Automotive Marketing Professional Community for Car Dealers, OEM and Suppliers
THE AMERICAN CAR SALESMAN
by Larry Bruce
The American car salesman is both hated and revered.
He is the last of a rare breed – the ultimate maverick.
He walks with confidence and takes offense at direction.
He cannot be left on his own, yet his spirit will not be dominated.
He is free enterprise personified.
The American automobile salesman laughs in the face of affirmative action. He is one of the few workers in society who is paid exactly what he is worth.
While the average person views an hourly wage as security, he disdains it as unnecessary limit on his ability to produce.
He hears negative responses every day, but has never learned the meaning of defeat.
He believes free enterprise was created with him in mind.
He has the instinct of the hunter, coupled with great compassion and kindness.
He speaks eloquently and detects the most innocent untruth from his customers.
He would never bow his knee to any king or queen, but has the uncanny ability to treat his customers like royalty.
He is uniquely talented, endowed with savvy that cannot be taught in a classroom.
His spirit is what America was built on.
He is a loner who has difficulty walking in step with others, yet he gravitates towards those who are like him.
He is intensely competitive, nevertheless quick to give a helping hand to a struggling brother.
He is a dealer’s biggest liability, yet he is that same merchant’s greatest asset.
Some elements of society would like to eliminate him, but have found him to be indestructible.
Without his personality, his smile, his spirit, there would be a giant void in America.
Larry, that was elequent and well-spoken. Thank you. It reminded me of the spirit of mountain men and frontiersmen... resilient, self-reliant, and independent. They led the way into the wild West and were later followed and replaced by settlers, ranchers, and railroads.
The 20th century was the wild west for the automobile industry and car salesmen have personified that same spirit of self-reliance and independence. And just as the mountainmen, who were loners, would come down from the mountains once a year to whoop it up together at the trading posts, so did salesmen gravitate toward watering holes to whoop it up after a long 12 hour workday. Both groups had a tendency to brag about their recent accomplishmenst.
Just as the mountainmen and frontiersmen slowly faded away as the west was settled and civilized and replaced with professional businesses, so the last decade of the 20th century introduced the Internet which began the process of replacing the traditional car salesman.
It's not an overnight phenomena, just as the former was not. But the Internet revolution, being followed by the Digital and Social Media revolutions is changing the way we do business just as surely as the railroads, settlers, and ranchers changed the West.
Yes the traditional car salesperson has been one of the few workers paid exactly to his ability. But more and more I hear them complain that they are not earning enough as profits erode throughout the industry.
There's a sense of wistfulness in your writing that I empathize with. But I think the disappearance of one way of selling is just opening the door to a new spirit that will be won by creators and entrepreneurs just as independent as the ones they are replacing.
Change is here. But it is not the death of the independent spirit here in America. Those qualities will just manifest in otherways and other places. Again thanks for making my day!
When I worked as a manager for Carmax, I remember when Austin Ligon, (former CEO), would visit our stores. He would spend most of his time talking to his sales associates. He would spend little time with management. He wanted to know what was happening at the front line of his company. He valued the sales associate higher than most of his employees. We, as managers, understood why. They were our most valuable asset because we were building the company one customer at a time. The foundation was clearly the sales associate and the customer interaction. It's one more great reason that company is successful today.
I've seen other dealers (and heard of others) placing the sales force importance pretty close to last. "I can replace them anytime." Those are dealers that fear losing a technician will cost them dearly. However, losing a customer costs them more.
I still find Austin's attention to his sales force as one of his greatest strengths as a CEO. I wonder why other Owners and Principles do not share his same vision and belief. I thinks its a critical mistake. Whoever handles your customer is your company. Right now, it is still a human with a title of salesman. A great sales associate is the most valuable force in a dealer today. Those who don't believe that probably don't work at a dealer, handling car buying customers, or they want to sell you a product.
There's another side of this story... as always... that independent spirit has led to all kinds of consequences.... Here's just one... :-0
Guys this is one of my most favorite, in fact i have its on a poster in my office. Without people like the american car salesman there would be no America. This post is over a yr old and was originally the words of the Late Great Jackie B Cooper. (I wish I could take credit).
Ralph thanks for reviving this post, I have been tremendously busy and haven't been able to post or tweet much at all over the last few weeks. This post is truly what our business is all about.