The Changing Role of the Car Salesman


By Bob Bandi

The New Car Salesman Selling Strategies - The Customer Service Approach

What will the new car salesman of the future look like?  Today’s consumers are much more astute than they were just a few years ago.  They spend more time shopping on line than off line and they know what vehicle they want before they even enter a showroom.  By using websites such as TrueCar and Edmunds, they are also aware of the dealer’s cost.  Additionally, customers don’t want to spend a lot of time at dealerships.   Being greeted by a sales associate who is trying to maximize his or her commission could drive the modern consumer away, especially if that associate has to make several trips to his manager to discuss pricing.

Dealers are realizing that the best way to sell cars is to be open and honest with their customers.  Many dealers have begun to institute no-haggle policies, sticking with their advertised prices and maintaining complete transparency throughout the car-buying experience.  They are also eliminating the commissioned pay structure for their sales associates.  For example, AutoNation is looking at a combination of salary and volume-based commissions.  Other pay packages may be tied to customer satisfaction indices.  Sonic Automotive Group is moving toward a payment plan in which 75% of a sales associate’s pay is base salary, with the remainder made up of bonuses determined by customer reviews.

For the new car sales associate, this means they will need to adapt.  Obviously, customers will continue to want assistance with their automobile purchases; it is still the second biggest purchase most will make in their lives.  They just won’t want the old high pressure, gimmicky sales approach that has pervaded the industry for many years.  Instead, customers will expect to be greeted by a friendly, trusted advisor who can assist them with their purchase.  Today’s cars come with many more bells and whistles than those of  just a few years ago, such as GPS, voice activation and phone integration.  The sales associate of today needs to know the products inside and out and be able to assist the customer with the more technology-driven features as well as the basics, such as the vehicle’s recommended maintenance schedule.

Dealers are beginning to structure their pay packages to incentivize their sales associates toward these desired behaviors.  However, these changes won’t be easy.  Stores that have eliminated their commissioned type of pay packages have seen large portions of their sales force leave – as much as 75% at one New York dealership.  This is a serious hurdle, but will also present an opportunity to hire young, technologically savvy salespeople who are willing to work for a base pay plus commissions based on volume and customer satisfaction.

Contact us with any questions regarding Car Dealership Trends or visit the Schneider Downs Our Thoughts On blog to read other insights regarding the automotive industry.

Material discussed is meant for informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as investment, tax, or legal advice. Please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, this information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.

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