(Possible) Death of the Auto Salesman – Still Signs of Life?

Situation:  It has become apparent that the role, function, and involvement of the traditional automotive salesperson is changing, has changed, and most certainly will change as the Internet, software systems, and consumer behavior and expectations continue to change also.

What has come down for Ups? The traditional way people buy cars has changed dramatically and completely.  The plaid jacket and suede shoes have gone away and even the lineup of sales people standing around in show rooms waiting for next “up” is being seen less and less. People are coming to dealerships not to hang out in showrooms or the lot but to sign contracts and to pick up the vehicle in short order — and without not looking for or tolerating anything other than expectation of expediency, service, and respect.

Clocking Ticking & Times a Changing? It may be only a matter of time until the technology and innovative creativity of the automotive systems providers to come up with the enterprise software that is intuitive enough to persuade the working prospect to buy a certain vehicle without the help of a salesman or salesperson.

Such systems that can provide enough visual pop to close a sale may already be out there or soon will be designed into the desking, CRM, and DMS platforms of the major industry providers.

The sales centric culture in the car business may be on its way out. Sales people in dealership are finding that customers are looking for vehicle  product information, service, and personal transportation management not long sales pitches, tracking, follow-up phones, haggling, or even test drives.

Solution to Dealer New Car Profits? When you dig into the dealer profit numbers that NADA, NCM, Leedom, and others publish, the number one reason for the lack of “net” profit on vehicle sales is the sales commission or expense. What if that went away or became a fixed salary paid for customer service and relationship development instead of pressuring sales people to sell-sell-sell?  The turnover of sales people would largely go away and one price, no haggle sales practices would be adopted to provide forecast-able dealer profits on new and even used vehicle sales.

Death does seem imminent: Industry consultants, some of whom write articles in automotive industry print trade magazines, can rant and labor over the deterioration of profits on the sales of new and even pre-owned vehicles but the practice and process of selling a car and home running the profits are gone. The consumer is too knowledgeable, has access to all the information that is needed to select and purchase the vehicle are there, and now new systems are coming to automotive as well as other products to streamline the sale, the need for a sales person to just not there anymore.

Want to see what going to happen to the car business? Look to other industries and what is going on. If you want to get an idea of what is coming to the automotive sales process, culture, and technology, go read the article on page 36-38 in the July 4th issue of Bloomberg Business Week or go dig it out and route it to the GM or principal at http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/new-relic-death-of-the-salesmen-07012011.html


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