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Are Your Salespeople Obsolete?

Last week at NADA there was a workshop on “Are Your Salespeople Obsolete?”. I couldn’t believe it but then in retrospect with a little thought I could see the reasoning behind it. In today’s omni-channel society the need of a traditional salesperson is greatly diminished. What once was a dominant position in the process can now be replaced by several 1’s and 0’s of code or so some have you believing but is it the truth.

If you talk with the Consumer, they want a frictionless quick process. They don’t cite salespeople as being a concern, in fact most go out of their way to commend the dedication of the sales team in getting them through the process. In drilling deeper into their responses what bothers them most about the process, Time. So, wouldn’t eliminating Sales and replacing them with AI solve this issue? No, is the simple answer as the Consumers still need the personal interaction at some point in their purchase cycle.

Now the OEMs are trying to break through this chain of custody of the Consumer that the Salespeople currently possess with a Direct-to-Consumer model. They believe that is they can mirror the success and loyalty that Tesla has achieved they can then change the model and eliminate Salespeople like Tesla. What they do not understand that Tesla is starting to crumble as being first to market EV has lost it shine with others closing the gap rapidly. The sexiness of having a Tesla has diminished, the quality issues are no longer being ignored and the market is starting to voice its concerns. Now, who is going to be there to defend the brand and build the value back into the vehicles, a website? I think not. D2C only works to a point and typically with high demand vehicles. Good luck moving something nobody wants without major price reductions…. Wait that’s happening now, isn’t it? Record profits mean nothing if the metal becomes paperweights.

So, if the Consumers want the Salespeople and the OEMs can’t get rid of them then why the challenge? We need them, don’t we? Yes, more than ever.

In the last three years there has been a polar shift in the way we have sold cars. We’ve lost our focus, our empathy, our compassion, our loyalty, and our understanding on how to do business. We got greedy, we saw our neighbors charging thousands over list and jumped on the bandwagon with a great loss of concern for what would happen next. It was hell bent for leather on a one-way trip to PROFITLAND. All we knew is that the inventory was low, and they were lining up. Our excuse to ourselves was we must keep the lights on and pay our people. We sold half as many cars but quadrupled our profits. Who do you think will get blamed for this in the Consumers eyes? The Salesperson regardless of the fact that they do not make the prices or the selling decisions.

These last three years have become a transactional sale with the Consumers, we lost the relationship sale. It was no longer… going to see “Bob” or “Julie” down at the dealership to see if we can make a deal on the new Camry. It was hammering the keyboard and see if ANYONE has a car, throw out the Credit Card and pray they will sell it to me. Ethics and morals went out the window as they were replaced by a whole lot of cash. We got COVID drunk on Market Adjustments.

Who’s going to face these customers when the issues of the pandemic wear off? Salespeople… Not a manufacturer’s website nor a Dealer Principal but Salespeople. They are the front line of defence, they are the bearers of the news as relayed down from above, they will need to comfort and nurture the client, explaining how negative equity works if you ever believe that you have a hope of retaining them down the road. So, yes, we need them more than ever.

However, if we are to survive this self-inflicted pain, we have caused we will need to get Back to Basics again and not that of the journey to the sale steps… But that of relationship selling. This is what is going to take us through the next few years. We’re going to need to use all the skills we have and then some. We’re going to need to deploy everything in our arsenal to assist our Sales Teams to help them stop our imploding business we created.

We need to train them and coach them to success. Implement AI Use in the CRM, eliminate friction with One-Price Selling, create smart business rules with respect to the BDC. Fortify their efforts with clear and transparent communication both with the clients and the team itself. Reintroduce Product Knowledge competency and improved Demonstration Drive practices. Review the internal processes and workflow modifying it to meet the demands of the frictionless client.

Our captive customer is no longer captive. They have many new tools at their disposal, and we’ll need to meet them head-on. New expectations will be set, and it will be a team effort that will keep and retain these clients moving forward. Leading the charge will be your Salespeople. Managers to be successful will need to be out there on the floor with you as behind the desk won’t cut it anymore. The relationship sale will have everyone involved.

We will need to keep the CRM firing on all cylinders, feeding it full of the data it needs to consume to remain relevant in the process extrapolating the information, remain in communication and moving the customer towards the sale. Clean data will become your new currency as the term of “Garbage in, Garbage out” will have new meaning. The managers will become coaches and partners in the sale, moving it from a Salesperson to Sales Team operation. So, YES, we need them.

There has never been a time where we need Salespeople more than now. We are in a place where they are going to make the difference, it’s going to be their compassion that wins people over as we all know what’s coming. It’s not going to be pretty, but we’ve seen times like this before and rode out those storms. It will be all hands-on deck as this time it’s going to be a little trickier, but I am confident with the right team in place, we will see smooth seas again. And who will we have to thank the Salespeople as they will have taken the brunt of it all and got us through.

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