Car dealerships employ 1.1 million people in the U.S. and are one of the classic examples of sales people at work – almost everyone has had to deal with a car sales person at some point. But according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal , the traditional car sales model is under pressure: car dealerships are struggling to recruit and retain sales people. It’s a tough business and a somewhat outdated business model; fewer young people from the millennial generation want to go into careers as car sales people, and car dealership sales staff turnover has increased significantly in the past few years.
It’s not just a matter of paying people more money; if you want to retain millennials in your sales team, you need to adapt your business model and align with their values.
How to Make a Sales Team More Productive
Here are a few tips from the example of struggling car dealerships for how you can improve your sales workforce retention and sales team productivity:
Adapt to Changing Times
Many car dealerships still operate as if this is still the postwar era, when customers had fewer choices and were highly loyal to one brand of car. Haggling with car dealers was a rite of passage for previous generations, but many customers today don’t want to do that – they’re shopping online instead. And lots of millennial sales people don’t want to haggle or feel like they’re being deceptive in squeezing a higher price out of the car buyers; they don’t want to play that traditional haggling sales game that car sales people often have to play. One millennial car sales rep was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying that he had moral objections to the traditional style of car sales, and that’s why he decided to work for a dealership with a no-haggle, one-price policy.
It’s not the 1960s anymore. Just like car dealers need to change with the times, your business might need to revisit and update your business model too.
Deliver Stability and Meaning
Today’s millennial sales talent craves stability. Lots of millennials were affected by their experience of living through the Great Recession, and they tend to want to work for a company that can provide a more stable income than a purely commission-driven car sales job. Millennials are more likely to want to work for a company that operates with responsible values and that builds relationships for the long-term, not just doing one-off transactions or putting excessive sales pressure on their customers.
A recent survey of millennial sales talent  found that millennials’ Top Five considerations when choosing a job are:
- Work-Life Balance
- Promotion Opportunities
- Meaningful Work
- Job Stability
- Fun Work Culture
It’s fair to say that the typical car dealership environment is not known for work-life balance or job stability – so you can understand why dealerships are struggling to retain younger talent. But it’s not too late to change! Many of these elements that millennials want to see in a workplace are within your control to provide.
Re-evaluate your compensation structure to give your sales team more of a safety net; you don’t want to lose people just because they had one bad month or bad quarter. Talk with your sales people about what makes the job fun and meaningful for them – not everyone is motivated by money alone; most sales people are passionate about building relationships and delivering results and helping people. Find that magic key to unlock the secret of what makes selling “meaningful” for your sales people, and your sales productivity is likely to improve.
Embrace New Technology
People are shopping for cars online more and more; you need to be ready to meet customers wherever they are in the buying journey . Also, the actual make-up of cars has become more technology-driven – the WSJ article mentioned a quote from an expert who said that a car today is basically “a collection of computers.” Make sure your sales people are well trained and well-versed in the technology aspects of whatever you sell.
Sales people need to be great at building relationships and working with the people-skills side of the equation, but they also (increasingly) need to be technically knowledgeable and able to talk shop with your engineering and product development teams.
Technology is not something to fear. For the most part, the rising importance of technology in sales is a good thing! It means that sales teams have a bigger opportunity to add value and be a more important part of the organization.
Add Value – and Stand Up for Values
Most people hate haggling for cars; is your sales process driving people away? Ideally, in the sales environment that we’re in now in 2018, where customers have more transparency into pricing than ever before, where customers can conduct their own research online, where customers might enter into a sales conversation knowing more about the product than ever before, the role of the sales person has changed dramatically. Car dealerships that are still doing aggressive haggling and trying to hoodwink their customers into overpaying are going to lose in the long run. Sales, especially in B2B industries, is becoming more of a collaborative win-win process, not an adversarial bait and switch.
Re-examine what really makes your business great – how can you reach customers in a way that represents the best values of your business, that makes people want to keep working with you and keep buying from you?
The same aspects of running your sales organization that make millennials more likely to work for you, will also make customers more likely to buy from you.