KEITH CRAIN

Selling cars today takes a lot of work

COMMENTARY
Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News
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Once upon a time, selling cars was a fairly straightforward process.

Those days are gone forever.

Today, there are people from 18 to 80 buying cars, and they all have different needs, which require entirely different sales approaches and processes. Anyone who thinks one size fits all is sadly mistaken.

You have to wonder how today's sales executives can handle all the different demands.

It has always been important to understand product, all the specifications and characteristics of each model.

Today there are more models than ever, and the customer is far more savvy, sometimes to the point that the customer explains the features to the salesperson.

Former Chrysler CEO Bob Eaton once said the last ignorant customer walked into a dealership in the 1990s.

Today, salespeople have to be up-to-date on all features and specifications for all the models they sell and current on every conceivable technology available.

Whether using a brochure, computer, iPad or smartphone, a sales executive must size up each customer and decide what sales approach will work best. It's dangerous to expect the same style to work for everybody within an age group. That would be a big mistake.

It's impossible today to generalize a sales approach based on age.

Today there are dozens of brands, and each product has a wide range of competitors. Salespeople must know not only their own models but also the pros and cons of the competition.

The era of a salesperson sitting around reading the newspaper and waiting for the next up is long gone. Today's salesperson has to be technologically savvy, know about competing brands and be ready to use different styles for all prospects, whether they walk in the door or show up online.

It takes far more training and a higher degree of intelligence and marketing know-how to sell cars successfully today.

Still, selling is a great entry-level job that gives a person the chance to earn a store of his or her own. If you're good and do all your homework, the potential is limitless.

That's what makes it so exciting.

You can reach Keith Crain at kcrain@crain.com.


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