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Mark Tewart

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You may find this article a bit odd knowing that it is being written by a sales trainer. I believe traditional selling is dead on arrival. The days of hiring and building a well trained sales staff that executes all facets of the sale, follow up, prospecting, marketing, telephone skills and building a database of repeat buyers has for the most part been dead for a while.

 

Some of you reading this may be shocked or even angry at such a statement and declare that it is certainly not the case at your dealership. However, it is the case for ninety-five percent of dealerships across the country. If you have been able to recruit, hire, train and retain a professional staff of salespeople who execute on an extremely high level then I say “bravo to you.” Our company has certainly helped many dealerships do the same thing. However, after almost thirty years in the business I can tell you it is not the norm.

 

What I see in the auto business today as an average is scary. I see lazy, untrained staffs that either cannot or will not learn the skills necessary to become a strong, professional salesperson. I see dealerships with weak or non-existent game plans to recruit, hire and train a strong professional staff. I see managers who like to sit behind their desks and wait for untrained sales staffs to bring them deals.

 

I continue to see dealerships moving to more and more specialization and technology. I see dealerships utilizing CRM’s, in store or external Internet departments, outsourced BDC’s and sales processes that heavily utilize managers and technology. Although technology does not sell vehicles, it surely assists you in the process. More dealerships will move towards an old school but now new school process of product specialists and managers. People will only be trained and expected to perform in certain areas of competency. F&I managers will be moved more towards the front of the sale rather than the back of the sale. Many smart dealers have moved towards this arrangement years ago.

 

Dealers have been beating their heads up against the wall forever trying to get salespeople not only trained, but get them actually doing it. For the most part, it has not worked. I have heard certain sales trainers cry out “It’s not an option.” That’s easy to say, but those same sales trainers went broke while owning their own dealerships. I am not writing this article to be politically correct. I am writing this article to be a witness to the truth as I see it. The average salesperson today in most stores is lucky to have a job let alone resembling anything close to a professional salesperson. Customers just won’t tolerate amateurs and old school selling anymore.

 

If you are fighting the same battles you have been fighting for years and not getting better results then it may be time to stop blaming your managers and look in the mirror. It may be time to try a different approach. And to all the truly professional salespeople out there that don’t fit into the ninety-five percent category I mentioned, you have my apologies as you should be held in very high esteem and not lumped in with all the rest. You are truly some of the most valuable people on earth.

 

If you would like to receive my free report on the new generation of selling, email me with the phrase “new generation” in the subject line

 

 

Steve Peck
Mark, It was different back then, before the internet. Back then, a high school grad with some entrepreneurial spirit could by-pass college and jump start their career selling cars on the showroom floor. Back then, a saleperson could get married, buy a home, raise a family and live comfortably from commissions earned on the sales floor. Back then, salesmanship was a personal service with a honed set of skills. When was the last time you saw an enthusiastic, informative walk-around accompanied by a professional sales process? Let alone a professional greeting. Back then, there was little knowledge of dealer cost and vehicles had larger margins to negotiate with. Back then realtionships were friendships, social was real, not virtual. Back then, there were fewer brands to choose from. Today, automobiles are a commodity, you can drive 15 minutes in any direction and duplicate the same vehicle. Back then, your CRM tool was a box of 3x5 index cards. The tragic thing is- the same percentage of salespeople who used a follow-up mechanism back then, is the same as today. So, all this high priced CRM software is as valuable as a box of index cards if salespeople don't buy-in. Back then, factory reps knew the dealer's salesforce by name and provided on-site sales training and product knowledge. There were sales events like factory backed walk-around contests. Back then, the only time you had to sit on your butt in front of a screen was at home in front of the TV. Today you sit on your butt in front of a computer screen most of the day. There are dozens more topics we can cover, but when it all comes down to it, back then, was back then... Soon, customers will be able to factory order their vehicles online from home, they will be able to arrange financing from home, choose a dealer from home, and only enter the dealership to take delivery when the vehicle arrives. Salespeople will soon become counter help. They will familiarize the customer, hand them their keys and wave good-bye, that's it. Factories will start taking a larger role in the sales process. "Gone will be the adrenaline rush from the thrill of the close." Dealers will no longer house acres of inventory sitting in various stages of lot rot. The industry itself from the factory to the sales floor is in a state of flux right now, but the role of the professional salesperson as we knew it back then, will be over soon, and they know it.
Chris Sondesky
Steve, This is a point well taken, and a doomsday scenario for most in the business. However, I think this is more than just a few years away, more like a couple of generations, if ever. This is the extreme of internet buying, and is the end result should all of the real ‘salespeople’ become extinct. I, for one, don’t foresee that happening. Too many of us get high on the sale, the elevation of the close, and the proud posturing when we walk back into the showroom after delivering our first car at 9:45 am on a Saturday morning, knowing we have 3 more deals lined up for the day.. Car buying is an emotional experience. We cannot let ourselves forget that. The job of the ‘traditional’ salesperson was to feed on that customer’s emotions, play to their ‘hot-buttons’ and manipulate their feelings to close the deal and maximize gross profit. We’ve gotten away from considering the emotions of our customers. We are so convinced our product is better than that of our competitor, and that we can offer the customer such a better deal on OUR vehicle, that we’re simply laying the information out in front of them with the expectation that they’ve done all their research on the internet, and they made their decision based on what they’ve read and seen online, since it is all true, of course, because it was found on the internet (sarcasm implicitly implied). The goal of today’s internet department MUST BE to bridge that emotional gap between the computer, and the physical stimulus of the new car smell, feel of the dealership, and butterflies EVERY SINGLE ONE of our customers get when they are nearing that threshold of committing to a deal. Have some emotion on the phone, get them excited about coming in!!! We are so worried about managing the expectations of our employees and bosses that we forget to do so with our customers, or we do it in such an old-school, pompous, egotistical way, that the customer is then reminded why they loathed the trip to the dealer to begin with. We can soften up without being weak. We can play nice, treat customers with respect, and still get the deal. Will that customer cut our throat for another $50 or $100 off from the next guy? Probably. But that is because WE failed to make the emotional connection with the customer. WE failed to obligate them because we don’t believe the be-back bus will stop at their house. Guess what? The empirical data shows that the BUS WILL STOP if you treat them right. Don’t let that one d**khead who said ‘Hey buddy, the guy down the street saved me $5 a month and had a cute cashier, so I bought from him’ get to you. He is the exception. What is more likely is that the salesperson, and at least one, but most likely two T.O. managers leaned on him so hard, that when you had to let him leave, he was racing to get out of there. He went to lunch with his wife, had a beer and a bite to eat, is more relaxed, and bought a car at the next dealership on the way home. Because he was softened up and ready to buy, but needed to do it on his terms. 5-1 odds that the guy you lost the sale to made more gross. You can give the illusion of control without giving up control with just a little bit of tact. tact (tāct) noun. The ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a manner that they anticipate the trip. Take the pressure off (slightly) for TODAY; especially when it comes to internet customers. More likely than not, they didn’t just submit that lead request 10 minutes before they came in. They spent some time, did some research, and however it got to you, their information came over to express interest in purchasing an automobile. My Internet department closes at nearly 35% in real, auditable numbers. Does yours? Of those 65% that leave, half buy a car in 20 days. Fill up the be-back bus with gas, and with diligent follow up, and the development of a REAL HUMAN RELATIONSHIP, you will earn another visit and a real opportunity at the sale. There are no more laydowns, you need to work for every single unit. My GM manages 3 full sales/service/parts rooftops, and will still desk a deal or TO a difficult customer. Get your fat ass off the desk or out of the office and go talk to a customer. I don’t care if you draw $5k a week, you are not better than them, no matter how they are dressed, what they look like, or how they smell. Coming into today’s age of selling cars doesn’t happen overnight, but it can start with the next action you take. This isn’t ‘Suckers’, this is the real world. This is a market where we can’t sell cars to 400 and 500 scores all day anymore. On the flip side, the real buyers that are in market are more real than ever, and more capable to buy then ever. Be honest, be upfront, and be yourself. Bring some morality back to the business, and you can still have fun and make money doing it. And wear that plaid sport-coat. I am. ~Chris
Chris Sondesky
Steve, This is a point well taken, and a doomsday scenario for most in the business. However, I think this is more than just a few years away, more like a couple of generations, if ever. This is the extreme of internet buying, and is the end result should all of the real ‘salespeople’ become extinct. I, for one, don’t foresee that happening. Too many of us get high on the sale, the elevation of the close, and the proud posturing when we walk back into the showroom after delivering our first car at 9:45 am on a Saturday morning, knowing we have 3 more deals lined up for the day.. Car buying is an emotional experience. We cannot let ourselves forget that. The job of the ‘traditional’ salesperson was to feed on that customer’s emotions, play to their ‘hot-buttons’ and manipulate their feelings to close the deal and maximize gross profit. We’ve gotten away from considering the emotions of our customers. We are so convinced our product is better than that of our competitor, and that we can offer the customer such a better deal on OUR vehicle, that we’re simply laying the information out in front of them with the expectation that they’ve done all their research on the internet, and they made their decision based on what they’ve read and seen online, since it is all true, of course, because it was found on the internet (sarcasm implicitly implied). The goal of today’s internet department MUST BE to bridge that emotional gap between the computer, and the physical stimulus of the new car smell, feel of the dealership, and butterflies EVERY SINGLE ONE of our customers get when they are nearing that threshold of committing to a deal. Have some emotion on the phone, get them excited about coming in!!! We are so worried about managing the expectations of our employees and bosses that we forget to do so with our customers, or we do it in such an old-school, pompous, egotistical way, that the customer is then reminded why they loathed the trip to the dealer to begin with. We can soften up without being weak. We can play nice, treat customers with respect, and still get the deal. Will that customer cut our throat for another $50 or $100 off from the next guy? Probably. But that is because WE failed to make the emotional connection with the customer. WE failed to obligate them because we don’t believe the be-back bus will stop at their house. Guess what? The empirical data shows that the BUS WILL STOP if you treat them right. Don’t let that one d**khead who said ‘Hey buddy, the guy down the street saved me $5 a month and had a cute cashier, so I bought from him’ get to you. He is the exception. What is more likely is that the salesperson, and at least one, but most likely two T.O. managers leaned on him so hard, that when you had to let him leave, he was racing to get out of there. He went to lunch with his wife, had a beer and a bite to eat, is more relaxed, and bought a car at the next dealership on the way home. Because he was softened up and ready to buy, but needed to do it on his terms. 5-1 odds that the guy you lost the sale to made more gross. You can give the illusion of control without giving up control with just a little bit of tact. tact (tāct) noun. The ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a manner that they anticipate the trip. Take the pressure off (slightly) for TODAY; especially when it comes to internet customers. More likely than not, they didn’t just submit that lead request 10 minutes before they came in. They spent some time, did some research, and however it got to you, their information came over to express interest in purchasing an automobile. My Internet department closes at nearly 35% in real, auditable numbers. Does yours? Of those 65% that leave, half buy a car in 20 days. Fill up the be-back bus with gas, and with diligent follow up, and the development of a REAL HUMAN RELATIONSHIP, you will earn another visit and a real opportunity at the sale. There are no more laydowns, you need to work for every single unit. My GM manages 3 full sales/service/parts rooftops, and will still desk a deal or TO a difficult customer. Get your fat ass off the desk or out of the office and go talk to a customer. I don’t care if you draw $5k a week, you are not better than them, no matter how they are dressed, what they look like, or how they smell. Coming into today’s age of selling cars doesn’t happen overnight, but it can start with the next action you take. This isn’t ‘Suckers’, this is the real world. This is a market where we can’t sell cars to 400 and 500 scores all day anymore. On the flip side, the real buyers that are in market are more real than ever, and more capable to buy then ever. Be honest, be upfront, and be yourself. Bring some morality back to the business, and you can still have fun and make money doing it. And wear that plaid sport-coat. I am. ~Chris
Steve Peck
Well Chris, I'm not in the business anymore, not directly anyway. I guess I was just reminiscing. After 26 years, I called it a career. I'm glad there's still passion in the business and salespeople do understand that it's still a people business. Don't get me wrong, I was one of the first Dodge dealer internet managers in 1993. My 286 computer and a ribbon of bandwidth. I guess the topic was really about training salesmanship, which has always been a 1 in 50 swing at the plate. I do want to clarify one thing though. There has always been morality in the business. The problem wasn't people, it was the prickly process of negotiations. Car salespeople got the rap for having to present the rub. It takes a skilled technician to get through the process unscathed. I'm sure it's still the same. The car is too much, I can get more for my trade down the street, interest rate is too high, no money down,etc. What needs to change is the process. The internet has provided a platform to offer a softer approach, maybe at the sake of profit but it's a start. If you wear a 34" waist- I may have a pair of pants that would compliment your plaid coat. Good luck and good selling!
Steve Peck
Hi Chris, After perusing your post a second time it occurred to me that possibly you didn't understand my position. Please allow me to clarify. First however, I hope your comments regarding "getting off your fat ass" and "your no better than them" and you don't care how much one makes, etc, was a generalization and not directed at me personally. I can assure you, when I was the GM of a multi line dealer, I closed my share of TO's with consistency and grace I might add. I certainly won't contest your closing ratio claims but it does sound consistent with the last 3 decades, or so I've been told by many. In my first post I was trying to convey that it WAS easier back then. We didn't have the competition, we had more profit to work with, and we didn't have the impersonal nature of online correspondence, like when someone says something slimy online they wouldn't dare say to your face. Additionally, customers back when weren't equipped with the resources they have today. Customers then had to come to the showroom to pick up a brochure and ask questions, and that's where the relationship was formed. Your observation about traditional salespeople feeding off customers emotions is no different than today. The real salespeople who were building their book of business wanted to fill their customers needs and desires. They wanted them happy and eager to tell their friends where they purchased, just like today. Were we cocky? You bet, probably too much so at times. Were we spoiled? Yes indeed, the opportunities were abundant and the commissions were bountiful. The term be-back bus was typically used by the cynics on the floor, we all know it circles back around at times. At least the pros did. I mentioned earlier that I embraced the internet in it's infancy. However, the very next day, selling cars became perpetually harder and less profitable. Not trying to sound sarcastic, but I'm quite familiar with all the cliches, including the age old definition of tact(noun). My original point was, that salespeople back then had a better opportunity to make an above average living than they do today. That's why Mark is having a hard time finding desirable candidates to train, because the money isn't there like it was. Why else does one go to work? Maybe you're right about the future of the car business, we'll see, it's changing rapidly and it's not finished yet. Best Regards, Steve

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