What can happen when two very famous persons, known and loved by all becomes car salesmen? I know many car dealers and many salesmen who are ashamed to say the work they do, fearing of being compared to the ‘Cadillac man‘ of Robin Williams or to the ‘Italian Car salesman’ of Robert de Niro.
In Italy from a few weeks two famous character actors, Paolo Kessisoglu and Luca Bizzarri, are ‘on air’ with a new spot set in a Fiat dealership, where they wear the clothes of two salesmen. “With this new series advertising, Fiat Automobiles is intended to confirm desire to be close to people with both innovative products and value, and with a clear and transparent speaking to the general public with a fresh tone, nice and close to the people.”
These are the intentions of Fiat. And here’s how the prestigious agency founded by Leo Burnett – who worked at Chevrolet in Detroit and well knows the car salesmen - has translated the language clear and transparent of the car dealers in Italy. Paolo turns to the customer that asks for information like this: “Are you here for the promotions on new cars? Please, help yourself: don’t you see I’m busy reading my newspaper?” In other scenes they are sun tanning into the showroom, joking with a secretary or with customers… women! It’s so obvious that the stereotypical and negative image of the car salesman, the caliph uncaring and shallow, lies not only in the popular imagination, but is firmly rooted in the minds of the creatives in very prestigious adv agencies!
In the show rooms of the dealerships… a lot of lurking wastings.
Cars are sold by people to other people. Not from facilities, showrooms, or computers. Why, despite the training, ongoing updates and targeted projects, a significant number of dealers are still using outdated methods and attitudes, become inadequate in a highly competitive world? It is the fault of competition in the market… or the people involved?
Some research activities focused on the contacts within customers and dealers – and mystery shopping activities – highlights that often the first to discourage the potential customers of the dealerships are the same salesmen. There are interesting results in this regard: for example, a study conducted by a OEM in Italy – with a significant number of dealers of all brands – shows that more than 30% of the salesmen let the potential customers going out from the dealership without asking first name, last name or telephone number. Over 50% of the salesmen showed the car in less than two minutes, and 30% did not even show the car but only a leaflet at his desk. Less than 1% of the salesmen propose and develop the test drive immediately, while 90% is available to organize it by appointment only in the next few days, but without setting any date for the return of the customer in the dealership. 80% of the salesmen never called back in the following days their potential customers to know what they were deciding for or to solicit a second visit. Again the data are unpleasant: according to statistics, when a customer returns a second time in the same dealership, buys 55% of cases the car he was dealing with!
It’s not all: when I was a dealer I conducted a survey for the Internet Polytechnic Observatory of Milan, which showed that customers who request information by eMail to dealers, do not receive a response in 98% of cases. These are just some examples of how risky it is now working with these approaches from the past, and use expired date tools. In the current market dealers are called to think and implement changes, operate complex restructuring, but also build a mosaic of management ideas and initiatives that promote a culture of innovation performance-oriented in their company, not only Marketing initiatives.
Wastages in communication
Unfortunately, the marketing and advertising departments of the OEM spend millions of euros in communications and events, they organize open-doors, sunday events, exhibits, convoys and road show… while inside of the dealerships most of the salesmen do not even know the name of the person with which they are talking!
There are certainly many exceptions, with good salesmen and great saleswomen enthusiastic, very well-educated, mild-mannered, professional. But the data show that it is not the rule. Of course, everyone is called to play its part. If the OEM does not have an attitude evolved in this direction, if the training they supplies is outdated or nonexistent, if nobody checks the processes that happen – or not happen – in the showroom, if the assessors and the functionary in contact with the dealerships are often focused only to sell-in and their methods are obsolete, dealers are struggling to break up old habits. And thousands of potential sales are lost! Unless groped to recover with ‘one day cars’, ‘kilometri zero’ and ‘pre-owned’ registrations developed in the last days of the month.
Ideas to be promoted
How to act? Which ideas? What kind of initiatives? Just hear and look at your coworkers: every day the salesmen, the foremen, the accounting, you and your customers have a lot of ideas to increase your efficiency. For example: measure the influx of visitors in the dealership and monitor the rate of closure of the salesmen: a receptionist or a electronic counting can provide a reasonable approximation. For example, delivering to all visitors a CD with a personal message of the dealer principal, thanking the prospect for the visit, inviting them to return to the dealership asking personally for the owner. For example, systematically recontact within 48 hours all those who came to request a quote, showing to them interest and gratitude.
The study mentioned above shows that nearly 40% of over a thousand salesmen fill the estimate of a new car… with a pen, on white paper. One question: what happens to the data of all those potential customers who have entered in the dealership, thanks to investments in advertising, marketing and expensive structures and showrooms of dealers and manufacturers? Many companies offer products and programs with which to develop professional offers and build a database of negotiations. In addition, this policy stimulate loyalty, and allows to gather valuable information from the customers. It also provides a positive image of the dealership.
Yet the salesmen, the sales consultants – those passionate, proud of their status, mild-mannered and professional (I know hundreds of them) – they are not the weak link in the chain, but “the weapon” of the automotive in contact with the public, and represent the ‘face’ of dealers and OEM!
The problem – as in everyday life – is in the Persons: managers, contractors or salesmen (though, let’s not forget the Men and Women of the post-sale). To the Persons – to nourish them and make them grow – you have to give not only the right ‘environment’ in which to live, but also proper tools, clear rules, strict processes and… control what they do!