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How’s your automotive sales career going? Making the money you want? 


I know of only one consistent way for auto sales associates to start earning real money. This way is available to any associate who has the insight to hear and recognize a career-defining moment when it comes.


Here is how this defining moment usually happens. You get up one day, like all others, and go do what you’ve always done or what seems popular with the herd or huddle. Then something comes along and slams into your status quo like a defensive end into a quarterback.


The funny thing about defining moments is you can’t plan for them so you usually can’t see them coming.  We don’t see them coming because our habits, often unproductive and unprofitable for us, tend to blind and deafen us to change.


This next statement could be your career-defining moment. Ears open and eyes alert? The definitive way to achieve success in this business is to:


  • Show up and never again take an up


That’s right. If you want to make successful living selling cars, leave the up traffic to those who’ll settle for less. Nationally, just 5 percent of auto sales associates make a living taking ups. Instead, plan now to go after the business residing in your existing customer base.


A dealership’s customer database is the most under-capitalized source of business in very dealership in America. Ninety percent of the customers a dealership engages will never hear from that dealership or that sales associate again, creating a rich opportunity for any associate who wants to chart their future for a profitable life selling cars.


See if the numbers don’t speak for themselves. When I recently spoke to a group of 100 Midwest auto sales associates, of the 40 of them having been in the business for five years or more, only seven of them were making really good income – and they were doing that without taking ups! These guys had learned the secret to successful careers in auto sales I’m sharing today.


Here’s why leaving showroom ups to the huddle-hangers and instead going after repeat customer business directly is smart:

  • The average household has three drivers, each a potential customer.  The average customer will own 12 vehicles in his or her lifetime. That one household represents 36 potential sales for someone.

  • Fresh ups carry low grosses, tend to be tough on CSI and earn them only mini commissions.

  • 30 percent of every customer in your database has someone in their family or among their friends and associates who’s going to buy a car within 90 days, according to Joe Verde. Go after them!


Finally, if you haven’t recognized your defining moment in this yet, consider these final points about why selling to your database is more profitable selling for you:


•             Predictable sales numbers

•             Predictable income numbers

•             Predictable CSI

•             Better grosses

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Tags: CAR, CRM, Customer, Customer Relationship Management, Kelly, Patrick, Patrick Kelly, Relationship, XRM, management, More…motivation, motivational, speaker


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Comment by Roosevelt Gist on December 14, 2012 at 7:47am

My defining moment came after training at the dealership and trainer said that this is how all before you prospected for business, friends, relatives and ups.

Decided those paths were so worn they are now trenches. After some research found a very lucrative credit union market. Started credit union car buying service.

Comment by Patrick Kelly on December 11, 2012 at 9:02am

Great comments!  Thanks for contributing to the discussion.  The problem is that we as an industry are willing to hire people who want to stand around most of the day, catch a quick up or two, and make a few hundred bucks.  Like Chip said below, there just isn’t any excuse for this with the tools that are available to us.  We need to focus on hiring people who want a career and not just a job, and then we need to teach them and train them how…there’s also no excuse for us not to do our part as managers. 

Comment by Ralph Paglia on December 10, 2012 at 6:52pm

When I saw that  Edward Shaffer had commented, I made a beeline here to read what he would contribute... I was not disappointed.  I have a high level of respect for Mr. Shaffer's experience and professionalism, and reading what he posted as a comment is essentially as true a reason for the cause of what I commented on, and the driving force behind what Patrick Kelly created this article about.  I would like to add one more facet to what Ed commented about; when you create an organizational development plan around specialization of task execution by those who are most suited for the role, inevitably you end of saving money as an organization because you are no longer paying somebody for the execution of a task they are simply not doing.  Plus, specialization allows you to hire the least expensive resources to get a particular type of work done properly.

Comment by J.R. Batchelor on December 10, 2012 at 6:42pm
Follow up is great but if that store has a very high turnover rate as most stores do then what the customer gets is "Mr. Customer the person that sold you your car no longer works here but......"
Comment by Edward Shaffer on December 10, 2012 at 6:19pm

The basic underlying reason for this apparent lack of motivation is a case of "can't do" vs. "won't do".  It is not from lack of want that many sales consultants fail to make the most of the opportunities within their current customer database.  It is the direct reflection of their personality profiles and the discomfort produced by these activities.

Most sales consultants are hunters and thrive on the immediate and tangible reward of the kill.  What you are describing here is a farming activity which takes time, effort and patience to produce results.  Prospecting the client base is simply a foreign concept to the hunter.

For example, although I was a proficient sales person in my day, I neither saw the benefit nor felt comfortable with simple follow up such as calling clients on their birthday.  It basically feels insincere and disingenuous to me...with my personality perform these types of relationship building tasks.  In other words, it is just not "natural".

The underlying concept of seeking business from within your client database is a sound principle.  My belief is that it is the responsibility of the dealership to create business opportunities for the hunters.  What we really need is a shift in philosophy to a more specialized model which places people in positions where they have the highest likelihood of success.  What General Managers and Dealer Principals resist is making the investment in these changes...they firmly believe int he philosophy and are simply asking the wrong workforce to perform the tasks.

Comment by Chip Dorman on December 10, 2012 at 5:28pm

Here's what I don't get, why do Owners, GMs and Managers let this happen?

Sales reps work for the Owners, GMs and Managers - don't they?

Honestly, one of the biggest problems that I see at dealerships is that they are run by car guys, not true sales and marketing professionals. These Owners, GMs and Managers are lazy, ignorant or a combination of the two. They are either happy with what they are making or they don't know how to run a sales organization properly.

If they did, this would not be allowed to happen. 

With all of the tools we have at our disposal today, there are no valid excuses.

Comment by CJ Romig on December 10, 2012 at 4:37pm

There's gold in them there service drives!!!!

Good article Patrick...

Comment by J.R. Batchelor on December 10, 2012 at 2:52pm
Unfortunately if more sales professionals looked at their job as a career versus just another job that individual would do the things to take their "career" to the next level.

Comment by Jason Richmond (HondaPro Jason) on December 10, 2012 at 2:46pm

These are great stats and its funny becuse they are the same as when I entered the car biz 16 years ago.  I dont understand why some salespeople don't understand it.  I hope they all read this and find realize this could be their  career-defining moment!!!!  Great article Thank You for posting.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on December 10, 2012 at 2:34pm

Every dealership seems to have at least one salesperson that never takes a fresh up... This is the guy that when the sales manager gets on his case about going out and greeting a customer, when the store gets extra busy, always seem to say "I can't... I got an appointment that will be here in less than 15 minutes..."

I have often wondered why more sales people do not adopt the type of follow up and customer communication process that allows sales professionals to graduate from the showroom floor and become "Sales Executives" instead of lot greeters.

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