Car dealers need to take a common sense approach to sales staff

It can be interesting to observe that as the face of car selling in the UK changes, so do the people attracted to it. As we have often pointed out we believe there is still room for your, how can we put this, more traditional type of salesperson, as long as they are, of course an honest practitioner of the trade.

There is, when it’s all said and done, no substitute for experience and expertise and unfortunately although some of the graduate types who are joining the business now may have a real, in depth understanding of process and information gathering, they can sometimes lack the necessary social skills required to actually assist customers with their purchase.

Of course as the customer demands an enhanced service for their money and they clearly have more choice, it’s no wonder businesses are heavily investing in tracking their own buyers through the “system”. They do this by ensuring that they have a rigid sales process that gets adhered to and which captures as much information as possible to not only sell a car now but to maximise the chances of retaining that customer and selling to their friends and family in future.

With this investment and the subsequent training that many new sales people must undergo, there is one thing that cannot be taught, common sense and the ability to be able to adapt oneself to the needs of any particular customer who are all individual and thereby all completely different.

Unfortunately the culture in many car dealerships today is to espouse theories of empowerment and self help and encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit right up until someone makes a mistake and then the blame culture and finely honed self preservation mechanisms kick in.

It has almost reached the stage in many showrooms where staff would rather not make any decision than make the wrong one, and of course nobody ever learned by doing that.

There is also this kind of one size fits all approach to selling cars, it matters not to dealers and manufacturers that there may be a veteran of 15 years who sells 20 cars every single month, if he can’t fill in forms correctly or log every scrap of information in a timely manner then get rid of him in favour of a rookie who has no selling skills but is great at paperwork.

The reason that many independent car dealers and supermarkets are successfully selling lots of metal is that they are catering for people who just want to buy a car and get a good deal, have a bit of fun doing it and want to speak to someone who may have some clue what he is talking about.

In their quest for absolute “customer delight” car manufactures and their dealer network have become prisoners of their own systems. This means that, in some cases, a customer cannot proceed to even collecting a brochure unless he has sat down and told someone his entire life story, allowed for his inside leg measurement to be taken and recorded and had the inside of his cheek swabbed for DNA.

Treating customers correctly is not about making them stick to your process it’s about being flexible enough to recognise what they need, and getting them the car that best suits their budget and lifestyle.

To that end there is no sure fire process that can make that happen without the personality and skill of sales people, so unless the ‘decision makers’ realise that being so rigid in dealing with prospective customers doesn’t actually always work (and believe me there are many customers who leave car showrooms everyday exasperated and no further along the car buying process than they were before they went in) they will continue to haemorrhage customers and profits.

Oh yes and they’ll be perpetually recruiting sales staff and oiling that revolving door.

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