Salespeople are the nomads of the automotive world, and that wanderlust costs their employers dearly. It costs money to hire them, it costs money to train them, and it costs money to replace them.
In this section, dealers who have built and retained top-flight sales staffs pass along their ideas. The basics are:
1. Pick the right people.
2. Train them well.
3. Keep them happy.
Easy to say; the trick is doing it.
Paul Weitman, president of Royal Automotive Group in Tucson, Ariz., knows what he doesn't want. 'We seldom hire people who have sold cars before,' he says. 'We hire people we think Xerox or IBM or other corporations would want.'
Sometimes empowerment is important. It's high on the list for Kevin Steele, general manager of Schumacher European Ltd. (Mercedes) in Scottsdale, Ariz., whose cars are priced from $35,000 to $150,000.
Says Steele: 'I tell salespeople, `Don't ever tell a customer you have to check with the manager.' In this market, the reaction will be, 'Well, then go get the manager, and I'll deal with him.' ' He says he has lost maybe one salesperson in the last seven years.
Money isn't the only consideration. Lawton Davis, president of Lee Galles Motors in Albuquerque, N.M., says, 'Of the top 10 reasons people leave, money is probably No. 9.' Management support and good treatment are more important, he says.
Many dealers have extensive training programs. Jim Peruto, a Mercedes and Honda dealer in Doylestown, Pa., goes a step further. He uses the sales training academy of the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia. Peruto is association president this year.
But maybe Dale Monteleone at Lithia Dodge in Eugene, Ore., has the best idea for retaining staff. He says: 'We fire bad employees before we ever hire them.'