Who’s at Fault for the Talent Shortage in Automotive Sales?

Garry House

Rarely do I come across a dealer today who claims to have a sufficient number of vehicle sales personnel. When adding the word “quality” to “vehicle sales personnel”, the dealers’ claims of staffing success turn pretty ugly. Why is it so difficult to attract quality people for automotive sales positions?

Several years ago, I was working with a client in Southern California and conducting one of my rare sales training meetings. The subject of the meeting was Developing and Engaging Your Circle of Influence. I had just finished explaining to the sales staff that, “everyone you know needs to become aware that you are an automotive sales professional who wants to earn their business!” One member of the retail sales staff (whose dealership career was immediately shortened that morning) said, “I’m not doing that!” The GSM asked, “Why,” and the salesperson responded with, “I don’t want my neighbors and acquaintances to know that I am just a car salesman!”

Was that salesperson unique in his opinion of his job? I think not! There are probably far too many people in our vehicle sales departments who haven’t taken ownership of their profession and aren’t sincerely proud of how they earn their living.  And I think that’s the fault of dealers, GMs, sales managers, and automotive resource professionals (such as me) who haven’t done an effective job in recruiting, onboarding, training, nurturing, and, in general, “connecting with” today’s potential automotive sales professionals.

There seems to be an unrelenting perception that automotive sales is a “last resort” job, and we have allowed that perception to exist and grow. We should be tired of it, and we need to do something about it! When we convince someone to choose an automotive sales career (or when a qualified applicant “drops into our lap”), he needs to clearly understand that he’s not settling for a second-rate job. Automotive sales is a challenging profession that a person can and should be proud of. And it comes with many rewards.

  1. Unlimited income potential: Few other jobs allow an individual to determine how high his income will go, often even surpassing that of his sales manager.
  2. Independence: As long as the car salesman is meeting or exceeding expectations, most “good” sales managers will let them set their own goals, create their own plans and manage their own time.
  3. Sense of satisfaction: This comes from being an automotive expert and helping people solve their unique transportation problems.
  4. Personal growth: With markets, technology, and product offerings constantly evolving, the automotive sales professional is always growing and learning something new.

I know that you already know all this, as I do. Since we know it, why don’t we do a better job promoting it?... Not only in our recruiting efforts for new hires…but in “re-recruiting” efforts with our current vehicle sales personnel. Here’s a question for you: Within your current vehicle sales staff, how many would you really wish to see participate in a “reverse interview” process with a potential new sales hire that you have already pre-qualified? I would love to hear from those of you who are happy with your answer.

Garry House


(561) 339-0043

Mark Rask

We do not "market the jobs" well


Chris K Leslie

The automotive industry as a whole is at fault. We've allowed perception to be what it is since the begining. I dont ever see Car Sales as a job being a sexy career path. It's not a bad thing its just what it is. 

Mike Jeffs

Great topic to bring up, Garry. Thank you for the post. I agree with Chris in that everyone shoulders some blame. We recently completed an in-depth story series on DrivingSales News exploring this issue. Here's Part 1

I'd encourage you to keep talking about this topic Garry and you should go into more depth in a blog so we can all learn from you. 

One more note is all industries struggle with this problem. I think automotive struggles with it slightly more than average. We recently had 2 days of leadership training with 2 decorated Navy SEALs who have consulted with dozens of companies from all kinds of industries. I asked them what's been their biggest surprise as they train businesses/leaders across the country and they said, "All businesses and industries face the same people problems and all claim it's difficult to find good people in their industry." I believe automotive retail is not an outlier, but it's still a problem that needs to be addressed. 

Mark Rask

Mike is so correct.....this problem is not specific to our industry. Dont get me wrong, we have some very talented salespeople at our dealership. The problem is that we just cant get enough of them!

Aaron Berg

I believe that attracting and retaining talent with the current generation is about providing a clear path of opportunity. Many of the young people that we have brought on board, from our prep department to sales, are now finance managers and sales managers. Some of these employees started with us at 18, fresh out of high school, and become managers by 22. It is important to provide opporunties that are not dead end jobs and make it clear to all employees that if they work hard, opportunities exist within the company and they dont need to look elsewhere. 

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