Opinions & Advice

Why We Suck!

iStock_000009695711SmallYes we do. keep reading

I’m going to assume that you’re like me; you didn’t dream of working at a dealership.  NASA, the court room, or even the White House were probably more along the lines of what mommy and daddy got you thinking about early on.  But here we are pounding pavement and fighting for pennies.

What brought you here?…needed some money for some reason I bet.  Did you intend to keep doing this after you got that needed money?  NO!!!??  Why the hell are you still here???!!!  So basically you’re telling me the next best thing hasn’t come along yet.  How long will it be before you stop looking for the next best thing?

The car dealership is temporary.

This is why we’re scum.  This is why we can’t get CRM right.  This is why we can’t answer a phone. This is why there is a revolving door on the front of every dealership.

This is not what we wanted to do, and there’s  something better on the horizon – right?

Well…Maybe not. Maybe you should look at it another way.

So you think selling cars is NOT a career but could “selling” be a career? Hell yes! One of the highest paid professions is SALES and with out selling, the world would stop.

You’re not in the business of selling cars, you are in the business of SALES and building your own network of raving fans. SO why NOT commit today to using your CRM, answering the phone like a professional, following up with your potential clients while keeping yourself trained. Commit and make “sales” your career!

– This is a combo-posting by Alex and Jeff.

Question: What got you into the car business and have you truly committed to a career in sales?

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...
  • R
  • September 30, 2009
Lack of money certainly got me started in the car business - no question about it. I've been here for years though, and don't see myself "getting out" for awhile yet. That being said, I don't intend to stay in the car business forever. But I will make the most of it while I'm around.

This advice is crucial, and I think *every* person in the car business should read it. I know tons of folks at my dealership could benefit from it.
  • C
    Cars are past
  • September 30, 2009
Major issue is the fact that cars industry is changing. Oil is coming to it's end and all this 'economic meltdown' is because big financial institutions are moving their capital from this industry and others that are not perspective any more. Just look around, stupid LukOil is buying gas stations while others are moving their capital from something that will be dead capital in 15-20 years or even sooner. Transport will change dramatically soon and new technologies should be rolled out and new wave will come... so be ready to jump into sales on time.
BRAVO Alex - BRAVO Jeff:
You hit the nail on its head, right on. You won't believe how many Real Estate Agents or Mortgage Brokers I had seen "flying by" the dealerships. Answer: "Well I need to make some money until the house market is back-up again".
Are you kidding me, what do you think car dealerships? May be a Starbucks or Crazy Wings Cafe, where normally part-time students bumping up their living standard for $8/hour?

We suck (as stated absolutely right in the post) because we are not taking proud in what we are doing. Alright! Here now is my story:

I came in 2001 to the U.S. to marry my American Soul mate and to execute some consulting business for a German subsidiary. This was early September 2001. Then 9/11 occurred. The world seemed to be on a stand-still and my coaching-consulting assignment was cancelled. Wow, no American degree, German accent, newly-wed and living in Michigan - sounds like a jackpot to me...
After a couple days of thinking I decided to make my biggest weakness into my strongest asset. I called up Williams AutoWorld in Okemos, MI and told the President of the company "Mr. Williams - I think it makes sense to have a real German guy, with a real German accent selling your real German cars (BMW, Mercedes, Porsche). It worked and after 8 months I received the honor to be Top-sales person for the Auto Group and be named in the Top-20 for CSI in the Market 42.
I had found my passion, selling cars and decided from there on to focus on handling things like "Internet inquiries" (which by the way nobody of the sales staff wanted because in their words “they are time-wasters).
My book of business grew rapidly over time, I changed dealer groups due to relocations and I honestly can tell you that no car dealer I've worked for ever let me down.

My recipe is - Be happy and appreciate that you are able to handle, show and demonstrate pretty things (a car), see how your customers are happy and feel good about their decision to have bought form you (CSI), following up how they are doing with their new ride and if they had earned compliments (referral), and stay in touch not only to at Christmas time (repeat business).
When you don’t feel a passion about the things you do, you need to change – not the attitude but your employer and field of work. Believe me the success will come, when you are fully dedicated to your dealership and your job. Focus on your job with the promise a) to make someone coming in your dealership happy – every day – b) become an expert on your particular Make you are selling – c) when Internet sales, commit to be different than your competition, study the competition, find their strength and observe and last but not least build your strength on their weakness.
Please, decide to make the Automotive Retail World a Better World and commit (German free translation: “Komm mit” – which means “Come with me”) to your career.
Yes, CAREER – I never in million years would have thought that I will be in the U.S. and selling cars. I knew about the reputation of car sales people but I decided to put my head down and work, didn’t allow listening to any bias and knew that I will be one day one of the Best in my field.
Huge thanks to America, which is really the land of opportunities and a big Thank You to the American Car Dealers, who have given me the opportunity to be successful. Last advice I like to share: When you show you can do it and you are successful more opportunities will arise out of it. Believe, I am just experiencing it.
  • N
  • October 1, 2009
I got in the business in 2004 because I wanted to help run a business, so my wife and I joined her father's independent used car dealership on the operations side. I quickly jumped on internet advertising, so I've come to terms with the fact that I'm in sales! Before, I was investment analyst and consultant to pension and 401(k) plans, and there was plenty of money there, but I just wasn't feeling "Corporate America" of sitting in cubicle looking at numbers all day and just traveling too much. Our dealership is actually quite the contrarian: turnover is very low because we hired former business owners that are loyal and appreciative of the opportunity; our profit margins are way low because we'd rather have customers walking out feeling that they got a great deal instead of feeling hassled and worked over and that is why they keep coming back; and our approach is very laid-back and honest. So yeah, we could get more aggressive sales guys, but it would be the revolving door you speak of and we don't want any "attitudes" spoiling our reputation.
First off, I love the car business. I better after 27 years. You are right, however, that it was not my first choice. I graduated college with a degree in Psychology and was going to go for my Masters in Social Work when my best friend opened up a dealership and told me about the money he was making so I decided to give it a shot instead of going back to school and I fell in love with it. We had fun and enjoyed what we were doing. I think that's the difference between then and now. We all got into the business not necessarily by choice but we embraced it! Nowadays people are always looking for the greener grass and even though they may never find it they are preoccupied with looking. I for one really enjoy what I do and have always had the support I needed to grow. I started on the eCommerce side of things ten years ago and I absolutely enjoy every day. I wish I could say the same for most salespeople. They just seem, in general, to get by with as little effort as possible and hope for the best. They don't follow the procedure unless forced to and will skip steps if they can get away with it. I doubt there's really greener grass out there for these types of people but it doesn't stop them from looking. I seriously wish that our business could shed some of the negativity that we have and recruit quality young people to embrace this business and help us move into the future with our heads held high! This is a great business and I, for one, will never leave!
I think every biz has its own share of people coming and going. The car biz may have a few more than others because it looks easy from the outside (and it is not!) as well as it is easy for younger people to get in.
Interesting post Alex...

While I'm not a true car guy and not in the thick of the sales world, the online business development end of things is an important element...I never anticipated working for a dealer.

I'm not sure how long my stay would have been in a different environment. However, this is the only place I can see myself at - hopefully it'll be my last stop...

If you're doing what you love and you're making a difference, its definitely not a job, it surely could become your career - but it ultimately should be something you truly look forward to doing every single day.

If not, why the hell are you doing it?

  • J
    John Scott
  • October 1, 2009
To be happy or grumpy is a choice, and its a choice you make every day, all day.

Its your brain.
Hi Jeff and Alex,

Well, maybe I am not reflective of the norm but I come from a business family and my attraction to the car business was drawn on my respect for the diversity of an auto dealership as a combination of a wholesale and retail business operating in multiple verticals. The combination of challenges - and opportunities - as a sales business, service business, real estate business, banking business, parts business, and all of the associated HR needs combined with the ties to community events, B2B opportunities and local/national politics was the ultimate business model and opportunity that fit perfectly into my career goal to be a "businessman!"

I of course understand that many people saw the money as the draw to the car business, however, if that was the only attraction then being a drug dealer may have had more appeal. My point is that the true professionals that have survived in the auto industry are the circle of friends and associates that have earned the title "car salesperson" and/or that can define themselves as "car guys/gals" and they are the ones that will relate to my reply. As for the others, maybe being a drug dealer would have been a better career choice after all!
I don't think most of the people on DealerRefresh are reflective of the norm <b>Phillip</b>. That is the sad thing about this post - the other 99% of the industry will never see it....especially not the intended audience.
Thanks for the affirmation Alex. I choose my friends wisely because in business and in life you are who you associate yourself with and I am proud to be associated with you and DealerRefresh! After all, what are friends for!
  • V
    Volker -a.k.a. - Jaeckel
  • October 2, 2009
@ Alex and @ Philip - I hope you guys see me as a 1%er. I believe we have a lot work to do and it will be not easy.
<b>Jaeckel</b>, heck no man - you work for CoBalt! Just kidding with you. CoBalt actually does a fantastic job at recruiting great people!

Yeah, there is definitely a lot of work to do.
  • J
    John Scott
  • October 2, 2009
Ive worked in quite a few industries, in many regions and a couple countries, mainly in customer service related fields, and mostly with high end clientele. Ive just finished my second week in the Auto Service industry.

Lets start with the good stuff. I like it. I like the variety, and the people Ive worked with so far. Its fast paced and hectic, and for some strange reason I like fires. Not the real kind, I like fixing things, be they physical, or logistical. So this industry has a lot to offer a person like me, lots of challenges.

On to the dark side, now remember Ive only been in THIS industry for 2 weeks, but damn have I seen some ugly paradigms.

I have questions, questions about stereotypes like "mechanics are always bitchin and prima donnas".
Well maybe they are, has anyone ever asked why? and what can we do to change that?

Do service advisors realize that their behavior and attitude is reflected right back at them by their customers? If the SA is in a state of panic, rushed and impatient, then the their customer is going to be.

I just see lots of little things that I think would make a big difference, and be simple fixes. Its a little frustrating because Im at such a low level I know that it is probably pointless for me to bring them up.

I can already tell that in this industry for some reason there is a knee jerk "we dont do it that way" reaction to new ideas. Why do I think that? Because I see things being done the way they were 30 some years ago when my Mom and Dad were dragging me into dealerships when I was a kid. I come from a long line of car people. Not only that Ive talked to some of my co-workers and many of the ideas I currently have they had long ago, but they never saw their ideas bear fruit so I think they just gave up trying to change things.

I'll give you one example. How about restricting all mechanic and SA interaction to the shop, away from the customers? I'll hold off on the reasons why because there are quite a few and I know you guys arent as interested in the service side, so I wont bore you.

Thats just one example, lets just say I agree with VOLKER, we do have our work cut out for us, and not just in marketing and sales.

But Im up for it! Thats the nice thing about DR, I can discuss ideas, make a fool of myself, and "probably" wont get fired for it. :)
Ok, very simple. I was 19 years old and decided to continue living on my own because I disagreed with my parents relocating to Florida. I had a plan. I was going to school with hopes and goals of being a teacher. I was going to school fulltime while working 3 jobs as a lifeguard and a swim instructor. Well after a month of living on my own, I started to really go broke. I mean I was not prepared for life on my own and really paying my own bills. Now my father who was already a master technician for Lexus was against me getting into the business. In fact, a year before that I was offered a job selling cars and he talked to me out for the fear that I might really make a career out of it.

Well this time I took the plunge and got trained. I started selling cars and after a few months began to be pretty successful. It got to the point that when I relocated to Florida at the age of 21 I dropped out of school and continued selling cars. At that point, I had gotten into internet sales and marketing. This was where my growth started. As my parents badgered me about school, I rejoined online and I am still doing it as we speak (I am almost done, degree coming soon). As I got into management at 23, I really saw that this is where my career will be. Well, I am now 26 and at this point I have made a lot of amazing friends including all of you. I have also really grown in my career and I continue to work as an Internet Director at an up and coming Nissan store.

I must admit, I have my love and hate relationship with the industry. However, every time I think of the negatives I always remember the rewards and the friends that I made. The same friends that helped keep me strong and motivated when I was in the job market just a few months ago.
Well Well,
I am glad to see this proclomation.
I had various jobs I thought were going to be careers before the car industry.
Almost 9 years at Peabody Coal before I was injured, 6 years in the recording industry working 3 weeks and not working for 3 months then our daughter was born. Saw the ad, borrowed a tie from my dad, (still do) and went to the interview. Hired, like all of us but back then it was different. I have done a 10 minute video rant on this. www.youtube.com/kimclouse
We actually had to train. Yes I know it sounds strange now days but I could not even say hello to a customer for 6 weeks. Even if it was a relative, really! Lots of training, one on one with the desk manager, stand outside finance with the door cracked and listen, ride with the used car manager, real training with tons of product knowledge.
I want to know how many sales people hired today are required to take the bottom line, ACV, and back the numbers out to the top line sales price with an adding machine? They should but no, we teach them to go back and forth like a panther in a zoo. You know they walk back and forth, back and forth to the desk. Management that is not trained correctly makes this happen and those who watch it happen are to blame for why we suck today. The sales force knows nothing when they are a green pea. We teach them in our little huddle how to achieve the 8-10 car average, teach them all of the slang,
steal their pay and if they were talented nobody ever knew. That is the revolving door.
Kudo's to all of you who have had to survive and learn the hard way and are now respected professionals. Unless this changes, nothing will help. The strong dealers are doing it right from the beginning. It is like a war, nobody wants to know your name or cares about you until you are there for 6 months because you are leaving anyway. Great point you guys for proclaiming why we suck. All of the slick talking, economy excuse, bullcrap should be.
Would you like some fries with that? Supersize?
I forgot to mention that I was one of those people that moved around. The most I ever worked in one store was 2 years. I found that real talent does not last long in a store unless that store appreciates you and you are treated fairly. I had some bad experiences like pay plan chopped to position being eliminated to not getting along with the GSM. I am sure we have all had that at one point. This is the major reason why we suck. I see some worthless people who do not deserve to be in their positions thrive simply because they are really good at frauding everyone else. I can write 2 pages of names of people that I am talking about. That is where my hate comes into play. Again, the reward of making good money and making some great friends are what makes me love it. I feel like I am part of something huge especially when I connect with all of you on here, drivingsales, facebook, and Automotive Digital Marketing.
  • J
    John Scott
  • October 3, 2009
@ Kim Clause.

I watched your video, the one point I found interesting and reluctantly agree with is about employees having contact with customers before they're trained. I say reluctantly because I am a new employee, and think it would drive me crazy to have to sit through a week or weeks of training before dealing with customers. On the flip side I was answering phones and being asked questions from customers about prices on my first day. Doesn't sound that bad , till you factor in that we don't have a price list. There is no printed price sheet, computer database, brochure, or anything that I can go to to find out how much a tire balance and rotate cost.

What do I do? I try to get the attention of one of the 2 SA's and ask them while they're speaking to their customers, so it becomes a chain reaction of chaos. I Often get 2 different answers.

The thing is Ive asked other folks in the industry and they say that's how it is all over.

Whats the big deal? Why cant someone whos sitting around most of the day get on an excel spread sheet and print some prices, codes, with a short description?

I know how to treat a customer and make them feel like they're the most important thing in my life at that moment, but what good is that if I cant answer their questions.

From what Ive been reading here, and from my travels visiting dealers up and down the east coast proper TRAINING of employees and management is one the biggest issues facing this industry.

Lets just say its probably going to be a long time before a dealership wins the Malcolm Baldrige award.

I think all of these issues could be addressed and overcome with a little bit of effort. Wouldn't this "slow" period be the best time to start working on them?

Let me add that I do understand that management currently has a lot to deal with right now trying to keep the business running in this tight economy, so I do feel for them.

This industry doesnt have to SUCK!
Let me clarify my thoughts. This industry does not suck. It is just taking longer for the folks who refuse to bring it to the next level to get out. They got in, made money while it was great in spite of their lack of education, knowledge or self esteem. Those same folks moved up through the ranks and became responsible for the negative perception of the, shall we say, Dealership Salesfloor Mentality. When the business started shifting and the customers were armed with more and more knowledge, the only thing they knew to do was what they were trained, nothing different. Now many of them had the self worth and personal pride to take it upon themselves to adapt, learn, share, and become successful. They found what they never had been given. I agree about it being a pain to train for some time but you seem very intelligent and have zeal. Which is worse, spending more time to be able to do this correctly or, listening to those who say that is the way it is? Those are the 7-8 car guys or the complainers in the service drive. Break the rules, sell a car, learn, assemble what you need, stand in front of them until they give you the answers you need and you can tell them you would rather work smart than blind. Nothing is worse in the big picture than being poorly informed and trying to wing it. When you don't get away with it just one time, you create a bad vision from the customer that has your name tied to it. What does that mean for you over 3 years when they tell everyone they know and they know and on and on. Just say I don't know and find the answer or get someone who does. You will be fine if you swallow the training pill. If they won't arm you, arm yourself, be professional, be proactive every time. It seperates the rock stars from the groupies. Then you will understand why this really is the best business to ever be associated with. Help people and really care or get a job at Burger King. That is what I meant.
GREAT GREAT post. I was sucked in by the money early on... a good buddy's mom was a service advisor and he always told the tales of making TEN BUCKS AN HOUR MAN, just to wash cars... Boom - i was in! In a REAL small town in northwest Ontario and at 15 that was damn appealing... its now 10 years later and I'm still in it for the excitement.
I just couldn't get it down with text alone, so here is the three minute video. http://tinyurl.com/y86ga8v
  • C
  • October 5, 2009
I was in the Sign Business in Charlotte when I decided to look for a better life. My eye caught an ad for help wanted at the Dodge store on busy Independence Blvd. When interviewed I was sat down with the #1 sales person there, his name was General Washington (I'm so serious). He told me give the car business 90 days, and if I'm not making more money than I ever have, try something else. Well, now 14 years later (not all of that in the car business, but most), I find myself making more money than I ever have. So the General was on the money - and well that's the only reason I work in this business.
I found myself sitting in the service lounge at Ft Myers Toyota getting my Camry serviced on my only day off. Twenty two years in the restaurant business and I had finally arrived, Food and Beverage Director of a prestigious Country Club. Then how come I was still bussing tables, washing dishes, bartending and hosting?

I was sitting there reading the paper looking at the want ads, (remember them?) when it hit me. Everyone here seems happy, they all look like they have a purpose. Honestly I had no idea what kind of money car salespeople made.

I went to the receptionist, remember it was my day off, so I'm in shorts, probably a Van Halen t-shirt, sandals, you get the picture.
The receptionist looked at me like I had three heads when I asked for an application. She then went on to inform me that they did not hire sales people with out experience. So with that I went off filled out the app and brought it back the next day.

Well I got the interview with John Marazzi and ultimately the job, but it was one of the most incredible interviews ever. In fact it totally changed my perspective on interviewing people, and I have interviewed hundreds!

John asked me how many hours a week I worked, hah, 80 or so. He asked how much i made and I proudly exclaimed 68k! He said wow, that's a lot of hours for such a little amount of money.

I had no idea what to say, I was actually speechless. John then told that in order to make the transition to selling ca5rs from a 22 year comfort zone there would have to be a considerable amount of pain in what I was doing. He told me to go home and talk to my wife, think hard about it then let him know if I still wanted to make the change.

I did just that. I called him the next day, told him I was ready. I started training the following week. I poured myself into it. I practiced walk-arounds in my driveway at night with friends, family, neighbors. Penciled deals at my dinner table. The point was that there was no try. I had a family to feed. I sold 9 minis in April 2002. I finished that year with a higher year to date than I had ever made before. Seven months later I was promoted to the desk. (The Internet Department is another story.)
Sure this business is stressful at times, but I don’t recall ever smiling, laughing and pumping my fist in the air while bussing tables. Sales can be exhilarating!
If we suck, it’s because we have hired ourselves into that position. I have since interviewed mortgage brokers, realtors, etc. for sales positions and I have asked them the same question that John asked me.
It’s been kind of fun reliving that story and I even felt a bit self indulgent but what the hell. What we as managers need to do is maintain the integrity of Salesmanship. If we choose to let people who want to “Play cars” walk in and out of our showroom on a whim then we will have no choice but to settle for “Suck”
  • V
    Volker -a.k.a. - Jaeckel
  • October 5, 2009
@Alex...just came back from the Airport and saw you response...YOU ARE FUNNY...my hat off to you and your organization. I am sure we'll see each other soon.
Volker Jaeckel
I would definately say that the majority of the people in this business got started just as a way to pay the bills until what they really wanted to do came along, and I am no different. I left Indiana at 18 yr old to attend the Walt Disney World college program. I had a blast, absolutely fell in love with Florida, and decided that after the semester was over that I wanted to stay in FL. Well, I had two weeks to find an appartment (and a job) or it was back to the Hoosier state for me. Where was I able to find a job on such short notice with absolutely no experience as an almost 19yr old girl? A car dealership! They hired me (must have been desperate, because looking back I know I was totally clueless) and I started the next week. I knew that being young and a female, that no one was going to take me seriously, so I had to work twice as hard and know twice as much as the other 30 sales guys (1 other female). Within three months I was selling 25 cars a month, and almost got fired one Saturday because; I had three deals working in three different offices and let one of the families go to lunch and come back later to sign-up. This is the only business in the world where you can almost get fired the same day you sell 4 cars. Needless to say, the biz kind of grew on me, and ten years later, I am the Internet Manager for four car dealerships in Southern Indiana. I am a lifer for sure!
Amanda - Great to see you here!

I have been exposed to the car business since I was a kid, benefiting the lovely traits from my parents. I sold the old beaters for my dad at the shop to the public. It eventually evolved from there to getting into the Repossession business and so forth evolving to Internet Sales etc. I didn't get suckered into the dealerships to make money, shoot you can make a decent living, very nice, off selling cars. I sold a ton. What driven me to sell more and stay with the dealerships is the passion of sales. Getting to the dealership to help with balloons, getting the lot looking good and making coffee for the boys. This is what made me successful at the dealership is the joy of working a deal and making a family, individual, happy with their purchase.
I did have to fight my battles and to stand my ground. The most popular term of hate, being snaked! Many have tried it however I stood my ground. Drove me a little bonkers and they were shocked how I kept track.... Hello I controlled the CRM / Kiosk etc &amp; Internet. I knew everyone that walked through that door.
People make their own choices of complaining about how sales suck, not making money, on and on and on..... Get your A** out of huddle,drop your smoke, get back to basics and get your feet on the street! You make your decision of making money!

You can complain all day about how sales suck, Surely I am the last person that wants to hear it because you can make money and more sales, just get out there and do it.