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Key Traits to Look for When Hiring Auto Dealership Sales Representatives

By Ryan Leschel  | Jul 10, 2019

In an effort to combat margin compression and reduce operating costs, many auto dealers around the U.S. have started taking a closer look at their hiring practices. This should come as no surprise, as attracting and retaining top talent has always been a bit of a pain point for the auto retail industry.

In fact, a 2017 study by Cox Automotive found that the annual turnover rate for sales representatives may be as high as 67%, with an average cost per hire falling around $10,000 per employee.

These types of staffing issues can have quite a visible impact on the profitability of both small and large dealerships. After all, the loss of an effective salesperson can lead to dropped productivity, missed sales opportunities and low morale. So how can auto dealers assemble a workforce with real staying power?

The answer: recruit the right candidates the first time around.

Building a reliable sales team is a lot like walking a tightrope - it requires concentration, perseverance and a strong sense of balance. Prioritizing work experience, technical knowledge or personality over all other qualifications can leave you without a stable footing.

To give your dealership the best odds at onboarding talented applicants, be sure to take your time during the interview process - don’t jump to conclusions.

Recruiting the right people for the right roles is no easy task, as today’s labor market is super competitive. Modern job seekers have a lot of career opportunities at their fingertips, which is why having a staffing strategy is crucial.

If you’re looking to fill open sales positions, increase your profitability and secure long-term growth, look out for the following traits during your next candidate interview:

4 Key Traits of Successful Auto Sellers

Reading through a stack of resumes may help you whittle down your options, but the best way to truly understand an applicants’ qualifications is to get to know the person behind the paper.

While you may be tempted to fill an open sales position as soon as possible, a hasty hiring decision often does more harm than good. For example, onboarding a candidate that isn’t a team player can lead to high employee turnover and reduced F&I penetration.

Watch the Full Webinar On-Demand: How to Optimize Your Talent: Four Factors to  Drive Success

So before you make a job offer, be sure to have a clear picture of the applicant’s knowledge, experience and interpersonal skills. Here are four key traits that dealers should prioritize when hiring sales representatives:

1. A knack for healthy conversation

Effective communication is the bedrock of profitable customer relationships.

Auto sellers rely on their communication skills for nearly every aspect of their job, whether they’re welcoming a customer to the dealership, talking through vehicle features or closing a sale. But there’s a lot more to communicating than just speaking.

The most successful sales reps are, above all else, active listeners. Rather than dominating the conversation, they allow customers to explain their needs and preferences, express their concerns and even chat about unrelated topics. This information can help salespeople better understand potential buyers and form an authentic relationship that may lead to future fixed ops revenue.

More importantly, sales reps must be able to acknowledge and validate the vehicle research customers have done on their own. This can reassure car shoppers that they’re making an informed purchase and demonstrates good will on the part of your organization.

2. Building bridges, not walls

Interpersonal skills are all about adaptability.

Top tier salespeople are able to positively interact with a diverse range of customers and coworkers, even in high pressure situations. This characteristic not only promotes a healthier work and sales environment, it can also build credibility and trust.

For example, candidates who can effectively adjust their communication style, tone and body language are often better equipped to mediate sensitive conflicts. They are also more likely to actively collaborate with your F&I team, retain customers and make compelling sales pitches.

These types of social skills are essential for maintaining positive customer experiences and differentiating your dealership from the competition. Since sales reps are responsible for guiding shoppers through every step of the car buying process, it’s important to hire candidates who actually enjoy working with people.

3. Positivity beats enthusiasm

Let’s face it: selling cars is an extremely challenging career path.

This may account for why employee turnover is so high among millennials who prioritize work/life balance and personal fulfillment. A 2017 workforce study by NADA found that this age demographic accounts for 43% of all dealership positions, with an average turnover rate of 57%.

While it’s counterproductive to assume all millennial applicants are planning for a short-term stay, it’s important to keep this in mind during the interview process. Asking candidates about their professional goals can help you understand their perspectives on fast-paced work environments and their general outlook. In most cases, job seekers who are focused on advancing their careers tend to have a more positive outlook.

4. Let’s be honest...

As more consumers turn to online resources and price comparison tools, the need for honest and transparent sales processes grows increasingly important. The popularity of these digital resources has led to a more informed customer base that has a distaste for pushy sales reps.

According to a 2016 study by Beepi, an online retail platform for new and used vehicles, around 61% of American car buyers feel that they’re taken advantage of when shopping at auto dealerships.

Sales professionals act as the main point of contact for potential customers. So it’s a good idea to fill your team with trustworthy candidates. Dealers should avoid exaggeration and embellishment like the plague, as overselling can be just as damaging as an empty showroom.

At the end of the day... hiring applicants who are hyper-focused on making high commissions can not only chase away car shoppers, it can also hurt your dealerships overall reputation.

How to Optimize Your Talent: Four Factors to Drive Success

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