By nature, I’m an introvert. I’d rather dig into data than make small talk. I’m more subdued than boisterous. I’d rather not be the center of attention. In short, I have never been your stereotypical salesman. I’ve never had the traits of an extrovert that so many dealers consider critical to sales success. Time and time again, my approach has been met with skepticism. And yet, in my time at dealerships, I was consistently one of the top-performing salespeople.
Of course, many extroverted salespeople are great at what they do, but many dealers are missing top talent by failing to look outside the box when building sales teams. I’ve been off the showroom floor for about 10 years now, but I still see the same patterns in dealership recruitment strategies that I saw then. Dealers are sticking with the salesperson personality types they know, failing to realize how staffing a team with a variety of personalities can improve results.
Hiring for the Age of the Customer
The key to finding the right people for your dealership is understanding the needs of today’s car buyers. We are living in the Age of the Customer. They are empowered to do their own research and question the businesses they choose to patronize.
This increased consumer knowledge means the role of salespeople has shifted. No longer are customers looking for salespeople to tout every shiny bell and whistle of a vehicle. Today’s customers are looking for salespeople who will honestly answer their questions and help them identify the best options by understanding their personal needs. Today’s car shoppers aren’t looking to be sold; they’re looking to be consulted.
This shift in the salesperson’s role means a shift in the skills and traits that makes someone a good salesperson. Here are a few traits to look for in all the candidates you interview, introverts, extroverts or somewhere in between.
Information Beats Showmanship
Today’s customers often know what they want and the price they want to pay before ever stepping foot in the showroom. Nearly 90% of car buyers research pricing online and, on average, spend 59% of their car buying experience — nearly nine hours — researching and shopping online.
Because customers have dedicated so much time and effort to researching cars, they don’t need (or have the patience for) the traditional sales song and dance. They need information. When hiring salespeople, skip the flash. Look for people who have shown a commitment to truly learning about products and using that product knowledge to provide outstanding customer experience.
The first quality your next hire should exhibit is resourcefulness. Most dealers use a variety of different software platforms for a wide range of purposes. These platforms are a big investment, so it is critical to your bottom line that your employees not only use them but also use them well. Today’s most successful dealership salespeople are squeezing everything they can out of the resources their dealership offers, and they see results.
These resourceful salespeople are creating results not just for themselves but for the rest of the business. For example, several CRM providers offer ongoing training. When one resourceful salesperson takes advantage of that training, he will often share his knowledge with his coworkers.
Resourceful employees are also more likely to spot inefficiencies in your processes. For example, perhaps a salesperson discovers a data entry shortcut, such as an integration between the dealership’s service scheduling platform and CRM. That one resourceful discovery will pay ample dividends in the form of saved time and improved customer experience.
A commitment to being resourceful and creative when using dealership technology platforms can also be a selling point for millennial employees, who account for 60% of dealership new hires according to the Cox Automotive Dealership Staffing Study. Seventy-eight percent of millennials were strongly influenced by how innovative a company was when deciding if they wanted to work there.
Your next sales pro also should be data-driven. Countless opportunities are hiding in dealership databases like your CRM, but those opportunities aren’t worth anything unless someone finds them. I see a lot of dealerships still relying on the “gut feeling” approach, but in today’s post-peak market that won’t cut it. The most successful salespeople dig around in data and use it to create opportunities, so look for candidates with data mining experience when you’re hiring.
Much like one resourceful employee can have an impact on the rest of the dealership, one data-driven employee can improve the dealership’s overall bottom line. For example, one ready-to-buy indicator often watched by data-driven sales people is equity. Setting up a report of all customers with positive equity (or more specifically, customers with positive equity coming through your service lane that week, for example) is pretty simple in most CRMs. That one data-driven action taken by one data-driven employee can have a huge impact on dealership performance.
Both introverted and extroverted salespeople can provide your dealership with great results. Keep an open mind and an eye out for these skills when you’re hiring, and you’ll be on your way to building a strong, sustainable sales team.
Mo Zahabi is the director of sales and product consulting at VinSolutions, a Cox Automotive brand.