NCM wants to know: Where Has All the Automotive Sales Talent Gone?

Rarely do we come across a dealer today who claims to have a sufficient number of vehicle sales personnel. When adding the word “quality” to “vehicle sales personnel,” the dealers’ claims of staffing success turn pretty ugly. Why is it so difficult to attract quality people for automotive sales positions?

Several years ago, I was working with a client in Southern California and conducting one of my rare sales training meetings. The subject of the meeting was "Developing and Engaging Your Circle of Influence." I had just finished explaining to the sales staff that everyone you know needs to become aware that you are an automotive sales professional who wants to earn their business. One member of the retail sales staff (whose dealership career was immediately shortened that morning) said, “I’m not doing that!” The GSM asked why, and the salesperson responded, “I don’t want my neighbors and acquaintances to know that I am just a car salesman.

Was that salesperson unique in his opinion of his job?  I think not. There are probably far too many people in vehicle sales departments who haven’t taken ownership of their profession and aren’t sincerely proud of how they earn their living.  And I think that’s the fault of dealers, GMs, sales managers, and automotive resource professionals (consultants) who haven’t done an effective job in recruiting, onboarding, training, nurturing, and, in general, connecting with today’s potential automotive sales professional.

There seems to be a persistent perception that automotive sales is a job of last resort, and we have allowed that perception to exist and grow. We should be tired of it, and we need to do something about it! When we convince someone to choose an automotive sales career (or when a qualified applicant drops into our lap), he needs to clearly understand that he’s not settling for a second-rate job. Automotive sales is a challenging profession that a person can and should be proud of. And it comes with many rewards.

  • Unlimited income potential: Few other jobs allow an individual to determine how high his income will go, sometimes even surpassing that of his sales manager.

  • Independence: As long as the car salesman is meeting or exceeding expectations, most good sales managers will let them set their own goals, create their own plans and manage their own time.

  • Sense of satisfaction: This comes from being an automotive expert and helping people solve their unique transportation problems.

  • Personal growth: With markets, technology, and product offerings constantly evolving, the automotive sales professional is always growing and learning something new.

I know you already know all this, as I do. Since we know it, why don’t we do a better job promoting it...not only in our recruiting efforts for new hires, but in “re-recruiting” efforts with our current vehicle sales personnel? Here’s a question for you: How many of your current vehicle sales personnel would you be willing to employ in a “reverse interview” process with a potential new sales hire that you have already pre-qualified? I would love to hear from those of you who are happy with your answer.


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Comment by Lois Burak on February 20, 2013 at 7:11pm

GREAT ARTICLE! Shared with a very talented individual who was laid off due to a downsize. I have recommended he apply and consider this rewarding profession.

Comment by Pat Kirley on July 6, 2012 at 5:25pm
Thank you
Comment by Scott Hengtgen on July 2, 2012 at 11:48pm

Mark I agree with you to a point. When I interview at a store my first question is do you have any sacred cows and why. Some stores have salespeople that have been in the store 20 to 25 years and all they do is take up space. When you try to put in processes to get the team to the next level the sacred cows mess with the atitude of the other salespeople. When you try to correct the problem the owner says work around it, that salesperson is not fireable. I have seen where one or two salespersons are costing a store 20 to 30 deals a month. It is not only where has all the sales talent gone, but where have all the stores gone with a dealer thats not affraid to grow.

Comment by Mark Dubis on July 2, 2012 at 11:19pm

It has been my experience that the quality (or lack thereof) of the sales team is a direct reflection of the quality of the management in the store.  All management bonus compensation, and maybe their employment standing should be tied to the level of turnover in the dealership.  

Management must be responsible for the hiring, training, coaching, mentoring of their team members. Additionally there should be a 360 degree evaluation of the managers by the sales team, and if a manager gets a poor evaluation from their direct reports, the manager should be shown the door. 

New employees should also "rate" the on-boarding process to let management know where they have weaknesses in the recruiting, interviewing, and orientation programs.  If a dealership doesn't treat their employees well, how can they EVER expect to provide a great experience for their customers? 

Comment by Craig Lockerd on June 28, 2012 at 7:02pm

Thank you Bill

Comment by Bill Gasson on June 28, 2012 at 6:58pm


That is very powerful, aswell as a broad outlook on being proactive to find those client's

Thank you

Comment by Craig Lockerd on June 28, 2012 at 2:29pm

Something I wrote a few months ago....

Dear Dealer,Manager,Trainer,Consultant

I’m writing you this letter because I need your help.

I am 18-25 years old and want a career not just a job at “Burger Doodle” I have no experience but I will do as I’m told.I have goals and dreams. I want to be a success.

I am in need of a 2nd income in the family due to this economic situation.

I am 45-60+ I have been “downsized” out of my 20-30 year job and don’t know what to do, I have a house payment, kids in school, and not nearly enough put away to retire yet.

I am a single parent, my “worse half” didn’t do the right thing and my kids and myself need to make money.

I am a “minority” and all I want is a chance, a shot at the “American Dream.”

I am unemployed and WANT to work!

I am underemployed and want something better for myself and my family.

I have tried many different “jobs” and none of them “clicked” for me. I will do whatever it takes.

I am one of the 30,000,000 people in our great country that are available to you.

Please tell me how you will attract me to get into an industry that everyone says is hurting, is commission only, that people say is 70 hours a week & takes away family life, and has little or no initial or ongoing training. Please tell me why I should come into your industry and get yelled at for doing something wrong that I was never taught how to do right?

Please tell me what you mean about getting back to the basics, when I don’t know what those are.

Please tell me why I should come into your industry only to be “kicked to the curb” 3 weeks after you hire me.

I need your help and it seems as though you need me, how can we do this thing?

Respectfully Submitted

A Potential Salesperson Near You

Comment by David T. Gould on June 27, 2012 at 4:37pm
Comment by Scott Hengtgen on June 27, 2012 at 3:11pm

Neil, that is so sad but true. I run our store with complete transparency. I hide nothing from my staff or customers. If I do not have earned respect from my staff I have nothing. They know I will never lie or BS them, I take their earning potential seriously and personal. If my sales staff is not doing a good job I can only blame one person....myself. They are a direct reflection of my leadership.

Comment by Neil D. Hayes on June 27, 2012 at 3:02pm
In my experience of Late, the Dealer Group I had worked with considers Salespeople their Property.If the owners and Managers decide that lying to Customers withholding information illegally obtaining credit information is what it takes to Sell a vehicle...You do it or your fired.
They believe , with So many people looking for work they can always get a Body to do their dirty work.
They could care less about ethics or integrity.


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