Helping Women In and Out of Your Dealership
by Gerry Myers

A relatively new organization is helping women network and grow within the automotive industry. Founded in Detroit in 1995 by Lorraine Schultz, the Women's Automotive Association International (WAAI) now has chapters in the United States in Akron, Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Los Angeles and the New York Tri-State area. The organization has an international board headed by Barbara Shipp of the New York Tri-State chapter, a U.S. national division led by Maureen Martin of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter and a Canadian division led by Candace Fochuk-Barey of the Toronto chapter. Currently, the international division is exploring expansion opportunities in other countries. In anticipation of the continual growth of the organization, the U.S. and Canadian divisions also are studying additional locations for chapters.

Your dealership can profit by being affiliated with WAAI, as well as help it develop by:

  • Getting involved
  • Being a corporate sponsor
  • Enrolling all the women in your dealership in the local chapter
  • Helping to organize a chapter in your area if none exists.
  • Dealerships that are fortunate enough to have WAAI chapters in their area should take advantage of them. WAAI members will:
  • Support women in your dealership resulting in higher retention
  • Offer referrals of women they know who might want to work in a dealership
  • Help raise funds for scholarships to women who would like to work in the automotive industry
  • Provide educational programs, sponsor golf tournaments to fund scholarships, and host other events throughout the year that dealership management and personnel can and should attend.

Along with WAAI, another tool to help recruit, retain, attract and sell to women is a Women's Advisory Board (WAB). A WAB will help a dealership focus on its internal culture, as well as its customer culture. Made up of women outside the industry, the Board is in a great position to:

  • Be ambassadors of goodwill for you in the community
  • Give you advice on what women customers want in their sales and service experiences
  • Provide referrals for women who might enjoy being part of your team
  • Review advertising, brochures, sales promotion ideas, sales strategies, etc.
  • Critique your facility. Is it female-friendly? Is it clean, comfortable, easy to find and complete with customer amenities including play areas for kids, laptop hookups and quiet spots for business?
  • A WAB works best if it is:
  • Comprised of women outside the industry who match the demographic profile of your best customers
  • Created and facilitated by an outside source.
  • Other ideas for recruiting and retaining more women are to provide a management track to women seeking advancement within the dealership or industry. You can:
  • Enroll them in leadership courses
  • Develop a clear career path for each new recruit
  • Provide training, knowledge and development on both product lines and sales and management skills
  • Send them to NADA Dealer Candidate School.
  • To enhance your results on recruiting and retaining more women, as well as attracting and keeping women customers, you should:
  • Be sensitive to women employees' and customers' needs
  • Provide gender-specific training to your staff on:
  • Communicating with the opposite sex
  • Supervising the opposite sex
  • Selling to the opposite sex.
  • The facts of life are clear:
  • Women make up a substantial part of the workforce
  • Women buy 50 percent of all vehicles and influence more than 80 percent of purchasing decisions
  • Women affect your business whether you like it or not and whether you admit it or not.

In Conclusion

I would like to leave you with my recent car service and buying experience.

I bought a new vehicle about 10 days ago. When I took my old one to the dealership for service, I told the service advisor I was planning on purchasing a new car very soon and was just looking for the minimum amount of work that needed to be done. The repairs were far more extensive and costly than I expected. Not wanting to invest that much in my current car, I opted to purchase a new one. I was disappointed, however, because I felt like he didn't really listen to what I had said and that the repairs were far more than what I had to have. Although I mentioned several times that I was getting a new vehicle, he never suggested I look there, or put me in touch with a salesperson. A typical dealership experience: the sales and service organizations work totally independent of each other. They shouldn't.

I bought a new car, and thus far have been very happy with my experience. While everything wasn't perfect, they seemed to be trying to please me and work with me. I appreciate that.

My final words of wisdom: when selling to a woman, treat her as you would like your wife, daughter or mother treated if she were buying the vehicle. The rest will take care of itself.


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