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Today's Salespeople Suck!

A few weeks ago I was involved in a discussion on another website where the statement was made, “we do know there there's a dearth of talent on the floor”. My brain (fairly or unfairly) translated this into “today’s salespeople suck”. The post then went on to theorize that if today’s salespeople just did a better job adhering to a decades-old “process” then everything would be better.

Are Salespeople Letting the Process Down?

The Process worked well for years, so it can’t be the problem. The problem must be the salespeople.  Are we doing a bad job identifying and hiring talent? Perhaps the problem lies in training. A proven process, with the best people and the best training can’t go wrong. Can it?

Is The Process Letting Our Salespeople Down?

The old process was built on the idea of controlling the customer. It was built on the idea of holding information close and controlling its flow. The old process worked extraordinarily well when shoppers were in the dark. This process was designed before The Internet.

The process that many dealers are hoping will still work has a foundation based on an imbalance of power – of knowledge. As the balance shifted and consumers armed themselves with more information, the process faltered. It can still work on occasion, but the execution must be flawless.  Many of us are committed to a sales process that is simply harder to execute given the realities of today. The old process is letting today’s salespeople down.

Have We Embraced The Internet... Really?

Most dealers figured out that today’s shoppers use the internet extensively. Advertising budgets shifted to The Internet. Our hope was that consumers would use The Internet as they previously used print, radio and television. We hoped The Internet would be a cheap, efficient way for us to get our message to consumers. It has worked that way to an extent, but with the unintended consequence of empowering consumers with more knowledge and power than they ever held before.  The end result is that we’ve embraced The Internet as a conduit for our advertising, but in our sales process we want to pretend that it’s changed nothing. Embracing The Internet requires not just a shift of the Advertising Budget but a rethinking of the sales process.

This rethinking won’t happen within the Internet Department. It needs to occur at the top levels of management.

Build a New Process That Works

Today’s most successful dealerships really are embracing The Internet. They’ve built strategies that embrace and leverage transparency, rather than hide from it. These dealerships have discovered that, with a process designed for the realities of today, flawless execution isn’t a necessity. A Green Pea can be successful and a more practiced and talented salesperson can really excel. These strategies aren’t identical, buy they share a foundation of embracing openness and transparency. They don’t fight to keep a semblance of control over the customer. These strategies are not built on fighting The Internet, but rather, embracing it.

I don't think today's salespeople suck. I think yesterday's process is failing them.

 

Ed Brooks Sales Director
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Comment by J. Lugo on August 2, 2011 at 2:11pm

"There is no such thing as bad children. There is such a thing as bad parenting." 

 

I have to agree with Richard. If "Sales People Suck!" It is the direct responsibility of management. As mangers it is our responsibility to hire, develop, manage and even dismiss an employee when necessary. Time and time again I have witnessed good sales people with great potential fall short of what is expected of them. However this failure is genrally due to lack of leadership and mentorship.

I believe that salesmanship is a craft that is best learned through mentorship. What it takes to be a good manager, is not it what it takes to be the best salesman. This is where the breakdown occurs often. Often Dealerships will promote the best sales people into management roles. This is how I became a manager in the auto industry and this is still the standard today. I believe I was a successful manager not because of the YTD on my pay stub or just because I was a good salesman. What I utilized to measure my success, was the success of my sales staff. This is what I was mentored to do! This what "GOOD" managers taught me. What were my sales staffs rolling 3 month average? What was the YTD of each individual member of my sales staff? What was the sales average of my weakest salesman and why? Is my "TEAM" ok? Is there team cohesion? Is there employee toxicity and why? When it did come time to let a team member go, did I do what was necessary within my ability to ensure this employees success?

If you don't want your "Sales People to Suck!" Then take owner ship of them and mentor them. Having a good sales staff is similar to raising a good family! Mentor, lead, inspire,listen to your staff! Looks like I stepped on the soap box but I can't help it. This topic is very dear to me. 

Comment by Steve Richards on August 2, 2011 at 12:23pm
It's the process that runs prospects off the lot, it's the process that keeps the best and brightest from considering retail auto sales as a profession, and it's the process that runs those who do try auto sales out of the business. But "it's the way it's always been done". The process is a product of the inbred culture. Inbreeding creates all sorts of things; none of which happen to be desirerable.
Comment by Michael on August 2, 2011 at 9:23am
Ed:Your last paragraph conveys the 'action' dealers must take internally vs. turning a blind eye to the reality to this extreme common auto buyer practice in reviews up to a year at an 85% level for both New and Used. Until Mgt. embraces this reality and changes the traditional processes of yesterday with interfacing more astutely with prospects walking in our showrooms, especially with the Y Gen becoming our major buying force, the competitive edge in the sale processes of anew vs. yesterdecades will precide. See Chip Perry's AIN/DDDs interview today on this same subject matter. The obstacle over these repeated discussions is not a 'knowing problem, it is a Doing opportunity.
Comment by Justin Braun on August 2, 2011 at 7:38am

It is true that the old ways of thinking and selling are not relevant anymore in the digital information and communication age.  More and more dealerships are realizing this and the shift in process is happening, but like most revolutions, the acceptance of change is slow.  

 

It has been said that dealerships must fully embrace the web, upgrading tools and processes to achieve success.  Yet, technology doesn't sell cars.  PEOPLE with outstanding written and verbal communication skills sell cars.

 

I know that you know this is true.  You might have the most highly optimized website conversion rate on the planet and banging banner ads, but if you fail at building relationships with customers the moment they hit your website or social media profile, you fail at your job.

 

What differentiates you from your competitors?  Nothing except for your relationship with the customer.  Why not apply the same sales principles to your website and treat online shoppers like showroom walk-ups?

 

The customers are already visiting your site and the tools already exist to develop powerful and personal relationships with them. 

 

If everything sucks, do something about it...duh

Comment by Joe Tarell on August 2, 2011 at 6:52am
Great article Ed!  Salespeople are almost always a product of their training and their management. Many successful salespeople 10-20 years ago were simply great negotiators.  Today we need salespeople who can do more because the information flow has created an empowered customer. We sales managers have to take responsibility for their training and then manage to that new sales process.  And another thing; when they all become Internet customers, aren't they then just customers again.  The Internet Department must go away.
Comment by Thomas A. Kelly on August 2, 2011 at 6:36am
Good observations Jack.
Comment by Jack Lynn Howell on August 2, 2011 at 6:30am

Have you noticed that many younger sales people simply lack the ability to engage in a conversation, to look someone in the eye, and to see things through the perspective of the customer?  I really believe that while the new generation has skills we don't, they lack some abilities to improvise and to read the customer.  We Baby Boomers, as flawed as we are, grew up as free range kids, negotiating among ourselves, improvising fun, and settling disputes without Helicopter Parents guiding our every move.  We are now paying the price.

Comment by Ed Brooks on August 2, 2011 at 6:16am

Richard, I agree 100%. Many of today's salespeople people are asked to follow a process that worked great 10 or 20 years ago. That same process today, is like a deck stacked against them. The old process depends on the customer having little knowledge - that just isn't the case today.

 

Take two salespeople, one working today and one working 20 years ago. They both have equal skills and training. They both are working the same strategy - the strategy that worked so well 20 years ago. The salesperson working 20 years ago would be successful, while the salesperson working today faces an uphill battle. Same skills, same process - but a vastly different market.

 

The fundamental change has to happen at the top. A single salesman can't accomplish it. Nor can a BDC or Internet Department. It has to come from top management.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on August 2, 2011 at 6:06am
Richard - What you describe is a scenario seen all too often in far too many dealerships... The irony and saddest aspect is that not only does a dealer end up with a poor manager, they typically lose one of their best sales professionals in the process!
Comment by Richard Rikess on August 2, 2011 at 5:58am
I couldn't agree more about the process, but it is not the sales consultants, it is the managers. Most managers became managers because they were good at sales 5-15 years ago. Success as a sales consultant does not equal success as a sales manager. Change the thought process from the top down and watch gross and CSI follow!

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