Where do Successful Car Salespeople Come From?

by Automotive Employment on February 23, 2010

Where do we recruit the highest achieving car sales staff?  During our time in the industry, we have noticed that successful salespeople come from a variety of career backgrounds.

In no particular order, let’s examine a list of some of the business backgrounds that have given the motor industry some very successful salespeople.

1. Hospitality

We’ve seen dozens of men and women make the transition from hospitality to sales.  It doesn’t seem to matter too much whether they were in frontline hospitality or hospitality management.  People with hospitality backgrounds tend to have an excellent capability to make customers comfortable, which is an essential early step in creating a successful sale.  Ex-hospitality staff generally also have extensive experience with following procedures, which for a number of reasons, including customer service, risk-management and abiding by the law, is particularly advantageous in professional vehicle sales.  Former hospitality employees are also usually well presented, with a high level of personal behaviour and appearance.   Most hospitality people we meet (including those still in hospitality!) have a healthy work ethic.  All of these qualities add to their value in a sales team and not only makes them quite desirable to prospective employers, but also gives them a massive head start in automotive sales success.  Occasionally, their well-worn habit of trying to appease customers gets a rude shock in car sales from customers who refuse to be appeased, but that is something that can be overcome with thought, experience and training.  Some former hospitality managers may get a shock at their inability to delegate in car sales (which requires a high degree of personal responsibility to get things done), but overall, with superior work hours to hospitality, and the opportunity to earn commission from their exceptional customer service attitudes, hospitality people do very well in car sales careers. 

2. Small Dollar Value Sales

The line is a bit hazy, but by small dollar value sales, we generally mean items of a dollar value of less than a few thousand dollars, and mostly of up to a couple of hundred dollars.  According to a variety of sources, including Neil Rackham in his superb sales book ‘S.P.I.N. Selling’, these types of sales (unlike higher priced items like cars and houses) can be more successful with pressure, hype and impulse.  Whether it’s mobile phones, Pay TV, Cosmetics, Fashion, Electrical items and appliances, furnishings, etc.  people who have sold these things tend to have several characteristics in common.   They have a well-developed habitual focus on making a sale, so they don’t get so philosophical or theoretical about sales that they miss opportunities.  They tend to simplify the sales process in car sales, which often helps some customers to make their decision simpler.  They usually have tough skin, so they aren’t too sensitive about the occasional rejection and lies from customers that are inevitable in car sales.  They are usually gregarious and very comfortable with talking to people.  One significant thing that many people from small dollar value sales need to modify to succeed in car sales is learning to talk less and listen more to the customer.  Few people will be talked or pressured into buying a car that they don’t want or need.  If they previously sold by discounting, they’ll get a rude shock with the smaller percentage margins in cars.  Selling a mobile phone with a 15% discount could make you a quick sale and earn you some commission.  Selling a car with a 15% discount will lose the dealership money and most likely, lose the salesperson their job.  With good management, these salespeople tend to use their existing sales ability and great people skills to become successful in car sales.   

3. Big Dollar Value Sales

These salespeople may have been selling property, yachts, transport, or countless other big ticket items or services.  They are used to selling in amore sophisticated way than other salespeople.  They are usually used to a longer decision making process from their clients and accordingly they realise the necessity and advantage of relationship selling.  They are used to using relatively complex systems and are used to sales with a lot of paperwork.  They tend to make the most straightforward transition into car sales and find a lot of similarities with their previous role and find that their previous experience, skills and knowledge are a huge advantage.  Former real estate salespeople love the more acceptable work hours in car sales, and getting a genuine retainer as well as commission (no commission deductions to pay back retainer).  Big dollar value salespeople usually have good networks, too, so they are probably over-represented in successful salespeople in car sales because they come so well equipped and prepared. 

4. Emergency Services

Firemen, ambulance officers and police have all made a successful transition into car sales.  They bring some definite strengths which help them tremendously in car sales.  They are used to dealing with pressure, and usually find what other car salespeople call ‘pressure’ as laughable.  They perform well under stress.  They tend to me methodical and systematic in their approach which is incredibly reassuring for their employer and for customers.  They are used to dealing with the public and tend to be sociable, friendly people.  Many of them (especially shift workers) see the motor industry hours as a huge improvement on their previous role.  Several ex-emergency services employees have also expressed to us that in their previous role, they were there to help people and many times the people didn’t want to be helped, but in car sales, almost all customers did want to be helped.  They usually take a little longer to take in the full array of sales skills that they need to succeed, but their community-mindedness comes through in their demeanour with customers and colleagues and only adds to their success.

 5. Self-Employed or Franchisee

Irrespective of the type of business, another clear category of successful car salespeople we have seen are those who have come from running their own business or franchise.  The attraction is undeniable.  In car sales, they can still exercise their entrepreneurial flair, but without anywhere near the risk and responsibility of running their own business.  They tend to appreciate the business that they work in in a way that ‘regular’ employees cannot.  That unique (some would say ‘real world’) perspective makes them conscientious and respectful of the business and of customers.  They tend to have good business minds, and with less pressure on them directly, they are freed to up to focus on sales success without the multitude of hassles of business ownership. 

6. Mechanical or Other Trades

Salespeople who come from mechanical or other trades bring several advantages to a car sales role.  Often, they have superior technical knowledge and quickly become the resident product knowledge expert in their dealership – a valuable member of staff who everyone else comes to with technical questions.  They are used to following procedures.  Particularly mechanics who are good at diagnosing problems and can speak easily with people have a massive advantage in investigating customer needs in car sales, which in turn rapidly advances the sale.  By necessity, former tradespeople have a much better realisation of the value of knowledge and study than many of their sales colleagues and they surge ahead by continuing their learning habits in sales.  The main danger they face is thinking that they have to explain the technical aspects of cars to every customer.  Using their well-developed solution-focus and can-do attitudes, former tradespeople can flourish in car sales.   

7. Customer Service

People who have worked in customer service also bring a distinct and valuable set of skills to car sales.  Whether it be tour guiding, call centres, hire companies, or customer service in any other business, these people have had crucial experience in dealing with all sorts of customers.  They already understand how unreasonable some customers can be as well as having experienced how pleasant many customers will be. They’ve usually had experience in solving problems for customers.  They are likely to appreciate the ability to earn commission from their customer service skills.  Although they may need to learn more about sales procedure and the cars themselves, their ability in dealing well with people gives them a great start in car sales.

 This list is by no means comprehensive.  It is just an overview of some of the previous occupations from which we have seen people make a successful move into car sales. 

 If you are considering such a successful move and would like to discuss your car sales potential in more detail, contact us regarding Automotive Recruitment.

 Where do Successful Car Salespeople Come From?

Discover your car sales potential!

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