Hiring Automotive Salespeople: We’re Way Beyond Sink or Swim
I was working with a client recently (essentially helping train their sales team to sell more vehicles at higher grosses to today’s connected customers) and on the first day of the engagement, one of the managers pulled me aside and told me not to bother with salespeople X, Y, and Z because, in his words, “I don’t think they’re going to make it.”
Yikes. What year is this? Not going to make it? Why not? Why did you hire them in the first place? Who did you assign to mentor them? What makes you think your next three new hires are going to fare any better than X, Y, and Z?
With the economy chugging along and unemployment rates at historical lows, it’s time to come to grips with something in automotive retail. That is, we’re way beyond the old school sink or swim.
Sink or Swim
For decades, dealerships were successful hiring a bunch of green peas and throwing them in the river of car sales. Those few that didn’t drown were deemed to be good salespeople; while those that sank “just weren’t cut out for the car business.”
Dealerships could operate this way because there was an almost endless supply of green peas – and there was no internet where the underemployed, dissatisfied, or overqualified could easily find a better gig. (And, no internet where potential new hires could learn how crappy it is to work for a given dealership’s management team.)
Times have changed. The green peas with the skillsets to become great salespeople won’t reach anywhere near their potential without great leadership. They’ll drown. Moreover, hiring great veteran sellers isn’t the answer because great salespeople won’t work for bad leaders.
Let’s be clear: Selling cars isn’t hard… it just takes work.
Helping Everyone Swim
Because we no longer have the luxury of sink or swim, dealers who want to escape the endless cycle of recruiting, hiring, firing, recruiting, hiring, firing, etc. can work to create a simple mentoring program in the dealership. It’s not hard to do; and it certainly requires no outside help (hint: your managers can and should do this).
The solution is simple and effective: Assign a manager or a senior salesperson to every new hire. It’s now this manager’s or salesperson’s job to make sure X or Y or Z is successful. Offer a bonus when X sells 12 or 15 or 25. Also, give them a bonus when their trainee reaches certain employment milestones (like 6 months, 12 months, etc.). Finally, make sure the assigned manager or salesperson knows that if X doesn’t make it, they’ll be assigned X2… and then X3… and then X4.
Oh crap, that sounds like they’ll be accountable for the new hire’s success; that they’ll be responsible for ensuring the dealership does everything it can to help their new hire swim.
Oh, the humanity.
It’s amazing what accountability and responsibility can accomplish.