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Better cars lift showroom respect
Sales people thrive on car quality gains, says expert
27 Jul 2010
By JOHN MELLOR
ONE of North America’s leading authorities on selling says the community standing of new-car salespeople is improving along with vehicle quality, durability and modern design.
Tom Hopkins, who once sold a record 365 houses in California in 365 days and is now a leading sales trainer and author with a book sales tally of more than 1.6 million copies, told GoAuto that the community had looked down its collective noses at automobile salespeople for years.
But he said the change of culture in the automobile business in which car-makers had to constantly increase the value and the promise in their cars was changing the way the public saw car selling as a career.
“Today, with the fabulous vehicles being offered, it is quite an honour to work for a great dealership, and there is much more pride in selling a nice vehicle than ever before,” he said.
Speaking exclusively with GoAuto from his base in Arizona, Mr Hopkins said improved vehicle design across a wide range of price points and diverse model ranges in each franchise meant salespeople could create longer-term relationships and build a growing pool of satisfied car buyers who kept returning because trust could be established with customers.
He said the poor quality of past vehicles meant trust was eroded because customers were disappointed in the product and got less quality than they expected. Buyers wanted to believe they would get more benefit from the purchase than they were spending, yet this requirement of a successful sale had been undermined by poor cars.
He said this had “tarnished image of the profession of selling”.
Mr Hopkins, who will hold an exclusive full-day sales training session at the Australian Automobile Dealers’ Association Convention on the Gold Coast in September, added that community attitudes to selling were negative across a wide range of industries because people did not like “to be sold” even though they really wanted the goods they were buying.
He said a study of buyers who keep returning to the same salespeople showed that “great salespeople are making the sale happen without giving the impression they are selling. It is more about building a winning relationship with whoever is investing the money in that product”.
Mr Hopkins said the main trait of many of the highest income-earning automobile salespeople in the US – people who sold 25, 30 or 40 units a month – was that they made people so comfortable with their purchase that their customers wanted to refer their friends to them.
“They say: ‘Don’t you ever consider a vehicle without at least running it by our friend Bob because Bob has been helping us with our vehicles for five years now and we rely on him to research and analyse what we are doing so we make the right decisions.&rsquo.”
Mr Hopkins said the goal of every car sales executive should be to build up such a strong pool of customers so that “they will never have to prospect for buyers again”.
He said he built his real estate business to 98 per cent referral and did not have to prospect for new business after just three years in the field.
“Prospecting is the first step in a sales career because you have to find someone to sell to and you have to sell to the people you find. But the best people have prospected their way out of ever having to prospect,” he said.
“The one thing that people in sales do not want to do is pick up the phone and handle rejections and get the ‘no’s’. The key to getting lots of ‘yes’s’ is to cope with the fear of failure and rejections. Handle the ‘no’s’ and eventually you get lots of ‘yes’s’ and you keep selling to the ‘yes’s’.”
Mr Hopkins said the rite of passage in the car sales business in the early years was having to risk all the rejections and do all the hard calls.
“The first 36 months of selling is certainly going to be tough but you are building up a customer base which refers back to you with their friends and family. Once you have that base working for you, you are not getting the rejections and you are not working the phones cold calling.”
He said new-car salespeople bore the brunt of the dealership’s need to meet targets, and that new people had to “live with lots of conflicts” because they had “yet to have earned the reputation of being a dominating force in the business where management gives you independence because they can count on you producing your numbers”.
“When you have built your client base, and when your name in town is synonymous with the person to see when buying a car, then you have set yourself up for the rest of your life,” he said.
Footnote: Tom Hopkins’ Australian appearance at the AADA Convention is at the RACV Royal Pines Resort on Friday, September 11, and can be booked separately to the full convention program. The AADA Convention runs from September 9-12. For more details, go to www.aadaconvention.com.au.
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