Secrets to Haggling With Cell Phone Salesmen
The pressure to make sales in the cell phone world is every bit as intense as in the car dealership world. There are quotas, minimum sales expectations, bonuses for signing up a certain number of customers, and at most companies there's even the risk of the salesman losing their job if they can't sell a predetermined number of phones each month. With all this pressure on the sales force, there's more motivation than ever to make deals to close sales. You can benefit immensely from these deals if you know the tricks to getting them. You can easily walk away from your next cell phone purchase having paid hundreds of dollars less than the typical cost of signing up for a new service.
Summary of Tips and Tricks
1. Look to buy at or near the end of the month.
2. Express a desire to do business with only their store.
3. Give them the promise of future sales through you.
4. Bring pamphlets from other cell phone providers with you.
5. Ask for an activation fee waiver.
6. Be friendly and personable to the representative.
Cell phone carriers know that the market is saturated and the goal is no longer to sign up new customers who have never had a cell phone before, but to steal customers from other carriers while keeping theirs from leaving. In the industry, they refer to "reducing the number of customers lost" as "churn". As we go further into the next century, reducing churn while capitalizing on other company's customers is becoming the deciding factors as to which providers survive and which do not. This fierce competition can benefit you, the consumer, greatly if you know what you can do to exploit it to your advantage.
Go Into The Store Near The End of the Month
Cell phone sales are generally gauged by the major providers on a monthly basis. Meaning, most quotas and goals that the sales staff need to hit are monthly goals. If you go into the store near the end of the month, more then likely the sales staff will be feeling the pressure to hit their goals. Or if it's a good month and they've already hit their goals, they'll be trying to hit their bonus goals to really increase their pay checks! Either way you'll have the cards stacked in your favor.
Inform Them of Your Desire to Buy From Their Specific Store, But At Another Store's Prices
As a sales supervisor for a major cell phone provider for many years, I know that when a customer expresses that they desire to only buy from my store, it's an excellent opportunity to make a long lasting relationship with the customer. Especially if they feel they've found a better deal at a competitor, but still want to get it from my store.
From a business perspective it's the right thing to do as making lasting relationships with customers is what will keep a store in business through the worst sales seasons. More than likely, if you approach the sales representative with a positive "I really like your store and only wish to do my shopping here" type attitude, they'll bend over backwards to give you what you want. Just remember to be kind as opposed to demanding.
A lot of sales representatives are used to demanding customers but a kind one with potential long term company loyalty will stand out.
Act As a "Big Business" Customer
Tell the sales representative who helps you that you are looking for cell phones for you and the employees at your business (or the rest of your family members). More than likely they will ask you how many lines you are looking to activate, tell them 5 -10 lines. This will be enough to wet their appetite for a big multi-line account but not so much that it sounds unbelievable. Tell him/her you'd like to start with one phone for yourself (the boss) for now, and if you're pleased with the service and value for the money, then you'll be back in to activate the rest of the lines. With the prospect of landing a large multiple line account, they will do just about anything within their power to make sure you get good value for your money.
Have Pamphlets From Other Cell Phone Providers With You
This will let them know that you are serious about buying and serious about getting a good deal. I guarantee that the desire for a cell phone company to beat out its competitors will help you out enormously. The sales representatives will try harder to get you as a customer if they know you've been shopping around.
As a sales supervisor I used to ask my sales force why they would blindly give so many discounts to those customers who've been shopping around rather than any of our other customers and I'd usually get a response like, "I knew it would be so much more of an exciting sale if I was able to close the sale here when other companies couldn't."
I would literally see discounts of $100-$200 regularly when my sales representatives would start to feel that competitive spirit. Running into another cell provider and grabbing pamphlets might be a little out of your way but you'll be amazed at the leverage you'll have just holding those in your hands while talking to the salesman of a competing company. Is running into another cell provider and grabbing two or three pamphlets worth $100-$200 to you? No question that most people would answer "yes!" to that question.
Ask Them Politely if They'd Waive Your Activation Fee
Believe it or not, those $35-$45 activation fees that you usually pay at the time you purchase a phone or on your first bill isn't there for every customer. Every carrier has some way they can waive that fee. Either by not charging you for it at all, or by reimbursing you for the fee off your first bill. A majority of customers get that fee waived.
There are many reasons a sales representative would want to waive that fee for a customer. Maybe the customers has potential to become a large account customer, maybe that activation fee is the only thing holding them back from buying right now, or maybe they saw "free activation" at another carrier or earlier in the year at this carrier during a promotion.
The reasons these fees being waived are endless. In my opinion the most effective approach is to tell the sales representative that you have no problem paying the activation fee on all the phone lines you sign up for after a few days when you are convinced they are right for your companies' needs, but for the first line you purchase you'd rather not. After all, it's just a trial purchase to make sure their company is the right one to provide cell phone service for your entire company or family.
Update: Recent policy changes at some major providers have taken the option of waiving this fee out of the hands of the sales representatives and sales managers. It is still worth asking for this but be prepared if they tell you they are unable to, they might be telling you the truth!
Remember: Be Respectful and Polite!
Remember to always be respectful and polite when asking for discounts. As mentioned earlier, most cell phone carriers are completely used to demanding customers and as a result, have built up a tough skin when it comes to demands. However, friendliness and respect are harder to come by and will very often yield much larger gains.
Make the sales representative feel comfortable with you. Find something off the topic of phones to relate to the representative with. This will build trust and the discounts and deals will come out of nowhere.
I have overheard many of my sales representatives offering unsolicited discounts to a customer just because they felt as if they were friends in the short time of their in-store meeting.
At the end of your transaction, either they sold you on why you should buy their product at full price or you sold them on why they should give you all the discounts they can.
What to Expect
If you follow these suggestions I would not be surprised at all if you walked away from your next cell phone purchase paying hundreds less than a typical new customer. Make no mistake; those phones with the hefty price tag can be free, or close to it, if the representative has enough reasons to discount it. Give it a try, if you happen to be getting no where with a certain sales representative just leave and come back another day. The worst they can do say is say "no."
Another important factor is you may have to work at some of these discounts as very often, if a sales representative discounts a phone purchase, it comes strait out of their commission. Keep this in mind as you ask for your discount and be sympathetic with the representative. The representative's job is to convince (or "sell") you on the idea of purchasing today.