The Latvian labour market has been experiencing a shortage of competent employees in all sectors for quite some time. The sales sector has always felt it most acutely, since not everyone can become a good salesperson – especially when it comes to cars. Becoming a true car sales professional requires the appropriate knowledge and personal qualities, as well as the ability to communicate with customers and desire for continuous learning and improvement. What makes a customer trust a salesperson and decide to make the recommended purchase? And what challenges do car salespersons face in their day-to-day work?
The gender of a car salesperson might play a big role
Approximately 80% of all salespersons in the car trade industry are men. This overwhelming predominance is, admittedly, quite natural. Men are more interested in vehicles and usually have broader knowledge than women, since men are interested in models, horsepower, innovations, technologies and power, whereas women tend to pay more attention to aesthetic nuances and comfort. However, that does not mean that a woman cannot become an excellent car salesperson, as the profession requires certain personal qualities and other skills as well; being able to distinguish between different car model engines at a glance is not enough. (Although women are great at learning this, too.)
Yet it has to be taken into account that most car buyers are men as well, looking for a vehicle either for themselves or for their spouse. Even though the ethical principles of society nowadays seek to strengthen gender equality in all areas, there is a segment of conservative buyers who wish to have a man-to-man conversation with the salesperson – quite literally. Therefore, a woman who wishes to become a car salesperson might need to put in far more time and effort to win a customer’s trust.
Knowing cars of a particular brand is not enough
For the most part, car salespersons have sought out this profession purposefully; only a small fraction end up in this job by chance. “Domenikss” employs those who prize Mercedes above all other cars, while other car dealers have admirers of other brands working for them. However, knowing everything about one’s favourite car is not enough. In order to help the customer make the right decision and choose a particular brand, the salesperson has to be well versed in current car trade trends regarding cars, models, subsequent season’s tendencies, other dealer related news. If a person lacks this natural curiosity, they will have a hard time working in the car trade.
In addition, there must be a balance between a salesperson’s knowledge and the customer’s wishes. One of the most typical mistakes a salesperson makes is getting carried away with a particular car model to such an extent that they persuade the customer to buy it and disregard everything else, resulting in the customer being dissatisfied since this car did not meet their needs at all.
A salesperson must communicate with each customer in a way that they understand
A good salesperson enjoys working with customers. When starting out, salespersons (for the most part) have a decent understanding of their duties and are aware of the possible challenges, yet each of them has a different understanding as to what constitutes an effective sale. However, the trade requires a common standard to be followed. There is no place for the like or dislike a salesperson might feel towards a customer. A salesperson has to be able to imagine themselves in the customer’s situation. Often the customers themselves do not quite know what they want, as they have not explicitly stated to themselves what their daily needs are. And in such cases it is the salesperson’s skill that allows them to make the choice that matches the needs of the customer – and not the salesperson themselves.
Moreover, the salesperson has to be able to accept a refusal. The customer might choose another car brand, or the bank might refuse to finance them. And so all the hard work of the salesperson turns out to be in vain – no matter how carefully they prepared their offer and communicated with the client in order to help them make a decision, the result does not match the desired outcome at all.
Constant learning – even with 20 years of experience
There are only a handful of people to whom selling cars comes naturally. The others have to dedicate themselves to continuous learning. Therefore knowledge and skills that are in any way related to psychology, studies and understanding of humans, and, of course, sales, will help in becoming a good salesperson. A car salesperson provides support in making a very important definition that will affect the customer’s life for at least the next 3 to 5 years. A salesperson must be able to inspire confidence in themselves and the product they are selling.
Of course, knowledge of foreign languages is also necessary nowadays. English has become the de facto language of the car trade, as the technical literature and information on news is available for the most part in English. We also have quite a number of customers whose everyday language is Russian. However, the most important skill one has to learn might be management of their own emotions. The better a person understands themselves, the more successful they are in communicating with others and reacting to unexpected situations quickly. A salesperson has to believe that they are making the best offer, so healthy self-confidence is very important.
A good employer will help their employees to hone all these skills. In the labour market, employers often want to hire a professional that is as competent as possible and capable of delivering results straight away. If a manager has to choose whether to invest resources in training or to hire an employee that is already capable of performing, the fully-fledged professional will win out in most cases, so that the risk of being faced with assessment that points to inadequate competencies can be avoided. It has a simple explanation – managers are more involved in the business side of things, and they are concerned with numbers and sales results, meaning that it is the salesperson who has to support the customer by providing them with what every customer wants: special attention, respectful communication and value-added service. However, a genuinely competent employer knows that their greatest value is their employees, which in turn means satisfied customers; therefore, they will definitely invest resources both in mandatory training for new employees and in the further development of the more experienced colleagues’ competencies.
And I would also like to mention one challenge that is faced by the industry as a whole. Namely, the salesperson is paid for their individual successes, for the result: the more cars you sell, the more you earn. At the same time, the industry is moving towards the development of long-term relationships, which ought to have a completely different kind of motivation and emphases. This creates a substantial contradiction: customer satisfaction is paramount, yet it constantly fades into the background because salespersons focus on the financial performance. Therefore long-term excitement and enjoyment of this job should be the only motivation for it. Then the rest will come. But if being a car salesperson is not one’s true calling, no amount of extra motivation will make it feel rewarding, and then neither the salesperson’s gender nor their knowledge will matter.