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Mercedes-Benz van dealer doubles sales in lockdown after radical new approach

Bell Truck and Van, the Mercedes-Benz dealer for the North East, more than doubled its sales for the first seven weeks of lockdown, helped by innovative new ways of working as it worked around the clock to support customers.

Bell Truck and Van sold more than twice as many vehicles during the lockdown, as it did in the same period in 2019

In the seven weeks after lockdown was imposed, the dealer sold more than 700 new and used vans, up by 116% on the same period last year. This compares to the 50% slump seen in the overall new light commercial vehicle market (up to 3.5 tonnes GVW) in the first five months of the year.

With Bell Truck and Van managing director Ben Sowersby and colleagues having realised that the home delivery sector would play a critical role during the crisis, the dealership kept its workshops and parts departments open throughout the lockdown phase to provide maintenance and repair back-up for customers, particularly priority ‘blue light’ fleet operators. This was backed by social distancing measures.

And rather than ‘battening down the hatches’ on sales, Bell stepped up to a seven-days-a-week operation and, helped by van sales manager Andrew Scott and his team via homeworking, put together a number of attractive offers on Sprinter, Vito and Citan models. These were heavily promoted by its marketing team – Bell also bucked the trend by substantially increasing its advertising ‘spend’ during this period.

As a result, the dealer saw huge increase in the volume of enquiries received from prospective customers, which the sales team worked flat out to follow up. They succeeded in translating an impressively high proportion of these enquiries into sales.

Ben Sowersby said: “A human tragedy was unfolding before our eyes, so of course the company’s primary responsibility was to protect its people. That’s why we moved very quickly to introduce social distancing measures such as screens, and ‘mapping’ on floors, at our various locations.

“We also recognised, however, that if we’d simply shut up shop from a sales perspective a number of colleagues would have no jobs to come back to; redundancies would have been inevitable.

“Given the obvious expansion in home deliveries, and the increase in demand for vans that this would inevitably feed, we therefore resolved to attack the market digitally. This approach paid off in a big way, as orders flooded in and we very quickly found ourselves delivering vehicles all over the country.”

Sowersby continued: “The sales team did a magnificent job, of course, but marketing generated the leads, and the guys in the workshops pulled out all the stops to get so many pre-delivery inspections done. As is always the case at Bell, everyone has a part to play and we celebrate our successes together.”

With lockdown measures lifted and the focus now on getting the economy moving again, Bell Truck and Van continues to play its part. The company has welcomed back all but a handful of the 92 colleagues it furloughed, and reopened all of its sites to visitors, with appropriate social distancing measures in place.

Bell has also just taken on an additional van sales executive and three technicians at Longbenton, and aims to recruit an administrator and another van sales specialist for its Stockton branch as soon as possible.

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Written by Natalie Middleton

Natalie has nearly 20 years of fleet journalism experience, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.

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