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We love our sayings in the auto industry. From “the feel of the wheel seals the deal” to “I like meat – if I don’t sell I don’t eat,” we have a ton of them. While many of these sayings are harmless, others work to promote a bullying culture that can hurt your business. A perfect example is the phrase “green pea” to refer to a new sales consultant. Industry veterans use put-downs like this, and other aggressive language, to gain dominance over newbies and protect their turf. However, the effects of harassment are widespread and may include pushing promising new talent out of the industry, turning-off customers who overhear foul language, and even depressing sales. If you want to attract the best talent, engage a more diverse customer base, and sell more, you’d be smart to tap down the scorn directed at new sales consultants.
Schoolyard bullying tactics keep our industry stagnant at a time when what we really need is new blood, new ideas, more diversity of ethnicity and more diversity of gender. It’s new thinking and diversity that will help us attract a more diverse customer base. But, that is not what most dealerships convey to their employees. In fact, by maintaining the status quo, I would argue we are conveying the complete opposite.
For example, I was recently at a top-notch dealership where a new representative was all but written off by her peers. Whether the behavior was due to her gender, demeanor or skills, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she was marginalized and set up to fail. By not stopping the behavior, management was complicit in the bullying.
I myself experienced bullying when I was new and the veteran who sat next to me would pour poison in my ear for hours. “I don’t know how you are ever gonna make any money in this market,” “We have too many reps,” “We don’t spend money on advertising like we used to.” The comments went on and on.
Passing over a “green pea” when an opportunity appears, slighting comments and turning aside, this all adds up to a culture that hurts your business. This is especially true when it comes to dismissing women in our industry. According to Women-Drivers.com, women account for 50% of car purchases and influence more than 80% of the deals. However, only 38% of women feel confident about the car buying process. What do you think would make them feel more confident? How about dealing with a female sales representative.
This isn’t to say you need to go out and hire a new team of sales consultants that is more diverse. Simply by promoting an environment of respect, where everyone has a chance to succeed without being bullied, can influence your success.
Forward-thinking dealers know this, and are working to change the culture of their stores. One important transformative step is the move to a managed retail sales process. The complete opposite of the traditional process where sales associates are pitted against each other, the managed retail sales process employs a consistent approach to how leads are handed out. This equitable distribution of traffic and transparency of activities, levels the playing field so new associates can show their worth and grow in the profession without intimidation. It is also an effective way for managers to eliminate unprofessionalism without taking on the task of trying to monitor everything on the floor.
The top-notch dealership I mentioned before, where the newbie was treated as a second-class citizen, moved to the managed retail sales process. That change eliminated the bullying while allowing her to show her worth. She didn’t have to rely on someone giving way. With a built in reward for making appointments, real stats connected to activities, and increased ability to manage time she sold more cars. In fact, she sold more cars than anyone. And still does.
It costs more than ever to get clients through your doors. You spend a lot of money training the right people to greet them. Don’t limit your efforts by allowing a bullying culture to keep sales associates from reaching their potential, and your business from embracing social change. Managed retail sales process gives you the power to stop bullying tactics and sell more cars.
Randy Carlson is a Client Relationship Specialist at The Next Up, a Retail Sales Process (RSP). You can reach Randy at RCarlson@thenextup.com