The National Automobile Dealers Association is making its salesperson certification available to more salespeople and is promoting the program through direct mail campaigns to members.
Participation can be initiated by the salesperson, instead of the dealer. Any salesperson who works for an NADA-member dealership can enroll by paying $69 for the training and another $30 for certification.
NADA is trying to revive the program, which is largely ignored by dealers and manufacturers.
"As our industry refocuses on ethics and customer service, it's more important than ever," says NADA Chairman Alan Starling, president of Holiday Chevrolet-Oldsmobile in St. Cloud, Fla., whose sales force is NADA certified. "We want to make these programs available to the widest possible audience within our membership."
Though giving broader access could give the program a boost, other efforts to increase participation - such as lowering the cost and putting it online and on CD-ROM - have done little to raise the number of certified salespeople.
Just 2,500 salespeople - about 2 percent of the estimated 150,000 dealership sales force - are certified, even though the program was introduced in 1992.
In 1997, about 7,500 salespeople were certified.
The cost of participation had been $1,200 per dealership, $395 for each manager and $295 for each salesperson.
Participants also had to travel to seminars, which not only increased the expense but potentially cost sales because it took salespeople away from the store.
The NADA program competes with manufacturer certification and training programs, which also cost time and money.
At one point, NADA certification was endorsed by BMW, Buick, Oldsmobile and Volvo.
In some cases, NADA-certified salespeople qualified for additional sales incentives from the factory.
Today, no manufacturer endorses the program and NADA has not solicited manufacturer support recently, says Karen Chapman, direct-or of management education for NADA.
Says Chapman: "Right now we are just making sure salespeople are aware of the program."