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6 skills car salespeople must develop to stay competitive — Sean Gardner | Joe Verde Group

The retail automotive industry is undergoing significant changes in 2022. Today on Inside Automotive, we’re pleased to welcome back Sean Gardner, Instructor and Sales Trainer for the Joe Verde Group to tell us why top-notch sales skills are vital now more than ever.

There are massive changes happening in the dealer industry right now. Inventory is starting to slowly return to dealerships. To manage this transition, Gardner says the first thing dealers need to focus on is sharpening the skills of their salespeople. 

Before the start of the pandemic, dealerships had lots of new cars in their inventory. The dealers were focused on big volume and the market was very competitive. Gardner says the mentality then was that gross profit was important but, “don’t miss a sale because of it.” There was high demand in the market and tons of inventory to match, he explains. “It was a buyer’s market,” Gardner says, and sales were won or lost based on the skills of the salesperson.

Fast forward to the pandemic – suddenly there was high demand but low or no vehicles on the lot. Gardner says that switched the market to one where dealerships were in 100% control. Dealers were seeing record growth and record profits. Gardner says a lot of the salespeople in the industry right now started during the pandemic and are accustomed to that seller’s market.

More: 4 success secrets to help your auto dealership weather any change — Sean Gardner | JVG

Garnder says all that matters now is what happens next. He likens the industry over the past two years to a merry-go-round, one that is slowly coming back around to how it used to be before the pandemic. Now that every dealership on the street is sitting on inventory, then the market is going right back to a buyer’s market.

Gardner explains that dealers used to pride themselves on the customer experience, and because of the pandemic, have gotten a little bit lazy in their approach. He says salespeople must sharpen their skills or the dealerships are going to be left behind.

“We’re going back to buying,” Gardner says. During the pandemic, the only skills salespeople needed were order-taking skills. But now, Gardner says they need to work on their skills within the selling process – walking the customer through the buying process. “Do you want to win sales through that, or by lowering prices,” he asks. 

He warns that dealerships that don’t focus on the skills of their salespeople are going to see their margins disappear. Gardner says they need to work on their skills at closing, working through buyer objections, setting up perfect win-win negotiations, making the numbers make sense to the customer, and learning how to handle the unsold follow-up.  

Gardner shares some stats about buyer habits, including that 85% of customers decide to buy before they even show up to the dealer because they are shopping from their mobile phones. They walk in ready to buy, and already know what they want, he says. 38% of buyers complete the transaction within four hours, 57% within three days, and 90% complete the process within a week. Gardner says this lends to the importance of the follow-up sales call. And he mentions that salespeople in the current environment face additional challenges in the form of higher interest rates and inflation.

He mentions that salespeople need to improve their presentation demonstrations because 80% of the decision to buy a vehicle is made during that vehicle demonstration. Salespeople who are new to the industry aren’t comfortable with making that presentation, because during the pandemic there were no cars on the lot to show. “Now there are,” he says

Gardner says salespeople with the right skills are “going to make the big bucks regardless,” while those that don’t are going to struggle. He says many salespeople have forgotten all those old skills they used to pride themselves on and need to work on reminding themselves.

“The more you learn, the more you earn,” he says.


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