A car sales person with a certain je ne se quoi

Whilst chewing the fat (which was mostly contained within a particularly greasy bacon roll) down at the auction recently I got talking to a couple of sales managers I recognised from way back when who were taking a day out to check prices (and take advantage of the free breakfast on offer).

We got onto the subject of the modern day sales exec and whether they are better or worse today than we were in our prime. We came to the conclusion that a fair comparison was hard to make because customers are so much better informed today as a result of the net. Information they may have previously needed to gather from a sales exec (necessitating a visit to the showroom in many cases) was now freely available to them from the comfort of their own home. These days at least 70% of the information a car buyer needs to make an informed choice can be acquired before even entering the showroom.

The other point the guys made is that in these days of customer centricity and various and plentiful exit surveys for both buyers and non buyers, mystery shops and customer satisfaction incentives provided by the manufacturers for franchised dealers, there can be no chances taken when employing new people; they have to be a safe pair of hands or they risk losing the business valuable income for noncompliance.

The flipside of this, of course, is that during tougher times, when there are fewer customers about, a large majority of modern day sales execs although trained in gathering information and process application often do not possess that certain je ne se quoi when it comes to the business of actually converting a customer into a sale.

Our 2 sales managers pointed out that they almost have to micro manage their sales teams and are adamant that they should “second face” (see: The Motor Trade Insider Guide To Buying New Cars – FREE to download) all customers to satisfy themselves that the potential car buyer is not likely to walk into another showroom and buy an alternative.

This, as I pointed out, is what is required to ensure that all customers are happy with the level of service received and that the sales manager is satisfied that all has been done that could be done to gain a sale.

The conclusion we came to was that there is still a need for good ‘sales’ people who understand that customers have unprecedented choice and who receive a large chunk of their pay check via commission and results based incentives.

These people therefore need a certain amount of personality and ability to close sales but also need to be able to manage the expectations of the brand they represent along with hitting sales targets set by managers. They also need to be able to apply themselves to a rigid sales process and delight customers at the same time!

A delicate balancing act some may think, but with the potential rewards involved then certainly achievable.

The fact is this business has evolved and as in many retail arenas the bar has been raised along with customer expectations, but there should always be some individuality and the ability to understand that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. For every customer who wants the “full treatment” and to spend hours in the showroom there will be just as many who know what they want, how much they are prepared to pay and how quickly they can get it.

By grasping this simple fact car retailing businesses will surely adapt to the modern way, along with their sales execs.


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One Response to A car sales person with a certain je ne se quoi

  1. Jeremy Sargeant November 16, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    Interesting debate! The short answer must be that nothing has changed. There are good sales people and there are bad. The job can change and the process can change, but the salesman will always need the basic core skills. My car sourcing business frequently requires interaction with salesman at dealer franchises. OK, I am not your typical punter. But perhaps that is the point – who is? I have met many many great sales staff who understand exactly the right approach to get the deal done. However, too often, I am let down by dealer sales staff. Only on Friday, I gazed blankly at a salesman telling me that the BMW 645 I was buying for a client was going to use less fuel than his BMW 320. Not plausible and I didn’t care anyway. Pointless. I do not envy the position of the car salesman – process to follow, targets to reach, brand representation to be aware of, so much qualification to do. However, that qualification and the intuition that allows it to happen, is still as key as it ever was – the core, basic skill. As soon as the salesman masters that, all he needs is the flexibility to tailor his approach to the prospect he is addressing. Often, that skill is absent. So, perhaps, if you talk about micro management, the starting point is to decide which of your sales staff are able to qualify prospects and to sell accordingly and which of your staff assumes the prospect to be a lesser being who needs to be patronised before he escapes the showroom . Micro manage and educate the weaker ones and watch the others react when their colleagues conversion rates jump up. Suddenly, the task of converting showroom traffic into sales starts to become much easier…………Easy for me to say I hear you mutter!

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