Let me share with you my experience, as a customer, intent to purchase a new 2012 vehicle. My name is Ernie Kasprowicz, General Manager and Partner of AutoMax Recruiting and Training, LLC. We are a company focused on staffing auto dealers with quality people within all departments and provide enhanced job skills training programs. We have conducted over 11,000 salesperson recruiting programs over the course of 13 years. My background is from retail auto, starting as a green pea salesperson through F&I, sales, general sales and general management responsibility. I have now worked for AutoMax for the better part of 13 years. I have seen a lot. What I have experienced recently in my pursuit to purchase a new vehicle for my personal use is both shocking and disturbing to me.

I am a person who purchases a new vehicle, maintains it and holds on to it for as long as reasonably possible. I shop thoroughly before making a final decision. I am not locked into one particular brand or model and take the time to investigate my options. For my most recent purchase I visited more than 7 dealerships test driving 10 vehicles. The good to great news is that anyone involved with representing a new vehicle has a great product to sell. They are ALL really good, offering features and benefits that are very close in comparison.

What is the bad news? I didn’t meet a salesperson in the bunch. Not one. Oh, to be sure, a “salesperson” approached me, “showed” me the car, took test drives and even “worked” numbers. But, not one had a real clue of how a professional salesperson should interact with a customer. What I experienced was the laziest attitude towards customer service and desire to separate their product or dealership from the pack. My 14 year old daughter knew more about the vehicles we went to see from reviewing the factory websites than from anything we gained while at a dealership. Sure, we got to see how the seats folded, how doors opened or closed and all the in-cabin technical gadgetry. What I didn’t get was a why I would benefit from owning any one particular vehicle. I understand things have changed since I last sold a car. But, really? Can anyone explain why there were not comprehensive feature benefit presentations, no understanding of what other makes and models I may be considering and how the vehicle I am looking at compares. No walk and introduction to the service department as a means to build value for long term satisfaction. No real enthusiasm or effort during or after my visit to earn my business and become a customer of that dealership.

And then there is the price. All started at basically invoice and in some instances went down from there. What the heck is going on here? It’s not as if they knew what I do for a living…they never asked! So, I guess from a customer point of view I did get a great price. And that is my question. Is it all about price anymore? Has it really become lowest price wins and nothing else really matters? Well, nothing else matters because nothing else is sold. I was given no other reason to do business with any one particular dealership or to purchase their product rather than another. Whatever I knew about the vehicle going into the process was the same going out. So yeah, you better offer the lowest price. I got the impression each salesperson figured they would make a mini at best, and gave me mini in return.

Why is everyone so reluctant to spend a dime on professional sales training? What can possibly be the harm in having a thoroughly prepared sales team? A team of people who, on an individual level, know more about every vehicle they sell and know more about every competitive model than any customer could possibly know? How can it be a bad thing for salespeople to follow a sales process that includes a warm, sincere, professional greeting to the dealership? Since when is it wrong for a salesperson to express real joy and enthusiasm for the products they sell and the dealership they work for? As a consumer, I want to know why xyz stomps the competition! And I want it to be factual. The amount of inaccurate information I was given was appalling. It’s ok to say I don’t know. I already know you don’t care enough about your profession to actually prepare yourself.

So it comes to management. Who is running the store today? Why do you deny yourself the opportunity for real success? From what I’ve seen your stores are selling cars. But those are to people who made the decision to buy your product and from you, despite yourselves. I am quite certain few were swayed by anything presented to them other than low price. Are these harsh words? I don’t think so. They are straight observations. And, before it’s said the sample size was very small and in a small geographic location, let me share this: AutoMax conducts shopping reports throughout the country on more than 20 dealerships weekly, and the level of sales skills is dismal.

Do we really need salespeople anymore? It would appear as if not. Has the day arrived where the online pricing models such as TruCar have won the day? If I am to be told otherwise, then management and ownership better invest in their human assets. Otherwise, being a salesperson will be reduced to menial labor wages. Why pay more?

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Replies to This Discussion

Where oh where have the basics gone......

We go from 17 million new down to 9.5 and now tracking 14 million for 2012? Pent Up Demand like we have never seen before.Perfect opportunity for everyone to start High Fiving each other on how swell we all are,ownership weakens, managementweakens and salespeople become nothing more than clerks.This has all happened before and we better get on top of this right now.I love our business and when Ernie told me this story and we discussed him writing about his experience,I said heck yes,people need to hear stuff like this and make the changes needed now!

I believe much of the challenge I experienced comes from a lack of training and lack of enthusiasm.  Both can be overcome.  To draw a parallel to training, which by the way will help with enthusiasm, I would ask people to look at our armed services.  Think of the Navy Seals or Green Berets for example.  Those men and women represent an elite force, capable of the most demanding endeavors.  But how did they get to be that way?  Training beyond training is the answer.  Nothing is left to chance.  The result; a team of highly motivated individuals with the highest standards producing remarkable results.  Your team of employees really isn't any different.  You get what you develop.  It would be great if dealer management would share examples of effective pay plans.  Effective in that salespeople are motivated to WOW the customer, not just sell a vehicle.  And, effective because it isn't way out of proportion to dealership budget.  

All comes down to management. Big money spent in advertising to attract customers only to have salesmen with no commintment, no training and with bad habits to take care of them. Very good Ernie.

Some dealerships do get it, most do not!  To do a simple ad in the paper or on line and get a couple people to respond is nuts! To send them to the conference room to watch some tapes and get a couple managers to train them on and off will not produce a sales person! Now on the other hand to allow AutoMax to run a full campaign with a national trainer for a week for less than $2k ........  Well that makes sense. A great store that is 1/2 a car deal.

The American Car Salesman both Hated and Revered. 

Never will there be the death of a Salesman!

Love it!~

Thanks Bobby for commenting.  I will be far less concerned about this when auto salespeople are truly revered.  There is a good discussion through this blog on ADM addressing this topic.

Bobby Compton said:

The American Car Salesman both Hated and Revered. 

Never will there be the death of a Salesman!

Love it!~

The following in a post from Ralph Paglia in regard to this subject that Ralph posted in Carbucks on Face Book....thoughts?

The furniture and carpet retail industry's pay commission only, BUT their salespeople get a percentage of the GROSS SALES REVENUE, in many cases 6% to 8% with an average being about 7%. The key there is that the salesperson's percentage is based on transaction amount and NOT on gross profit. When there is a slow moving line of furniture or carpeting, it is not uncommon to see a retailer put a 10% commission on that product line to get the salespeople fired up. 

There is nothing FUNDAMENTALLY wrong with automotive sales professionals being paid on a commission based system, but when the pay structure was established in 1972 and based on a gross profit margin that was, as a percent of the transaction price, 2 to 3 times what it is today, then there must be adjustments made in order to ensure that a sales professional position in the car business is still a high paid job.

When I started selling cars on Friday, February 13, 1981 my commission plan paid a similar commission as a percent of gross profit margin as many dealerships pay today. This is ludicrous and counter intuitive! My first dealership felt compelled to put a CAP on sales commissions because we were selling diesel VW's for $2,000 to $5,000 over window sticker... My first year of selling cars, a 10 month years in 1981 I made over $84,000 as a car salesman. Let's put that into perspective in today's 2012 dollars... Can a first year car salesperson make $175,000 today? And, don't say I was anything special, because there were at least 4 or 5 people in my dealership that outsold me.

If you give an entire class of professionals a pay cut ever year for over 30 years, what do you suppose happens to the quality of who we have available to hire and the turnover in that professional category? Yes... It is as obvious as it seems and a lot less complicated than people want to admit. Until the entire automotive distribution system in the USA allows for sales professionals to earn a living commensurate with the skills required for them to do a great job, we will be relegated to lousy salesperson performance as an industry average. This is not just a dealer responsibility... Every time an OEM strips gross margin out of the MSRP on the window of a new car, and puts that money into dealer cash that is paid separately, they are in fact reducing every sales professionals income from selling those cars. I personally believe that there needs to be more gross profit margin in the MSRP shown on the window of most new vehicles sold in this country. And based on what most consumers seem to believe we have for profit margins in those Monroney sticker prices, they agree as well!

My observation is that when Dealerships pay a base salary plus bonuses they are creating a career oriented Sales Team for Life that is focused on creating Customers for Life. In addition, Dealers and General Managers that share in desk duty and are involved in the structuring and closing of deals create a positive atmosphere with a sales team that is alive !  A few weeks ago, I found a  Dealer that eliminated the F&I Manager ... the salesmen have been trained to handle the entire transaction, including the sale of the extended service contracts ... The Dealer created a team of professionals with happy customers.

Excellent,observation and comment Abe......The F&I part is outside the box for sure...be interesting to revisit that and see how it's working

It does come to management! You are correct, sir! Unfortunately, just because someone sold 25 - 30+ cars a month and was "Salesperson of the Month" for 22 of the last 24 months, that doesn't make him a manager and/or trainer for sales people. What motivated him on the sales floor may not motivate another salesperson on the team. How he sold those great numbers was one thing and how he handles a promotion is another. GSM's and GM's that I see on the floor, talking to their team and working with prospects feeds the fire for the entire team. They do, indeed, deny themselves the opportunity for real success for one reason that I see in many dealerships. They, managers, hire people who are not as smart as they are and are intimidated by individuals who might, one day, take their place in the sales "tower". They enjoy the "brow beatings" and the "borderline abusive" treatment they deal out because, that's what their mangers did, and the cycle continues. Here's an idea.... Hire sales people and sales managers who are smarter then you and simply get out of their way! Let them run, let the big dogs eat, (insert you own saying here) just get out of their way and let then show you what can really happen when the reins come off. Talk about taking it to the next level! Most dealers think too small! Hire smarter, better people to take you to the next level and beyond, in all departments of the dealership!

Hey Abe, I was going to post something very similar!  True Professionals need to be compensated as such!

Abe Hopper said:

My observation is that when Dealerships pay a base salary plus bonuses they are creating a career oriented Sales Team for Life that is focused on creating Customers for Life. In addition, Dealers and General Managers that share in desk duty and are involved in the structuring and closing of deals create a positive atmosphere with a sales team that is alive !  A few weeks ago, I found a  Dealer that eliminated the F&I Manager ... the salesmen have been trained to handle the entire transaction, including the sale of the extended service contracts ... The Dealer created a team of professionals with happy customers.


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