What happened to your sales process?

It’s time to get your sales team back on track delivering amazing customer service

Over the past two years, many dealerships have made record profits, and salespeople have enjoyed the biggest commissions in the history of the retail automotive industry. 

I just left a Canadian RAM Jeep dealership where a salesperson made a $13,000 commission on a RAM pick-up (not gross, commission!). But what about the customer? 

What does the customer get for these exorbitant commissions? What do you get as the General Manager or Dealer Principal? Arguably, the more money we make, the poorer the customer experience. Most customers (of recent) have received the lowest levels of customer service ever while buying a new or pre-owned vehicle. The sales process has often been replaced with; “Well sir, if you don’t want it, someone else does.” 

As a result of high consumer demand and low vehicle supply over the past two years, as well as the new phenomenon of factory-orders, sales processes at most dealerships across Canada have literally evaporated. Customers have been buying willingly (and easily) and salespeople would argue that they don’t need to follow a sales process to sell a new or used vehicle—sometimes true. 

However, the landscape is shifting yet again. Many new vehicle manufacturers will be able to supply dealerships with stock vehicles in 2023—less than pre-pandemic, but nevertheless, there may be vehicles on-ground.

This situation will start to see the return of a more cautious or even aggressive customer; one that is less inclined to jump at the first stock-vehicle they see. Price negotiation and discounting may return as a result of competition. It is already happening with brands such as Ford, RAM and Jeep. 

Used vehicles have also depreciated and the market has slowed. This (again) creates a buyer’s market, whereby consumers will not be so openly eager to pounce on the first used vehicle they see for fear of losing it. 

When you add to the mix a current Prime Rate of 6.70%, and used vehicle lending rates hovering at 8.99% or more, dealerships and salespeople need be mindful that potential customers may be a little more aloof. 

Back to your sales process. By our definition (a sales training and consulting company), a sales process is a step-by-step approach to selling a new or pre-owned vehicle that is documented, trained, coached, enforced and measured. 

By this definition, most dealerships no longer have a sales process. Gone. You think you have a sales process or you have simply turned a blind eye to the complacency that consumes the showroom floor. If you doubt me, have every one of your managers and salespeople write down the steps of your sales process on paper (without conferring) and have them hand it in to you.

Critical steps of our sales process are being allowed to erode. For example, we are selling the most gorgeous, technologically advanced and content-rich vehicles ever, yet have virtually abandoned salesperson-facilitated vehicle presentations. Again, the argument is, “Well we don’t necessarily have to present the vehicle to sell it.” 

This may sometimes be true, however, there are two considerations; 

  1. Regardless of how easy it might be to sell a new vehicle to a wanting customer, does the customer not deserve a spectacular presentation on their potential new vehicle? When they are spending $100,000 on a pick-up or SUV, do they not deserve a passionate, energetic, choreographed, feature, advantage, benefit presentation that blows the shoes and socks right off their feet! Do you, as the general manager or dealer principal, not also deserve an incredible vehicle presentation for the mind-blowing commission that you are paying? 
  2. Regardless of how easy it is to sell a vehicle without presenting it, we still don’t close 100 per cent of our customer traffic.

We have also permitted unaccompanied demonstration drives; “Oh, our customers are concerned about COVID.” Baloney. That horse left the barn months ago. We have simply allowed our salespeople to toss key fobs to potential customers and have them go out ALONE on nerve-racking, meaningless drives, while the salespeople smoke or vape at the back of your dealership beside the dumpster. The purpose of today’s demonstration drive is to not only showcase the vehicle’s incredible comfort, convenience features and road manners, but to creatively and safely demonstrate 4-6 of the vehicle’s newest technologies. 

If a customer were alone driving one of your new vehicles, would they know how to locate and operate the adaptive cruise control? Would they know how the engine stop/start feature behaves? Front and rear autonomous braking? Would they know how the lane-keep assist feature works on your brand? Autohold? Would they know how to operate park-assist? Massage seats? Would they know how to operate the cameras, apps and integrations of your brand’s infotainment system?

In addition to a pride-filled education and orientation of your vehicle, a salesperson-accompanied demonstration drive is also designed to advance and strengthen the customer-salesperson relationship.

These are just two examples of steps within most dealership sales processes that have been allowed to fade to extinction. There are more. In some dealerships, salespeople are simply meeting a customer, sitting down at their workstation, gossiping about the town for a while and going straight to a build & price tool on your manufacturer’s website; “Do you want to place a factory order?” “Don’t worry, if you don’t want it when it comes in, we will give you your deposit back.” “It’s really just a reservation.”

It might be time to take a very hard look at your dealership’s sales process (or lack thereof). If you are thinking, “We have to factory-order most of our vehicles”, there are inspiring examples of dealerships that have created an entire sales process specific to, and built around factory-orders (call or email me if you would like ideas and details).

What do you want your salespeople to do with every customer that walks into your dealership? What do you want your salespeople to do with every customer that walks into your digital dealership (e-leads)?

What is the purpose of selling a car at your dealership? Is it just to get to the finish line as fast as possible and close a deal? Is it to “gross the customer”? Is it to get a “10-pay”? Or do you also wish to provide an incredible customer experience—not because you have to, but because you want to. 

If you would like to discuss what a modern new vehicle, pre-owned vehicle, factory-order and digital sales process looks like in today’s landscape, call me and I would love to share what Canada’s best and brightest are doing to deliver meaningful, engaging and successful customer experiences.


About Chris Schulthies

Chris Schulthies is the president of Toronto-based Wye Management. Wye Management provides sales and management training (showroom and digital) for dealerships, dealer groups, OEMs and industry suppliers in Canada and the U.S. You can contact him at cschulthies@wyemanagement.com or 416.908.6346.

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