Trained sales consultants key to selling more EVs

How the highest-selling EV dealers climbed to the top and stayed there.

We’ve had the pleasure of working closely with some of Canada’s best performing electric vehicle (EV) dealerships for years.

It only seems fair that we reveal some of the strategies they’ve used, in regards to sales consultants, to become the highest-selling dealerships in this category and maintain this position over time.

In the EV world, one dealership’s problem quickly becomes another dealership’s opportunity. If a dealership fails to meet a prospective buyer’s EV needs, that potential buyer will gladly take their business elsewhere. And since many EV households have multiple cars, closing an EV sale can often lead to further car purchases down the line for the family’s “other” non-EV car purchase — and perhaps their teenager’s first car too.

For many high-performing EV dealers, closing an EV sale is about much more than just the EVs. For them, an EV sale is a means of acquiring new customers to grow sales in all vehicle categories. Interestingly, given that not all automakers offer EVs in the same vehicle size segments, many of today’s EV sales are customer conquests, where a brand can win over a long-term customer from another brand.

So how do the high-performing EV dealers close so many sales, year after year? They do this in large part by having many sales consultants who can accurately answer all EV and charging questions that come their way.

Sounds easy? Unfortunately, the rapidly changing landscape of the EV incentive and EV charging world make it a challenge to stay on top of the latest information. This challenge is further compounded by the fact that, as reported in this magazine’s August 2019 edition, the dealership’s sales consultant staff has a turnover rate of up to 80 per cent — based on a Cox Automotive 2019 Dealership Staffing Study.

This is a major hurdle to the sale of any vehicle in general — but it’s an even bigger problem in the EV category.

In the EV world, one dealership’s problem quickly becomes another dealership’s opportunity. If a dealership fails to meet a prospective buyer’s EV needs, that potential buyer will gladly take their business elsewhere.

A great sales consultant should be able to answer not only the prospective buyer’s questions about the car, but also (in terms of EVs) questions on charging at home and on the go, charging incentives, national/provincial/regional/local EV incentives, special electricity rates for EV drivers, and more. High turnover can impede the knowledge gain in this area.

One of the approaches I’ve seen some dealers take as they started to be more active in the EV space, is to have a dedicated EV expert. This approach is better than not having the EV education and sales knowledge in the dealership — but it has its limitations. With up to 80 per cent turnover among sales consultant employees, the dealership is at risk of losing this knowledge at any point in time.

To be successful, a dealership that takes this approach should rapidly assemble a plan to have their EV expert educate the remaining sales consultants about the EV space. If possible, this approach should also be completed by providing access to software tools that easily enable sales consultants to educate the prospective buyer on EVs and charging.

A regularly updated web-based platform like this also provides the reference information needed for the sales consultant to stay up to date themselves.

We’ve built such tools for some Canadian EV market leading dealerships and we’ve also built and continue to maintain other similar software tools for hundreds of dealerships in the U.S. We’ve seen this used as an integral part of many high-performing EV dealership approaches to closing as many EV sales as possible.

So, to recap: EV sales can grow a dealership’s customer base and drive sales in other market segments.

In order to grow EV sales, knowledge is power. The more EV-savvy the dealership’s sales consultants are, the more EVs they are likely to sell. Having many EV-savvy sales consultants also helps to counter the negative impacts of turnover when it comes to the dealership team’s EV-savviness.

EV-specific yearly training of sales consultants is not sufficient for them to be truly EV-savvy and up-to-date. They need an ongoing stream of updated information at their disposal to always be on top of the subject.

In short, if you’re looking into new ways of growing your dealership’s total sales volume in the coming years, you should seriously consider investing in your sales consultant’s EV knowledge and in dedicated web-based software tools to support them. That’s how high-performing EV dealers climbed to the top and continue to sell more, year after year.

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