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Let me share with you my experience, as a customer, intent to purchase a new 2012 vehicle. My name is Ernie Kasprowicz, General Manager and Partner of AutoMax Recruiting and Training, LLC. We are a company focused on staffing auto dealers with quality people within all departments and provide enhanced job skills training programs. We have conducted over 11,000 salesperson recruiting programs over the course of 13 years. My background is from retail auto, starting as a green pea salesperson through F&I, sales, general sales and general management responsibility. I have now worked for AutoMax for the better part of 13 years. I have seen a lot. What I have experienced recently in my pursuit to purchase a new vehicle for my personal use is both shocking and disturbing to me.
I am a person who purchases a new vehicle, maintains it and holds on to it for as long as reasonably possible. I shop thoroughly before making a final decision. I am not locked into one particular brand or model and take the time to investigate my options. For my most recent purchase I visited more than 7 dealerships test driving 10 vehicles. The good to great news is that anyone involved with representing a new vehicle has a great product to sell. They are ALL really good, offering features and benefits that are very close in comparison.
What is the bad news? I didn’t meet a salesperson in the bunch. Not one. Oh, to be sure, a “salesperson” approached me, “showed” me the car, took test drives and even “worked” numbers. But, not one had a real clue of how a professional salesperson should interact with a customer. What I experienced was the laziest attitude towards customer service and desire to separate their product or dealership from the pack. My 14 year old daughter knew more about the vehicles we went to see from reviewing the factory websites than from anything we gained while at a dealership. Sure, we got to see how the seats folded, how doors opened or closed and all the in-cabin technical gadgetry. What I didn’t get was a why I would benefit from owning any one particular vehicle. I understand things have changed since I last sold a car. But, really? Can anyone explain why there were not comprehensive feature benefit presentations, no understanding of what other makes and models I may be considering and how the vehicle I am looking at compares. No walk and introduction to the service department as a means to build value for long term satisfaction. No real enthusiasm or effort during or after my visit to earn my business and become a customer of that dealership.
And then there is the price. All started at basically invoice and in some instances went down from there. What the heck is going on here? It’s not as if they knew what I do for a living…they never asked! So, I guess from a customer point of view I did get a great price. And that is my question. Is it all about price anymore? Has it really become lowest price wins and nothing else really matters? Well, nothing else matters because nothing else is sold. I was given no other reason to do business with any one particular dealership or to purchase their product rather than another. Whatever I knew about the vehicle going into the process was the same going out. So yeah, you better offer the lowest price. I got the impression each salesperson figured they would make a mini at best, and gave me mini in return.
Why is everyone so reluctant to spend a dime on professional sales training? What can possibly be the harm in having a thoroughly prepared sales team? A team of people who, on an individual level, know more about every vehicle they sell and know more about every competitive model than any customer could possibly know? How can it be a bad thing for salespeople to follow a sales process that includes a warm, sincere, professional greeting to the dealership? Since when is it wrong for a salesperson to express real joy and enthusiasm for the products they sell and the dealership they work for? As a consumer, I want to know why xyz stomps the competition! And I want it to be factual. The amount of inaccurate information I was given was appalling. It’s ok to say I don’t know. I already know you don’t care enough about your profession to actually prepare yourself.
So it comes to management. Who is running the store today? Why do you deny yourself the opportunity for real success? From what I’ve seen your stores are selling cars. But those are to people who made the decision to buy your product and from you, despite yourselves. I am quite certain few were swayed by anything presented to them other than low price. Are these harsh words? I don’t think so. They are straight observations. And, before it’s said the sample size was very small and in a small geographic location, let me share this: AutoMax conducts shopping reports throughout the country on more than 20 dealerships weekly, and the level of sales skills is dismal.
Do we really need salespeople anymore? It would appear as if not. Has the day arrived where the online pricing models such as TruCar have won the day? If I am to be told otherwise, then management and ownership better invest in their human assets. Otherwise, being a salesperson will be reduced to menial labor wages. Why pay more?