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Can We Change How Salespeople Are Perceived?

Can We Change How Salespeople Are Perceived?

Charles Cannon

Pushy. Rude. Con Artist.  When I did an informal survey asking people to describe auto salespeople with one word, these three were the most common words used.

Being in the auto industry for over a decade, I can certainly understand why consumers feel this way.  I have heard many horror stories from clients about bad experiences at dealerships and personally seen things done by salespeople that were shady.  While the vast majority of salespeople in the industry are honest and conduct business with the highest integrity, a small minority have helped to fuel the stereotype of the “pushy” and “rude” salesperson.

There are many solutions that we as an industry can start to implement that will slowly change how we are perceived.  Among the many that come to mind, I will share three approaches.   Ultimately, what you decide to do will depend on the culture of your dealership and what you want to accomplish.  The first solution is:

Hire the right people.

In many instances, dealerships have lowered the bar when hiring a salesperson. Sure, you will find someone to fill the position, but are they the right match? A low bar means hiring an employee who does not appreciate the job or just has this position until they get a job they really want.  This is also costly for the organization, both in terms of time spent with the new hire and the time needed to replace them. We as an industry need to raise our standards and let potential hires know that it is a privilege to work at your dealership. When hiring:

*Conduct multiple interviews with different managers over a few days;

*Consider personality tests performed by a licensed independent third party;

*Ask your top salespeople for referrals. Top salespeople typically know other top salespeople in town and can possibly lead you to other proven winners.

In my opinion, one of the core principles that a dealership should look for when hiring somebody is to make sure they are willing to be trained.  Speaking of training, my second solution is:

Have a consistent schedule to train the salespeople.

Whether it is a few days a week, or every day, there has to be a focus on training the salespeople both as a group and individually.   By consistently training, a dealership will be able to ingrain in salespeople exactly how they want clients treated during the entire sales process.  Training will not only benefit the salespeople, but customers will have a better selling experience.  A sales increase will soon follow.

Finally, salespeople should ask a simple question throughout the transaction process:

What is best for the client?

Many times, we ask “what is best for me?” or “what is best for the dealership?”  While this does make sense, the customer is why we are here and they pay us to take care of them and service their needs.

Some examples of putting the client first:

*Going to them to present a vehicle if they can’t (or won’t) come to your location;

*Authorize your salespeople to offer a small compensation to a client that is unhappy for any reason for their experience (ex. free car wash, free tank of gas) without having to go to management.

When the right people are hired, trained properly, and become client focused, we will be able to slowly change the perception that the general public has about salespeople. Then, when somebody does an informal survey asking, “What is the 1st word that comes to mind when describing auto salespeople?” we can be described more accurately: Professional. Knowledgeable.  Exceptional.

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