Six skills that sales consultants need to master today

Sales consultants, especially amid and post-COVID, will need to dive into the digital aspects of the job while still balancing the physical demands.

If we strive to provide a ‘world class’ experience, what are the skills that sales consultants need to master today?” asked Mike Trotman, CEO of the Vancouver-based Trotman Auto Group.

I sent this question to our team of trainers and consultants, and we came up with a list of 30 attributes and proficiencies that would encapsulate a successful sales consultant in today’s evolving landscape. From the 30, we culled the list down to the following six skills:

1) The ability to use a cell phone (all forms of communication), a CRM, and video apps.

Today’s sales consultants have to be versed and comfortable with all forms of communication: voice, text, e-mail, video, and so on. While older sales consultants may be guilty of dismissing technology such as FaceTime or video, younger sales consultants may be just as guilty of avoiding voice-to-voice cell phone conversations.

The fact is that our customers communicate by all methods, and sales consultants can no longer gravitate to their favourite (or more comfortable) form of communication; they must adapt to their customer’s preferences. Telephone and conversational skills will resurface and become increasingly important as more sales gravitate to an online environment.

Dealerships spend thousands of dollars annually on incredibly robust and intuitive CRM tools. These tools allow sales consultants to build a business within a business and effectively communicate with current and potential customers. Still, many dealerships struggle with information-capture and the consistent use of these tools.

The proper utilization of a CRM tool must be mandatory or handed over to a Portfolio Manager. No longer can dealerships tolerate the comments “I forgot to put in the customer information,” or “I’m not good with computers.”

Similarly, as digital customers and e-leads become the growth of dealerships, sales consultants and sales managers alike must embrace and master video and video apps (Covideo, Bomb-Bomb, Quickpage, YouTube, etc.). Hello videos, product presentation videos, and how-to videos are all components of an effective digital sales process.

No longer can dealerships turn a blind eye to things like “I’m not good with technology.” Time’s up. Learn. Today’s sales consultant must be tech-savvy.

2) An understanding of how to utilize social media to communicate with current and prospective customers (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn).

According to Toronto-based Miranda Pyette Automotive Consulting:

  • the average person spends over 135 minutes per day on social media;
  • 60 per cent of people say they discover new products on Instagram;
  • social media sites are the go-to place for consumers who want to learn more about a business;
  • the number one question asked on Facebook globally is: What car should I buy?;
  • 74 per cent of consumers rely on social media to make a buying decision; and
  • 93 per cent of customers expect a company and salesperson to have a presence on social media.

Need I say more?

3) The ability to reply to e-leads and convert them to showroom appointments.

Many dealerships receive more e-lead (digital) customers than walk-in customers. Yet, e-leads are, in many cases, treated as a secondary, less important customer — or worse, an inconvenience.

An e-lead should receive the same interest, enthusiasm, and urgency as a walk-in customer. Both want to buy a vehicle; one is walking into your digital dealership, while the other is walking into your physical dealership.

Today’s sales consultant must possess both the training and attitude to successfully convert e-leads to showroom appointments. Dealerships must have philosophical discussions, strategies and policies for handling more challenging e-leads such as “What’s my trade-in worth?” and “What’s your best price?”

4) The ability to ask questions, build rapport, and problem solve with both online and showroom customers.

Where, as a society, we have replaced face-to-face conversation with texting and social media, the ability to strike up a friendly conversation with a total (and sometimes hostile) stranger, active listening and asking questions, is still an incredibly important sales consultant skill. These skills need also to be adapted to online customers.

In an industry that may be suffering from technology fatigue, let’s be reminded that people still buy from people they like and trust. Sales consultants need to possess an infectious, positive attitude, an outgoing personality, and a genuine and inquisitive interest in others, whether the customer is in the showroom or online.

5) The ability to present and demonstrate a new or pre-owned vehicle.

Let’s talk turkey. Very few sales consultants treat customers to an informative and exciting feature/benefit walk-around vehicle presentation. The industry has convinced itself that live, showroom vehicle presentations have gone the way of the dodo bird.

We have rationalized that, because the customer is well researched, this long-standing step of most sales processes is no longer needed or in vogue. Nothing could be further from truth. Those sales consultants and dealerships that learn, create, master and deliver live showroom vehicle presentations on a consistent basis are rewarded with higher volume sales, profitability, and happier customers.

If you think about it, in the post-COVID world where unaccompanied test drives may become the norm, doesn’t it make sense that more emphasis should be put on crafting and perfecting live showroom vehicle presentation as a means to inform, excite, and safely interact with customers?

6) The ability to present a proposal and ask for the sale.

Today’s sales consultants must possess the knowledge and skill to confidently and enthusiastically present manufacturer’s incentives, multiple payment options, and ask for the sale in both a showroom and online environment. This may state the obvious.

In a two-year long survey, we asked hundreds of sales consultants of all experience levels across Canada — “Do you ask your customers to buy every time, provided they have selected a vehicle and you have treated them to your dealership’s sales process (showroom or online)?” Sixty per cent said no.

Some said they didn’t want to appear pushy, others said they knew for certain their customers weren’t ready, and some said they were fearful of rejection. However, the number one reason cited was: “I really don’t know how.” This represents an opportunity.

As more dealerships move to a one price marketing approach, negotiation skills will become less important over the months and years to come. Slowly fading are the traditional “hard core negotiators and closers” of the past; they are struggling to adapt to the new, online world.

Today’s sales consultant will need to possess superior customer service skills because they want to, not because they have to. For these people, customer service will be part of their core make-up and values — with no hidden agendas — only to deliver a “world class” customer experience.

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