The New Job Description of an Automobile Selling Professional

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day,” is the first part of an ancient Chinese proverb that explains why the majority of salespeople are not doing so well in our industry. If you think about it, our industry is pretty young, a little over a hundred years old and since its inception, not much had changed in the way that vehicles were bought and sold, until the Internet. Much has been written and said about how it has impacted the industry, but the quandary that we face today, is how to equip our salespeople to respond and succeed in these uncharted waters. The challenge is that the Internet not only modified how we sell cars, it totally destroyed it! It disrupted our approach to creating gross profit and exposed our internal processes to scrutiny that no other industry has experienced before. But more important than that, because we use to operate as a microcosm where we made up our own rules to include tailoring the job description of those that sold our product, it was easy to hide their flaws under layers of floor managers and closers. Inexpensive newspaper advertising, inappropriate commercials and other gimmicky campaigns were used to get the prospects to the lot for our people to do their jobs, however when the Internet came on line, it changed everything. Dealerships were no longer the destination for all things in the buying process and without notice what use to work was no more. So what do you do with a sales team that was always taught to keep your eyes on the lot and wait for the next up? Or more importantly, what do you do if you are a struggling dealer with lots of inventory and a staff of individuals that only knows how to stand around and wait for their ‘up’ to show up? In this case, you re-invent the wheel, that’s what you do.

If you step away from the table and look at the sales process, what you will see is that it is linear, where there is a starting point and a finishing point and both ends are properly defined. This explains why salespeople are struggling and why the Internet has disrupted the dealership’s sales process to the extent that it has. Stay with me…because most sales managers focus on the part of the sales process they can see, like the prospect coming onto the sales lot as an opportunity to close a sale today, they scrutinize and emphasize all the steps involve in that onsite client interaction (the road to the sale). However, when it comes to all of the other activities that cause the client to return or send referrals, in most cases they are silent because these activities are so ambiguous that they could not be measured in order to be duplicated. The reason that this is so critical for you to comprehend is that by introducing two new processes to the mix, (Business Development & Customer Relationship Management) it will close the loop by transforming the sales process from the linear, start at the meet and end at the close, to a circular motion where once a prospect enters the system, they never fall out.

Teach a man how to fish and he will always eat….

By redefining the role of the selling professional, we will be able to take into account all the variables that we now have to deal with. By defining the job functions as Build, Maintain and Manage a book of business, we will then be able to outline the things that they will need to know in order to be effective at this new role. A book of business refers to the customer database, and although the business owns the data, the salesperson has a symbiotic relationship with the clients that they sell to thus making them a joint owner of that data. I know that this statement may not be popular, but if you think about it, people do not do business with an entity, they connect with and do business with people that work within that entity. This is why you cannot remove the salesperson from the solution and then generate sustainable results. So by teaching them how Build a book of business, they will know how to generate their own lead sources, they will be able to actively engage in relationship building activities, expand their sphere of influence and connect with past clients to ensure that they remain in the fold. By teaching them how to Maintain a book of business they will be able to actively engage with clients to sustain the relationships during long and short selling cycles as well as throughout the entire relationship life cycle. And by teaching them how to Manage a book of business means that they will know how to leverage the use of technology to include CRM software to sustain all the activities that are needed to grow a vibrant and profitable book of business. But even more important than all these is the fact that managers will finally have a process to manage instead of trying to manage the person.

So right around now you might be saying that all this sounds great in theory but how do you teach salespeople to do all this? That’s a great question, but you will have to wait until next time as the thing that you need to wrap your head around now is that all roads do lead to Rome and all the programs that the business engages in to generate traffic from SEO, to BDC centers to text messaging, to whatever, still directs the prospects to a salesperson to convert. So if their ratios cannot be quantified and if systems are not in place to address the findings, then spending more money on lead generation is just like burning money!