Five years since joining the Southdowns sales department, we talk to Trudy about the company, her role in its success and about being the only woman on an all-male team. Trudy was interviewed in Summer 2016.
Q When did you join Southdowns and how has the company changed in that
A Southdowns has grown unbelievably since I joined the sales team in May 2011 and like any company that is growing fast, we've had a few hiccups. The new service centre is fantastic and has made a big difference to what we can offer customers. They see it as a tangible benefit and its great for us because when customers are having their motorhome serviced by us on a regular basis, we are able to build on the relationship we develop with them while were going through the sales process. Once that relationship is established, they are unlikely to go to another company when they want to upgrade their motorhome and at Southdowns we work very hard to develop that rapport with our customers.
Q How has your job changed since you joined the company?
A My job hasn't changed but I have. Unlike most of the other sales people at Southdowns I don't have a motor industry background so I was on a very steep learning curve when I started. I felt as if I was on a training course every single day – for a whole year! Now I'm up to speed and know our stock really well, but what keeps me on my toes is the fact that this is an industry that is constantly changing. Manufacturers are continuously improving and upgrading their vehicles; there are new models released every year; and from time to time we change the manufacturers we represent, so there's always something new to learn and an exciting new vehicle to sell.
Q Have your customers buying habits changed in the last five years?
A We have seen a few changes during the last five years. Having been through a recession, our customers are still looking for value for money and this has driven our European suppliers to bring out special editions, which are competitively priced and designed to compete with motorhomes built for the UK market. My favourites are the Carthago and Burstner special editions, which have been around for about two years. They are beautifully made and are proving really popular with our customers.
Q How do you feel about being the only woman on the sales team?
A I'm the only person on the Southdowns sales team who doesn't come from the motor trade but I've spent my working life in male-dominated businesses, so it doesn't really worry me. What does surprise me is that in 2016, customers are often slightly flummoxed when they call to make an appointment and find that Im a sales specialist and not the PA! I think this is because car sales are so male dominated – perhaps for obvious reasons – and our customers assume the same will be true of a motorhome dealership. Once they meet me and realise I know the vehicles inside out, they are (usually) fine. I often feel I have to work twice as hard to prove myself but five years down the line I'm still here so I'm obviously doing something right!
Q What has kept you in the same job for five years?
A I'd be bored doing a job that was too easy. I still love the buzz of making a sale and doing a handover. I try to make it a special day for my customers and I get a real kick out of it too.
Trudy lives in Old Portsmouth and is a trained make-up artist. She was interviewed in May 2016.