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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 Ernie Kasprowicz on March 1, 2012 at 11:28am

Chris you bring up good points.  I truly believe there are many outstanding ethical people in the retail industry.  Your experience is similar to mine.  I welcome ideas or opinions or better yet, dealer management responding with current examples of effective pay plans.  Effective in that the salespeople are motivated to WOW the customer and not just sell a vehicle while fitting within the dealership business structure.  Training does make a difference.  Every customer deserves an elite experience. 

Comment by Ernie Kasprowicz on March 1, 2012 at 11:10am

Jim, thanks.  It is interesting about the videos.  We did view video of vehicles from the manufacturers web sites and from the internet department sites many dealers have.  I don't know if these are the same as your service provides but I will check out your information.  They really did give a good understanding of the vehicle.  At this point in time, where I differ a bit in opinion, is for me, nothing beats getting to touch and feel the vehicle, to see first hand the size and equipment, experience the drive.  Perhaps it is me.  I did get great information prior to going to a dealership.  I would have appreciated the salespeople knowing as much and caring about my purchase nearly as much as I did.  

Comment by Allan R Mullins on March 1, 2012 at 10:58am

What Ernie seems to be describing are 'clerks, not salespeople'. My fear is through the lack of training properly 'Professional Sales People' properly we are all allowing the Lowes/Home Depot type environment to creep into the Automotive Business. Will Americans really appreciate what's happened to the hardware business- 'Low Prices and Bad or No Service'. When I have home repair needs, I go to Ace Hardware. Are they a little more expensive? Yes but they know enough about home needs to actually help me fix something myself. That is very rare at Home Depot. You can never find anyone and when you do, it's either not their department (and they disappear) or they read the item's packaging with you. Guess what, I can read all by myself. The day of the 'True Transportation Problem Solver' to help the Consumer is getting harder and harder to find. With True Car, where's the sizzle, where's the enthusiasm in spending $$ on the 2nd biggest item most Consumers buy? It would kill the OEM's as they would all be forced in an 'equipment content model' designed to provide the most competitive price. Many Americans are still way to In Love with their vehicles to let the industry go way. For the dealers not doing it now, the quality and enthusiasm of their people will help them succeed in this market. I would say to the American Car Buyer- "Be careful what you ask for, you may get it and realize that you don't want it".

Comment by Ernie Kasprowicz on March 1, 2012 at 10:40am

Terry I agree that many managers have the ability to train.  The problem is that developing sales people gets lost in the shuffle.  Few have developed training for each and every day and far to often "wing it", which quickly loses appeal to everyone.  Even if only a half hour of concentrated rehearsal through various steps of the sale, or objection handling, or product presentation, or follow up were conducted on a daily basis, the results will be productive.  If management can't scrounge even that amount of time, then by all means, outsource with professionals who do have a plan and the full focus sales team development requires.

Comment by Chris Redmond on March 1, 2012 at 10:38am

Agreed on the training portion... I was in the car business as a salesperson and manager in the 90's and 2000's. I saw a decline in the true salesperson and the development of the order taker. The problem with the order taker is they built no value, and the price became irrelevant... everyone started giving them away... Dealers advertising $39 over invoice. What then happened is the price shopper blasted the dealership on the manufacturer survey for not getting fantastic service at the time of the sale.

I have personally purchased several vehicles since leaving the car business. I have been ignored, lied to, had products misrepresented and been baited and switched. I have also met some of the most honest,  professional and knowledgeable salespeople out there. It is definitely a per store issue, and I find many times the compensation plan and training are the key factors.

As a dealer, you get what you pay for... so if you want minimum wage salespeople, expect minimum wage results... there will be some diamonds in the rough, but it takes a lot of dirt to find a diamond. If dealers don't invest in developing the talent they have, they will be constantly be searching for new talent in an endless cycle.

Comment by Jim Barisano on March 1, 2012 at 10:33am

Ernie, These are excellent observations and just a few more reasons why people hate walking into dealer showrooms.  I come from the video side of the business in which the consumers can do most of their research by viewing videos online or on-demand and study the online data, moving them quickly and painlessly "down the purchase funnel."  I see interactive video online, on VOD and mobile as the ideal way to eliminate many hours of car shopping while saving the dealers' customer service representatives (car salesmen) countless hours working with and driving around with car shoppers who are not quite ready to pull the trigger.  With ten test drives, you and your daughter probably spent two days of pain.  On the other hand, I know of car buyers who narrowed their potential choices from eight down to two and bought in one fun afternoon just by watching our linear videos via VOD. WheelsTV is now moving to interactive videos with lead-gen. This next generation car shopping service will make it possible for the consumer to be much closer to making the purchase decision, saving everyone tremendous time and effort. 

Your comments about the service department are also very valuable.  If I sold cars professionally, I'd play up the nice guys in service.  I dread walking into the local Chevy showroom but always enjoy dropping off my Tahoe for service. No pressure, helpful service, nice guys who know cars and are happy to chat.  I'd also throw in some free oil changes, maybe some movie passes or restaurant script and car wax in a goodie bag, just so the customer would tell his or her friends.  But the point is: The old scary, time-consuming, torturous way of shopping for a car is dead or dieing.  All of that comparative info is becoming easily available via TV everywhere. So, sit back, relax and take video test drives with your family and friends.  You'll get very close to choosing the car for you. With interactive video and online data, everyone wins.

Comment by Tom 1TeamSynergy Wiegand on March 1, 2012 at 10:31am


Your passion for the betterment of our industry is honest and true, my friend.  Never let frustration be confused with passion.  You and your daughter simply experienced frustration with dismal, yet normal sales processes.  Nevertheless, it is passion and total commitment to bettering our industry the proper way that will win the day in the long run.  Stay the course; stay passionate.  Yeah Automax!

Comment by Terry Adelman on March 1, 2012 at 10:18am
For some reason dealers will spend tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes hundreds of thousands on marketing every month to drive prospective clients to their stores and won't invest a fraction of that on proper sales training. Why drive people to the showroom if you don't have the ability to provide a great experience? I believe most managers feel that they can do the job of properly training their sales team and maybe they can, but do they really have the time or desire to do so?

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