Automotive Sales Training - The Death of Traditional Salespeople - Part 1

You may find this article a bit odd, knowing that it was written by a sales trainer, but I believe that traditional selling is dead on arrival. The days of hiring and building a well-trained sales staff that executes all facets of the sale, follow up, prospecting, marketing, telephone skills and building a database of repeat buyers has, for the most part, been dead for a while.


Some of you reading this may be shocked or even angry at such a statement, and declare that it is certainly not the case at your dealership. However, it is the case for 95 percent of dealerships across the country. If you have been able to recruit, hire, train and retain a professional staff of salespeople who execute on an extremely high level then I say “bravo.” Our company has certainly helped many dealerships do the same thing. However, after almost 30 years in the business, I can tell you it is not the norm.


What I see in the auto business today, on average, is scary. I see lazy, untrained staff members who either cannot or will not learn the skills necessary to become strong, professional salespeople. I see dealerships with weak or non-existent game plans to recruit, hire and train a strong professional staff. I see managers who like to sit behind their desks and wait for untrained sales staffs to bring them deals.


I continue to see dealerships moving to more and more specialization and technology. I see dealerships utilizing CRMs, in-store or external Internet departments, outsourced BDCs and sales processes that heavily utilize managers and technology. Although technology does not sell vehicles, it surely assists you in the process. More dealerships will move towards the old school — but now new school — process of product specialists and managers. People will only be trained and expected to perform in certain areas of competency. F&I managers will be moved more towards the front of the sale rather than the back of the sale. Many smart dealers have moved towards this arrangement years ago.


Dealers have been beating their heads up against the wall forever trying to get salespeople not only trained, but get them actually doing it. For the most part, it has not worked. I have heard certain sales trainers cry out “It’s not an option.” That’s easy to say, but those same sales trainers went broke while owning their own dealerships. I am not writing this article to be politically correct. I am writing this article to be a witness to the truth as I see it. The average salesperson today in most stores is lucky to have a job, let alone resembling anything close to a professional salesperson. Customers just won’t tolerate amateurs and old school selling anymore.


If you are fighting the same battles you have been fighting for years and not getting better results, then it may be time to stop blaming your managers and look in the mirror. It may be time to try a different approach. And, to all the truly professional salespeople out there that don’t fit into the 95 percent category I mentioned, you have my apologies, as you should be held in very high esteem and not lumped in with all the rest. You are truly some of the most valuable people on earth.


If you would like to receive my free report on the new generation of selling, e-mail me at with the phrase “new generation” in the subject line.


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Comment by Mark Tewart on February 9, 2013 at 12:03pm

Joe, I could not agree more. You can no longer ask people to work 70 hours without a guarantee, work every  weekend and nights and expect to draw the best talent. As important as process is, dealerships often treat the most intelligent and capable people as idiots. The model is severely broken and has been for a very long time. I hear managers and dealers bitching and moaning about the younger generation. I say do something about it. Maybe they are not broken, maybe the world has changed the dealership model is broken. You cant just bitch and moan, you have to adapt.

Comment by Joe Clementi on February 9, 2013 at 11:56am

Mark, you have hit the sore spot of our industry right on the tip.  As you know, if one "keeps doing the same things..." These "process driven" people create a "profit driven" entity that thrives on an in-and-out mentality!  Quality people don't want to work in an environment that isn't condusive to their long-term success.  We talk about attracting high quality people but the industry "requires" them to work rediculous hours and make choices that are inconsistent with who they are as individuals.  The result is, employees are faced with the ebbs and flows of spending quality time enjoying life, and their desire to be financially successful.  The business is changing rapidly and a lot of dealers are struggling with the business as usual mentality and the increasing demands of the consumer - and they're losing the battle.  It may not be obvious to the guys/gals making decisions based on soley on their financial statements but there is certainly a customer driven shift happening.   Thanks for the honest assesment and blatent discussion that is well overdue.

Comment by Mark Tewart on February 7, 2013 at 11:01pm

Thanks for the comments Jeffrey. the times just keep on changing!

Comment by Jeffrey Seyler on February 7, 2013 at 8:27pm

Mark, talk about stepping on peoples' toes! The truth hurts and sometimes it needs to be said, but what's more important is who's listening? If I had a quarter for every time I have a read the Employment Ads in the news paper for "Sales Associate" "No Experience Needed", "We will train you the Right Way", "Qualified candidates must meet the following: Motivated, Driven, Out Going Personality." Can you imagine a high end Pharmaceutical company selling $50,000 heart monitors placing an ad like this? Not on your life! But in the Auto Industry it is the norm rather than the exception to hire 98.6 with a clean driving record and reliable transportation. The day of the "order taker" is finally taking hold. What's next, the drive up Kiosk? It couldn't hurt some dealerships and certainly would cut down on the overhead.


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