Many of the car dealers we speak with are becoming increasingly worried about the experience given to customers in showrooms. Believe it or not, as the profile of salesperson has evolved businesses are struggling to attract what we would call actual sales professionals into the car trade.
Not only has the demands of the customer changed but also that of the OEM’s who are demanding a much greater say in the profile of an employee who represents their brand.
Of course we should also recognise that there are many aspects of the car business which have changed for the better. The transparency and access to information and the vast improvement in products and investment in facilities have without doubt made buying a car a far more enjoyable experience.
The problems occur however when a basic understanding of selling and making a connection with a potential customer appears to be missing. One sales manager recently told us that although he wants staff who are professional, polite, well educated and who can follow a process, there is still a big need for ‘personalities’ as he put it. And he’s right sales staff must possess the ability to offer sensible alternatives and not just blindly ask questions without being able to advise a customer on what car may suit them the best.
This is clearly illustrated by the fact that customers are choosing, in increasing numbers, to find alternative avenues to dispose of their current car before deciding where and how their next car choice will be made.
In other words, as our sales manager told us, customers are not getting the real benefit of the services on offer due to a lack of expertise in the sales teams. Buyers have less and less time for shopping around and want instant answers to help them make a choice, and therefore dealers who are most adept at offering a ‘one stop shop’ experience at their showrooms are more likely to gain more sales as a result.
But because of the changing demands made on sales staff ‘real’ sales people are being pushed out of the business because they are don’t find it so easy to stick to a rigid formula and are no longer trusted to use their experience, personality and superior sales skills to sell cars. These people are penalised for missing small pieces of information deemed vitally important for the stat counters who devise these programmes in showrooms and who unfortunately often have little or no experience of life at the coal face.
Perhaps it is time to recognise that the more traditional type of sales person still has a role to play in a company’s success.
But as our sales manager told us, it’s OK as long as we don’t let them anywhere near new car customers who are surveyed relentlessly by big brother. Whereas with used cars they can generally just do what they do best sell lots cars and look after customers but not necessarily playing it totally by the book in terms of the process set out by the manufacturer.
Ultimately this is just an observation from a small section of the trade and I’m sure there are many dealers who are happy with their sales teams and who do a great job in delighting customers. That said, with staff turnover still way too high in this business there is clearly a need for a rethink.
As an old colleague once said to me, a team is not made up of 11 defenders there needs to be a balance, and these wise words should relate to any kind of team environment.