Evaluating Your Sales Force
by : Gerry Myers
I've lost count of women customers who have to call two or three hundred girlfriends to get their opinions before making a buying decision. I don't even wait on women anymore (except if she looks like a he) and leave them for the green peas to up. My income has not been affected by this decision.”
After writing for Dealer magazine for several years and having been quoted in numerous prestigious publications such as the New York Times, I am amazed when I get an e-mail response like the one above to a recent article I wrote.
I know everyone doesn’t share my passion, nor do they realize the economic benefits they would receive from attracting women customers and employees to their dealership. However, in today’s world of savvy, influential women consumers, having someone on the floor with this attitude is just plain bad business.
Today’s car sales associates must be aware of the lucrative women’s market, and they need to embrace it. If they choose not to directly target women as a strategy for building a customer base, even though this group is the fastest-growing source of wealth in the country, that is one thing. But by deciding not to wait on women buyers, they are turning their backs on the most profitable customers walking through the door. Women can add to a sales associate’s income not just with the initial sale, but by being loyal repeat customers and referring others. As a dealer you should make sure your sales associates are at least courteous, professional and doing their jobs—which is to sell vehicles to potential buyers, including women.
Keeping salespeople with such antiquated, biased and bigoted ideas can only have negative effects on the entire culture of your dealership. It is important as an owner or manager that you invest time training your sales associates and weed out the dinosaurs. They are going through the motions of being an employee with a job, rather than showing pride in your dealership and building a successful career. These sales associates are never going to change. They are never going to be one of your best people and they are never going to “get it.”
Yes, I admit, it usually does take a little longer to sell a vehicle to a woman than a man. Yes, she might want to seek advice from her girlfriends, colleagues or family members. And she will most likely do research before purchasing. Even then, she will usually have additional questions she’ll want to ask the sales consultant before making the purchase.
Thus, she will want a salesperson who has more knowledge about the product than she does and is empowered to make the deal. She will insist on being treated with respect, and often refuse to play the “let me ask my manager” game. She will probably be less interested in how fast the vehicle goes from zero to 60 and more interested in its safety features. While some women enjoy looking under the hood and “kicking the tires,” most don’t. Color may or may not be key, but professionalism and integrity will always be a significant factor in the sales process. Selling to women is well worth the effort in the short-term, but even more so in the long-term. While they can provide you with numerous referrals, they can also turn their networks against you.
As Tom Peters said in his recent book, Trends, “Do the Math.” Women purchase more than 80 percent of all merchandise sold in the U.S., and either buy or influence 85 percent of all vehicles sold. Why would anyone choose to cater to only 15 percent of the buyers (men who are solely making the purchasing decision, many of which are fleet buyers), when they could be selling to 100 percent. Women spend billions of dollars annually on automotive products. And they are often repeat buyers rather than just price shoppers.
Another misnomer is that women buyers take too much time. Believe me, they aren’t looking for someone to spend hours with them needlessly. They are often a lot busier than sales associates and probably have many more things to juggle. They will invest the time necessary to get their questions answered, test drive the vehicle and secure a fair price. They want to get to know the sales associate well enough to think the person is worthy of trust, has integrity and will be there for them if there is a problem after the sale and delivery.
While I believe the opening quote is an exaggeration, let’s consider it at face value. If your customer is calling two or three hundred girl friends to ask their opinions, think of the network she has and the future customers she could provide. Both the salesman and the dealership will suffer if this type of attitude prevails and is condoned.
What a shame the automotive industry is still plagued with salesmen like this! I urge you to walk the floor, listen to comments, read body language and make sure your customers—men or women—will never encounter someone like this. You not only owe it to your women customers, you owe it to yourself.
Gerry Myers is president of Advisory Link, www.advisorylink-dfw.com, a Dallas-based corporation that creates women's advisory boards and exec-u-links to assist corporations, executives and salespeople in their marketing and selling efforts to women; recruiting, retention and promotion of female employees; and person and professional development. The Automotive Women Dealers’ Exec-U-Link is one of several groups currently in operation.