Cadillac Man: fantasy or reality? Some interesting data collected in Italy, useful… everywhere!

Cadillac man

Salesman & New Owner © by Belly Acres

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 theItalian 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 Burnettwho 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!

1-why you entered

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 Why, despite the training, ongoing updates and targeted projects, a significant number of dealers are still using outdated methods and attitudes, become inadequate in a highly competitive world?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!

2-asked name

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.

3-recontact after negotiation

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!


4-preventivi a penna


Maurizio Sala

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  1. George Hayden says:

    You’ve touched on many good points. There are several factors that form a good sales experience. A salesperson must have great product knowledge of not only the brand that they are representing, but of all competitor brands as well. The salesperson is not selling a product…they are selling themselves, i.e., a relationship. It doesn’t matter what the product or service is…it is all about how the customer feels about the experience. Price is usually important, but not first and foremost, most of the time. The next most important item is proper follow-up or lack of proper follow-up. The vast majority of the buying public uses, and are comfortable using, computers and electronic mobile devices. If the salesperson is not trained to respond very quickly, and intelligently, to an initial inquiry, then there won’t be a second question asked! Also, probably the biggest mistake made by a salesperson is lack of follow-up after a sale is made. There is an unfounded fear that the customer has a problem. This possible problem can usually be turned into an unforgettable opportunity for a lasting relationship. The way a successful career salesperson becomes truly successful is by repeat and referral business.

  2. Maurizio Sala says:

    Hi George!
    Thanks for you comment and for the time you dedicated to this article and to our blog. Yes, your thoughts are right. I agree with you. I pointed out the weakness of some salesmen (and saleswomen), but – my opinion – is that the major responsibility of this wastage stays in what the Dealer / the Sales Manager / the OEM offer to their salesforce in terms of new process, effective instruments, serious control and… rich bonuses!

  3. Maurizio Sala says:

    We received a new comment from our friend Mike:
    “Hi Maurizio.
    Please put your link on my group ‘used cars UAE and the middle east’ their are some truly wasteful sales staff, and they can learn from your ideas.
    Best regards.”

  4. Maurizio Sala says:

    Jose R. Favarin wrote:
    “Maurizio, excellent article and true no matter if you are in Italy, US or Brasil. How to change it? I guess only with good processes, commitment, reward for best CSI and ownership from the top.
    All the best.”

  5. Maurizio Sala says:

    We received a comment from Yves:
    “Very interesting facts in this article – I guess the same problems exist in all markets. Solutions often can be implemented so quickly and are not very expensive. Thanks for posting, best Regards.”

  6. Paul Ramon says:

    Hi Maurizio, I did some mistery shops myself in different European countries, and this is exactly the experience I had. In some cases we could walk around for more than 20 minutes, showed some real interest in one particular car (opening the doors, sit inside, opening the boot, etc.) but not one of the salesman could bother to come behind their desk to present themselves, or even acknowledging that they had seen us, and would come to us. The most confusing part was that this retailer was complaining that they did not had enough showroom traffic, and clearly none of the sales staff was busy with a client.
    Till today I’m still wondering how much ‘other’ work they could have that made them to busy to do their primary job. Attending the needs of a prospect that might become a customer… ?!?
    It mades us wonder how much money is burned on marketing and advertising, and we started with specialised coaching to turn this business around.
    Of course the results ware fantastic … as it is not difficult to make improvements when you know what is going wrong (*-*).
    Best regards,

  7. Ricardo Oliveira says:

    Dear Maurizio

    Interesting article and thank you for writing about our core business! The problems you refer are those that we are regularly reporting about, since almost 20 years ago. And, yes, our worldwide automotive mystery shopping program shows that these problems are global and do not depend on the “health” of the markets.

    I think that everyone in this industry is now, more or less, aware of this reality. Nevertheless they are not so sure about the consequences of this attitude in the sustainability of their businesses.

    Through the World Shopper Concept we are developing a powerful tool to change attitudes in car industry. Based on a unique heritage in automotive Customer experience coupled with the creativity of our branding experts we are opening minds in this industry to let other improvement tools accomplish their mission.

    Thanks again, Maurizio!

    Ricardo Oliveira
    Looking @ automotive through Customers’ eyes

  8. Maurizio Sala says:

    Paul, thanks for your thoughts! YES! You pointed out exactely the sense of my article: how much money is burned on mktg and adv while inside of the dealerships most of the salesmen do not even know the name of the person with which they are talking… but I’m not sure this wastages will stop only with a serious training or coaching sessions. Unfortunately a serious change will be very hard, complicated and will take long time. It’s a sum of many factors: starting by new procedures, controls, CRM, rewardings, associations, aimed on… persons! And you know, persons are reluctant to change their habits and to go out from their ‘confort zone’! But this is ‘the challenge’ for the automotive! Ciao. Maurizio

  9. Maurizio Sala says:

    Ricardo. I agree with you: this is the A – B – C of the sales process in to the dealerships all over the world! Please, would you share my thoughts with your precious Group ‘World Shopper Conference’? Thanks in advance for your availability.

  10. Ricardo Oliveira says:

    “Persons are reluctant to change”… Unless the market speaks “louder” than we are doing right here, for instance.

    The change will happen. Not at the same time everywhere, but will occur.

  11. Gerd Oesterle says:

    @ Maurizio Sala:
    Dear Mister !
    Can you helph me, plaese !
    I’m search some photo with originalsignature or a contactaddress.
    Plaese, first answer with E-Mail.
    Thank you very much.
    Yours sincerely. Gerd Oesterle

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