THE MINI MAG. Volume 2 No.10
  October 2000

Vol.2 Home Page | Index Page

Collectively Coopers.
With Stephen Dalton.

Strictly Confidential.

Do you realise that I really shouldn't be doing this. I'll have salesmen up in arms over giving away their secrets. But then again I do like living dangerously. The time has come to break the code. The secret BMC salesman code. It's only taken almost 40 years for the Morris 850 sales tricks to finally be published.

"The hard sell through the soft shell" that is how the Market Development department of BMC Australia's Sales Division tried to capture the imagination of their dealer sales staff. Placing the above statement, plus a diagram of a cracked egg on the cover of the confidential brochure they had produced for their use in moving as many brand new Morris 850's on to Australia's roads. Opening up this double-sided, triple faced little gem reveals an explanation of "How to hard sell through the soft shell", a series of tables comparing the Morris 850 against its 2 main rivals. Wait for it, the Volkswagen and Triumph Herald, plus a lesson for the salesman to "Make your conversation interesting!" So considering just 3 paragraphs make up the explanation on "How to hard sell through the soft shell" I'll let you read it in its entity. And all you gorgeous ladies reading this, be warned, as when it was originally written feminism hadn't yet begun turning all us fellas into "sensitive new age guys". So it’s written towards selling an 850 to the male populace. Here it is:-

"This brochure contains comparison details of the Morris 850 and its two main competitors. It is designed to guide and assist salesman in obtaining the best possible results selling the Morris 850.

As you will see from the comparison figures, by factual evidence, the Morris 850 is superior to both the V.W. and the Triumph Herald - but never give a sermon to the prospect on just how good your product is! By drawing a subtle comparison of your product with competitive makes you will be much quicker to close the deal by gaining his confidence in your product. This will, if properly executed, create in his mind the "desire to buy" which ultimately results in a sale.

In effect, the resultant sale can be attributed to hard selling through the "soft shell" of your prospect's imagination. Strong arm tactics are obsolete these days and, in their place, this imaginative selling method has proved far more successful - it wins the mind and ear of the prospective new car buyer around to your way of thinking. And when you finally ask for the closing deal, the resistance is gone and in its place there remains enthusiasm for purchasing your product. The reward is yours for the asking!"

Well there you have it, my first lesson on how a salesman should operate. Yours too? I like the bit about "Strong arm tactics are obsolete these days." written 40 years ago I guess some sales personal have been a bit slow to realise this. Then again they are probably those opposition Holden and Ford guys. Ruthless and still in business. Mind you the "soft shell" approach must have worked fairly well for BMC as they did move a very good number of Morris 850. Problem was the rest of their range wasn't enticing enough "prospects" away from Chrysler, Ford and Holden - the big 3 Australian car manufacturers of the 1960's. The other factor being that they all gave "front wheel drive" a perceived bad name, not helpful when as an Australian manufacturer of essentially English designed vehicles – whom, by the middle of the decade was producing all of the Issigonis front wheel drives - the Mini, Morris 1100 and Austin 1800 downunder. All good cars of their period, but with those perceptions, not enough to realise enough sales. And also let us not forget the Japanese. no one took them seriously when they set up shop throughout the 1960's in Australia and how prolific are they? Well not as prolific as they were, because the Koreans have done the same thing they did. just 25 years later. Their object throughout their given periods was simply to take sales from slow to act established manufacturers, with perhaps questionable value for money vehicles. Those slow to act manufacturers suffering greatly.

The comparison details mentioned in paragraph 1 between the 850, VW and Herald came in the form of a series of tables giving acceleration, top gear performance, maximum speed in gears, standing quarter mile, fuel consumption, fuel gauge and wait for it, maximum BHP (brake horse power).

Looking back after 40 years and the figures given in the tables is almost laughable - with perhaps the exception for the fuel consumption. Without going through all information given in these tables, a brief summary of the main items for conjecture is justifiable. For acceleration the magic 0 – 60 mph figure was 26.5 seconds for the humble 850. Hardly exciting stuff, but compared to the VW's 32.1 and Herald's 30.4 it certainly was! It was a similar scenario in the top gear performance showing acceleration in 4th gear from 40 to 60 mph taking 19.9 seconds for the 850, 25.2 for the VW and 23.2 for the Herald. Heaven forbid there be a headwind! The max attack for maximum speeds in gears shows all of our candidates probably valve bouncing their way to top gear speeds of 72.7 mph (850), 72 (VW) and 70.1 (Herald). For the big drag down the mile from a standstill it took the 850 - 23.3 seconds, VW - 23.4 and Herald 24.3. A big yawn by today's standards. The ever important (and perhaps even more so as fuel hovers at \\$1 per litre now) fuel consumption at a constant 60mph bringing figures of 40.4 mpg for the 850, 32.8 for the Volks and 32.2 for the thirsty Herald. With each fuel consumption decreasing a further 50% if the pace was brought back to just 30mph. But who wants to drive at 30mph? Times have certainly changed, now the selling point for a new car is air conditioning and CD. But not back in 1961 as the luxury of a fuel gauge was obviously worth noting - the 850 and Herald had one, but not the spartan VW. Brake horse power-wise was at best limited - the 850 rating 37bhp, VW - 34 and Herald 34.5. Now if a car has 37 kilowats, let alone horse power it would be considered a snail.

So however you look at it the 850 was the winner and the sales did come - mind you so they also did for the VW. It was a different generation - performance and speed was not the major selling point. Mobility was. Remembering that to see a 1930's and 40's vehicle with it's usually modest performance attributes, was still common on the roads of the 1960's. So to have the chance to drive a new 850, VW or Herald was probably a little bit of luxury.

Continuing the salesman's learning on page 3 was to "Develop your sales talk". Being told to "make your conversation interesting" with the following:-

"Making your conversation interesting through careful application of suitable sales features is most important. NEVER sound off selling points like a parrot - it will put the prospect off your product rather than into it!

NEVER TRY TO INTEREST A PROSPECT IN THE 850 BY RUNNING DOWN COMPETITIVE MAKES! However, by using comparison figures from an authoritative source you will add interest to your sales talk - if the prospect wants to talk acceleration, speed in gears or fuel consumption figures, then give them, and compare them with competitive makes. This is your golden opportunity because the 850 is definitely superior by "road test" results.

ALWAYS DEMONSTRATE and explain HOW, WHY and WHERE during your demonstration (refer to "How to plan your demonstration" brochure). REMEMBER. ALWAYS EXPLAIN THE SOURCE OF YOUR INFORMATION. The figures in this brochure were obtained from the "AUTOCAR," which is considered the world's leading road test authority. Use this information wisely and you will capture the imagination of your prospect and reap the rewards."

So there you have it, now you'll be ready to outsmart those pesky BMW salesman as you line up to procure your new generation Mini in 18 months.

Stephen Dalton.

A Tribute: Owen Maddock - Cooper Car Company Chief Designer.

Those of you who followed my tale of the Cooper Car Company in late 1999 and early 2000 editions of The Mini Mag may recall me writing of Owen Maddock, Chief Designer/Draughtsman of Cooper racing cars throughout the 1950’s and early 60’s period of the company. In this behind the scenes role, he played a significant part with the fledging Surbiton based, Charles & John Cooper run concern - starting with them just 2 years after the first Cooper racing car had been built in 1946. Obviously not as famous for his efforts as John Cooper and Jack Brabham – the front men of Cooper, many an hour would have been spent by Owen with his drawing board and slide rule coming up with new tweaks to further develop a Cooper racing car – be it a whole new racing car, a new gearbox or even the ‘rose petal’ lightweight magnesium wheels. An often copied design probably best known as the Minilite – that is a variation of the original Maddock ‘rose petal’ design. After helping capture 2 F1 Grand Prix world championships for Cooper in 1959 & 1960, Owen decided to leave their employ in1963. Going off to freelance for Bruce McLaren – as he set up the now hugely famous team the continues to carry the McLaren banner. He also got involved with what could be described as a somewhat eccentric form of motor sport – racing hovercraft. Aged 75 he recently passed away, having spent 20 years living on the Isle of Wight – well away from his previous life of designing famous world championship- winning racing cars.