It’s no secret that the public’s perception of car salesmen is not flattering. You know the image, a sleazy persona clad in gold chains and a plaid jacket. It’s not pretty.
Beyond this tacky depiction lays the real problem: mistrust.
Mistrust has long been our industry’s greatest challenge. This profession has the lowest rate of perceived honesty and ethical standards according to the most recent Gallup Honesty/Ethics in professions poll. Car salespeople rank 2nd-to-last in this poll, ahead only of Members of Congress.
Take a look at the poll…
But as an industry, we haven’t taken much action. We tout that consumers have to know, like, and trust their salesperson before they make a buying decision – ignoring how pervasive mistrust is in the consumer mindset.
Lack of trust is what makes a concept like TrueCar so welcome in the customer’s car-buying process. It’s why it can be so difficult to convince buyers that leasing may actually be a good alternative. And lack of trust is why salesmen in dealerships everywhere mutter the phrase “buyers are liars.”
Why do buyers lie? Because they don’t trust salespeople enough to tell them the real objection: that a repo has affected their credit or that they don’t have enough money down.
So what can we do? I posit that if we begin to encourage and empower salespeople to define themselves in opposition of the perceived, sleazy persona, we will transform our business and the negative consumer perception.
What would happen if we simply expected and encouraged excellence from the people that so widely represent our industry? What if we:
Give salespeople confidence by educating them. Send them to workshops, utilize an online training platform, and simulate things like difficult calls and tricky customer conversations every morning meeting. Show salespeople that the dealership is committed to their success and encourage them to invest in it themselves.
Asked them to participate online?
Expecting salespeople to participate in the online movement is both empowering and innovative. Allowing and encouraging salespeople to film video of new features on a redesigned model or blog about how to do the best test drive is an incredible way for salespeople to begin to look like helpful resources more than hungry, front-door vultures.
Encouraged them to contribute to the community?
Having car salespeople join outside organizations, like Biz to Biz, encourages them to promote themselves while also teaching skills like public speaking and professional networking. Acknowledging that in 2015 many car purchases begin with relationships outside the dealership walls can be a powerful message for salespeople to go out in the world and be proactive.
The result could be transformative. By encouraging action and creating a culture of empowerment, we may see a shift in demeanor, a new opinion about their profession and ultimately a change to the stereotype.
Whatever your leadership role, managers, dealer principles, factory representatives, think about how you could empower salespeople and then act on it. Let’s transform the rampant mistrust that should no longer plague our industry.
Laura, thank for your first post here on the blog.