I sat in the car sales office only four months ago, the interviewer: my future boss threw my resume up into the air, then proceeded to lay into me, he explained that my education and my list of jobs in the Automotive industry was of no interest to him and wanted to know why I wanted to sell, from the very first moments I felt like the Gestapo had their spotlight on me.
I went home dejected, but probably not really perturbed, then two days later came the call –‘Welcome to the car sales industry’ At that point I had really no idea on what I was about to undertake.
Before I started I had my reservations, I mean we all have our ideas of car salesmen right- Well i was about to ‘become one’ and I wasn’t exactly comfortable.
Upon entering the first things that struck me about this industry, is just how different it is to other sectors I have worked in, there are rules and formalities, language and ways of behaving that just don’t apply to the majority of jobs out there.
For example, the industry takes balloons very seriously, and where a key is hung on the key rack can result in the silent treatment for days. There is a ‘Wooduck” a “Plum” and other coluorful phrases consigned solely to the car industry.
I like hundreds of other trainees that came into the industry was woefully under prepared, in an information session I attended a trainer gleefully explained how the sales industry was in his estimate constantly churning over 30% of its workers mainly trainees, how in nearly every dealership he went to all over the country there was nearly always a trainee that had been there only three or four weeks, it was no surprise it just seemed part of the territory, that’s sales.
There are parts of the job that are enjoyable depending on your personality, there is no greater feeling than knowing it was your personality that sold a car, and when the customer actually explains that you where the reason why they bought that car. That is the fuel that keeps you going.
Other salesmen are a little like a group of cats to work with, they are all the same species and like cats there are territories. If you go into their territory there is a fight. The way it works is that if you meet and greet a customer, explain and run through the car, build up rapport – but the customer does not buy on that day but comes back later to make a purchase. If the salesman records that person in their diary or on the computer program then that commission is theirs. Some salesman even go further believing that if the customer just comes in asking for a particular salesperson then that is his or her sale.
Many senior sales people take advantage of new trainees ruthlessly ‘snipping’ as many sales as they can before the trainee works out how it all is supposed to function. I roughly had about 6 sales snipped by senior salespeople. The sales manager can often acts like a judicatory deciding who deserves the sale or who put in the most effort, or in some cases just which salesperson they like the most on the day and just awarding them with the sale because they feel like it.
As you can see this industry functions differently to others, while watching a training video on air bags and safety one day I had some light shed on why. The engineers in the video seemed honest people who wanted that product to be as safe as it possibly could, the job was their life’s work and the culmination of years of training and study, the brand had developed that product spent millions and millions on advertising and distribution that was real.
Yet I watched it with squinted eyes, I was looking through the fog of the salesman, it didn’t feel real- I had seen the same kind of videos on the last brand of car I sold…they can’t all be ‘the safest car on the market’. Honestly it was all down to if I really believed it or not, or if the customer believed it or not.
And that’s where the individual salesperson comes into it, it seems if a salesperson knows his product and more importantly bonds with the customer then sales do happen. Yet, it is very difficult to control that process, because you can’t control the people coming in, it isn’t like learning to do something like say design a magazine, or repair an engine. it isn’t even like other forms of retail because many people come in focused on just how much they can get the car for.
So the industry is fueled with the salesman’s personality, its no secret that getting along with the customer is crucial to making the sale, however it would be a surprise to most people that much of the focus in car sales is on how to control the car salesperson.
So much focus is placed on how to control and train the salesperson, some other crucial factors are forgotten, like product knowledge for example, training to use the computer programs, and even the paperwork that needs to get completed, there is a fair amount of legalities in a sale that takes a while to understand and explain.
When a sale was actually happening and I was center stage, it was either fun or excruciating depending on the sales manager, it is a high pressure environment everybody knows it.
But it is another thing altogether to actually have lived it.