are giving them all the info they need to give you the correct price. A customer came into our store last week and picked out a plaque. She then handed my employee the text neatly written out. The plaque was done. When she came back she asked why the bible and cross logo wasn't on the plaque as they were on the display. My employee replied "you didn't tell me you wanted it". After the plaque was redone I explained to the employee that she was in the wrong. The customer had no idea the plaque she picked didn't already have the logo on it. After all, if you see a shoe on display in a store and the clerk needs to get your size from the stock room you expect to get the same shoe. This customer expected to get the same plaque with her text. My employee should never have expected the customer to know what she needed to tell us to do the job properly. I like a salesman who asks me lots of questions. I find I always learn something from their questions.


From: Rodney Gold (RODNEY_GOLD) [#6]
 6 Jun 2005
To: Michael [#1] 7 Jun 2005

Are you inferring that Laserpro salesmen are dishonest , or specific dealer are- after all snake oil implys something sold under false pretenses?
At the end of it all , you are disregarding all the great advice given here about dealer back up and service as buying on price alone in this field is a recipe for disaster. Surely its not a major issue to give the guys who are quoting you some info so that they can see who they are dealing with and what you want a machine for, perhaps send you more literature or get the opportunity to make a sales pitch on their brand? Shows YOUR bona fides too!!
What do you intend to do? Buy from the guy with the cheapest price , after all you have polled 9 vendors? Lowballing a purchase of this nature is just sheer folly - and you will soon find that out when you DO need the support.
If I were selling a machine that required training , support, warrantee backup and was an income producing asset to the purchaser , I would like to know whom I'm dealing with. I would also like to know that its perhaps not a competitor looking for my pricing structure. I would also like to know that it's suitable for the job at hand and that I am not going to get a whole raft of complaints after about how it doesnt work as you expected.
Same way I wont quote an anonymoous customer for a generic enquiry like "how much is it to engrave 10 letters on a stainless steel plate" , I would ask to see the plate , the style of lettering and want to know what its for , there might BE a better alternative and so on , I am trying to HELP the customer not gouge them or sell them snakeoil.

I think your righteous indignation is misplaced.

(PS I live in South Africa , am not a dealer (but do use 3x GCC explorers)so whatever you get is no skin off my nose but I have an idea that you seem to have some sort of beef with Laserpro or their dealers by the nature of your post)

From: UncleSteve [#7]
 7 Jun 2005
To: Rodney Gold (RODNEY_GOLD) [#6] 7 Jun 2005

Rodney, You are "mostly" correct..... there are definitly questions that must be asked and answered in order to give the correct information.... for instance, whether an auxiliary cooling system or filter should be included in the quote. What materials are going to be lasered in the future, not just the job at hand, etc. Where we might disagree is at what point the price should be provided. This is NOT a small investment and if the salesman can't or won't stop by for a face to face discussion for up to 3 weeks, one must assume that the after-sale service might take 3 weeks also. Ideally, a showroom or other venue where the equipment can be seen and, hopefully, demo'ed and tried will help the salesman seal the deal. All salespersons are not snake oil vendors but there are enough of them to be cautious when plunking down thousands of hard earned $$ or signing away ones life to a payment plan on equipment that doesn't meet the REAL needs but just those of the initial enquiry.

From: Michael [#8]
 7 Jun 2005
To: Rodney Gold (RODNEY_GOLD) [#6] 7 Jun 2005

I'm not infering anything.

I stated what the snake oil salesman told me. YOU have drawn the inference, not me. Why do you assume he's dishonest?

Here's another non-inference: I'm not as stupid as you are telling me I am.

Having an easy question answered IS a major issue. If the sales force/tech rep can't or won't answer the easy one, what's he going to when the box breaks and costs you thousands of dollars or, worse, the good will of your client?

Price IS important to me...as important as high quality merchandise and after-sale assistance. I buy the best quality I can afford. If you have a problem with my desire for prices, please tell me how I'm to know if I can afford to make a purchase? So, if you really think I'm just looking for the lowest price, you've made another very bad assumption.

It has been my experience that a sales person's attitude over a basic question (what colors are available, how much does it cost, etc) are indicative of how I will be treated AFTER the sale.

You show good sense when a caller asks such a generic question concerning engraving letters on stainless steel. In order to provide him good service you HAVE to ask those questions...what font, what size, etc. But what do you tell the anonymous customer that provides every bit of information you need to provide a quote?

When it is time to ask for prices, I ask. I ask prices on very specific items. In this case it was for a Laserpro Spirit model 30 watt laser engraver as listed ( also asked for prices on another model and for prices on both in 2 different wattages) on the Laserpro web site. He does not need to know my address, business name, or any other personal or professional information to provide the requested information. Whatever the price is, he threw away the sale because he told me I'm too stupid to know what I want or need.

How many sales have *you* tossed aside because of unearned arrogance?

I don't know if my indignation is righteous or not, but it is NOT misplaced.

From: Michael [#9]
 7 Jun 2005
To: UncleSteve [#7] 7 Jun 2005

I disagree with a lot of your views here, but this one time we *do* agree, and I want to say thanks for speaking up.

From: Michael [#10]
 7 Jun 2005
To: Dee (DEENA-ONLY) [#5] 7 Jun 2005

I have no problems with questions. I think I ask more than most sales forces care to put up with.

What gets my goat is being told I'm too stupid to know what I want or need (I want/need the price so I can decide if I can afford it). I get downright angry when the sales person refuses to answer such a simple straightforward question: how much do you charge for brand B, model Z, 3 gazillion watt output?

There are no variables to that. If there are addtional fees or recomended accessories, feel free to tell me how much, but a saleserson should not pretend he had been elected God.

The example you give is very valid where one question from either party would have saved a lot frustration, however, I disagree with your perception: the customer was not wrong...or no more wrong than you and your employee. But, this thread isn't to determine that. :-) 

Here's for everyone else reading and assuming I did not provide enough information for the distributors to provide accurate prices: All information was copied/pasted from their web sites. No tricks, no hidden or missing models or outputs, no gimicks like requiring a personal relationship before I'd let them tell me. DON'T ASSUME I DIDN'T DO MY PART.

From: Rodney Gold (RODNEY_GOLD) [#11]
 7 Jun 2005
To: Michael [#8] 7 Jun 2005

Heres a definition found on the internet

snake oil
A worthless preparation fraudulently peddled as a cure for many ills.
Speech or writing intended to deceive; humbug.

I don't think it leaves us in any doubt as to the meaning or the intent of your post.
If one of my customers had to say something like that about me in a public forum , I would be less than charmed and would consider some action against them.

 7 Jun 2005
To: Michael [#10] 7 Jun 2005

Hi Mike,

Been a while :) 

.....While I understand your frusteration, I can also empathize with someone that sells equipment as involved as laser engraving equipment. If I was a business selling this equipment, it may be worth having a few prerequisite questions to seperate the men from the boys so to speak. We all know how many pretenders are out there, and the fact that you feel snubbed to the point that you won't give simple business address or phone number information makes you look less like a real customer and more like someone that is bs-ing your way through their process. It may just be a way for them to evaluate the seriousness of the prospective client.

I do understand your frusteration in just getting simple pricing.......No one wants to jump through unnessesary hoops, but I do feel that I can understand why they would want to pre-qualify their customers when there is so much work in building a system for a customer.

I am not trying to argue the point of requiring what they do, just trying to find a meaningful explanation that they might have other than that they are "snake oyl salesmen" :) 

From: LaZerDude (C_BURKE) [#13]
 7 Jun 2005

WOW! Be thankful for the Constitution. Yea Free Speech......

Micheal, having not been there, when you were inquiring about pricing, I have no way of knowing how to respond, except that maybe you just need to work with those dealers that DID answer your questions.

Personally, I think it is important that questions be asked on both sides, like Dee said, perhaps the sales rep motivation WAS to find out more to make a better recommendation, or possibly assess your needs to give you the best VALUE. Value is very different from PRICE. The best price is not always the best value, and ond of the things that MUST be considered, ( and I learned this that hard way) is that AFTER SALE SUPPORT MUST be taken into consideration when talking value. When I bought my machine I THOUGHT was getting good value, until after the fact I found out I could not get some of the support I felt was necessary to MY success.

With all of that said, you have answered your own questions, and really simplified the whole issue. It is as simple as NOT dealing with those that will not answer your questions, or keeping their appointments.

Just my two cents..... want change?

From: Peter [#14]
 7 Jun 2005
To: LaZerDude (C_BURKE) [#13] 7 Jun 2005

Price is very, very important....

Nothing is more important than after sales service...

believe me in this industry....Nothing is more important..

so if you can buy a Universal or an epilog or a laserpro/pinnacle or other brands.......the 3 I mentioned are all great machines.

the difference is the same as the mid range Chev/ Ford/ Chrysler they all are basically the same...it comes down to personal preferance .

And what the after sales service is like..

The biggest variable is, the lasers will provide you with massive income and a requirement to service your clients...the problem occurs, not when you made a deal and saved $ 3,000, but when you lose $ 15,000 when your machine breaks down and the after sales service is non existant.

Buy on service



From: UncleSteve [#15]
 7 Jun 2005
To: Michael [#9] 7 Jun 2005

Michael, for the record, I do understand the salesman wanting to get at least your name and a company name for one reason only! If there IS another snake oil salesman in their company and you take the info and call back to place an order, it is the only protection the original sales person has to protect their commission. Been there, done that and got my rightful commission!

From: Michael [#16]
 7 Jun 2005
To: LaZerDude (C_BURKE) [#13] 7 Jun 2005

That's my intent. I just wanted to vent. It is more than disapointing that the majority of the people I've contacted take the stance that they know what I need and refuse to answer a simple question until I agree with them.

Value cannot be separated from price.

There is no free lunch.

Go figure.

From: Michael [#17]
 7 Jun 2005
To: UncleSteve [#15] 8 Jun 2005

They have my name and email address.

What, they are going to charge me more if I want the thing for non business use?

From: Michael [#18]
 7 Jun 2005
To: Rodney Gold (RODNEY_GOLD) [#11] 7 Jun 2005

By your own research you have proven there is more than one definition.

Why do YOU choose to infer the guy is dishonest?

Go figger.

EDITED: 7 Jun 2005 by MICHAEL

From: Harvey only (HARVEY-ONLY) [#19]
 7 Jun 2005

Message no longer necessary.


From: LaZerDude (C_BURKE) [#20]
 7 Jun 2005
To: Harvey only (HARVEY-ONLY) [#19] 7 Jun 2005

Then this message is no longer necessary either.......

Does anybody REALLY know what time it is?

EDITED: 7 Jun 2005 by C_BURKE