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Death of a Salesman, has the day arrived?

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?

Views: 1139

Tags: AutoMax Recruiting and Training, Death of a Salesman, customer service, sales, selling, training


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Comment by Pete Obuchon on March 3, 2012 at 10:09am

Absolutely. The trick with technology is to make it work to your advantage. The same thing goes for training. Take away anything that you can from anyone that you interface with and act like a sponge. Just soak it up and listen. The day that you think that you know everything is the day that you start your decline in this or any other business. If you do your job the right way and treat people the way that you want to be treated yourself you never need to worry about the money. It will always be there for you. I just cant wait for the next six months now that I am developing a customer base with referral business. Thanks for the compliment Tom and I hope all is well with you.

Comment by Tom 1TeamSynergy Wiegand on March 3, 2012 at 9:48am

Pete:  You are a pro's Pro!  What you do in those additional 10 hours is the true, authentic, credible you everyone sees as your true character.  I hope this is what readers take-away from your comment.  Gross comes afterwards, agree?  Well done!

Comment by Pete Obuchon on March 3, 2012 at 7:57am

@Keith My personal average comission for the past 90 days is $653. I averaged 16 cars over the same 90 day period. I have a 5 day work schedule from 9-6. I put in an additional 10 hours per week from home on follow-up and personal branding. I am a 25 year vetran with the last 18 years on the desk, I have been back on the floor at an independant used car lot for the past 6 months with no previous customer base to work with. We have a sliding comission scale here... 10% for under $1000 gross, 20% for $1001-$1999, 25% for $2000-$2099 and 30% for over $3000. I hope this helps you.

Comment by Craig Lockerd on March 1, 2012 at 3:05pm

@ Keith,math makes some sense Keith,$2000 payable front gross X 25%

Would be very interesting to see some input from managers in regard to the question you asked.

Comment by Keith Shetterly 1 hour ago

I want to do some calculations.  Who is willing to give up their actual sales pay for their salespeople @ avg per car for 12 cars?

Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 1, 2012 at 2:45pm

Nobody is biting on the $500 u/c commission being low?  :)  Can't a brother get a break on this blog??  

Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 1, 2012 at 1:32pm

Actually, let's say this is used cars, the average commission paid is $500, so the total monthly for 12 cars is $6000.  If the salesperson worked 72 hours a week (bells x 6), that's almost $21 an hour.  If we say 12 cars is $4500, then the same calculations are $15.5 an hour.

What if I told you I know of a u/c dealership that pays associates $15/hour with benefits, trains them, gives them advancement and TWO Saturdays off a month (all must be present on the last Sat of the month).  Bonuses only on 1st $500, 2nd $300, 3rd $100.

Turnover rate is really low.  Do you think this works?

Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 1, 2012 at 1:24pm

I want to do some calculations.  Who is willing to give up their actual sales pay for their salespeople @ avg per car for 12 cars?

Comment by Ernie Kasprowicz on March 1, 2012 at 1:14pm

Amen Keith, it is about retention and your point goes to the core of the problem.  Many of these challenges would abate if across our industry the customer encountered a sales team of highly professional tenured salespeople.  All aspects of business will improve.  Very few dealerships retain salespeople for a meaningful duration.  External forces are a factor, however, most of the damage comes from within the dealership environment.  I can tell you that I encounter dealerships that are at the very top in aspects a dealership can be measured.  When I ask them what is their "secret", they always respond by saying, "our investment in our people". 

Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 1, 2012 at 12:06pm

In retail, name one other vertical market of any real size that pays its salespeople commission-only?  It's not training only, or re-training only, it's RETENTION of the trained and successful.

Ritz-Carlton, renowned for customer service, pays and bonuses its employees aimed at customer service.  Not a retail market, I agree--but the point is that great salespeople are retained by personal results.

The way that sales floors are "fixed" by flooding with whatever talent dealers can get to show up for the money we're willing to pay is a slave-owner mentality (yeah, I said it).  When slaves labor is cheap, even if the slaves work half as hard as paid workers that cost ten times as much then the idea is to buy more slaves rather than hire paid workers.  

Flooding a sales floor for "coverage" rather than for "great buying experience" is the mistake we have made for decades.

And the Internet is going to give more and more choices for customers to opt out of the old floors and into the new.  There is absolutely nothing we can do about it except adapt.

Customers get the buying experience we pay for.  In personnel and training.  And you can't invest in just ONE of those any longer.

Comment by Ernie Kasprowicz on March 1, 2012 at 11:37am

Hi Tom, there is no doubt I'm frustrated, lol.  Our industry is better than this.  At least I believe it can be.  The "dismal yet normal" has got to change, or like it or not, professional auto salespeople will be a thing of the past.

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