Sales Cures All Ills

…or so they say

(One of the 83 quick and practical life & work lessons from Sh*t Sandwich: Quick & Practical Success Lessons for Practically Anyone.)

Sales Cures All Ills cartoonSales Cures All Ills

Many people have heard the saying “sales cures all ills,” but few understand the meaning. Basically, it means that so long as sales are good, stakeholders are willing to look the other way on anything not going according to plan. In other words: If sales are up, it’s okay if you and your team suck at everything you do; no one cares… just keep up the good work!

Given this, a more accurate saying might be “sales covers up all ills.”

I witness the concept of sales curing all ills nearly every day in automotive retailing. I firmly believe that there truly is no other industry like selling cars in America. Think about it: in what other industry is the final price you pay such a mystery (sometimes even after the sale)? The back and forth haggling might seem like a fair contest between two equally capable opponents (like the Marrakesh Spice Bazaar), but this is almost never the case. One side almost always has the upper hand.

Conventional wisdom would dictate that the car salesman – armed with the knowledge of what the vehicle costs and with an entire management team behind him – has the upper hand in virtually all vehicle purchase negotiations. Conventional wisdom is, of course, wrong. Perhaps this was true thirty years ago, but not so today. In fact, it is precisely because most consumers hold all the power in these negotiations that the industry has been unable to reform from the inside out. They still live in a culture where sales cures all ills.

When times are good, most dealership managers spend like drunken sailors on the latest and greatest (and usually unproven) “solutions” presented to them. When times are bad, these same managers will (and I’ve witnessed this firsthand both as a dealer and as a vendor) throw out the baby and keep the bathwater to save a few bucks.

The real “operators” in automotive are still a joy to watch: the sales managers and closers who can intervene with a customer hell-bent on buying nothing as they walk out the door. They not only sell that customer a car, but at a price higher than that customer ever intended on paying. That said, the experience is bittersweet, as transparent pricing and transparent processes continue to change the way nearly everyone buys cars.

Only when cars are priced like underwear at Walmart will sales no longer cover up what ails the automotive retailer. Of course, when this happens, there will be hell to pay for the inefficient, uneducated and generally poor leaders that permeate the automotive industry – and perhaps your industry, as well.

The time to be most critical about your business practices, your rules and your processes is when sales are good; because once you’re in a downturn, it’s too late. Beware good sales, they cover up what ails you.

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