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What’s the Upside? Comparing Hiring Experience or Non-Experienced Salespeople

When it comes to hiring new salespeople, it can be a daunting task to find just the right ones that will be a good fit for your dealership environment and goals.  On one hand, hiring someone from another dealership or with a history in the car business, can bring many benefits and skills to your sales team. And in some cases, their customers will follow them.  On the other hand, they may be extremely set in their sales methods and find it hard to adapt to new processes that may be more to your liking.  There are obvious benefits and challenges that must be addressed whichever way you decide to go.

Today’s informed customers come armed with plenty of knowledge and information. They know the sales methods we have traditionally used and they do not like them. It has caused them to be mistrustful and defensive and most of them now do their shopping on the Internet before ever coming to a dealership.

Historically, car salespeople have a tendency to move around from dealership to dealership.  Often, they will follow managers they like to work with, or sometimes, they will just look elsewhere if they are not having good results where they are.  If they been around a while and have been relatively successful, they can usually find a job selling somewhere. They have a good resume or know others in the business who will give them a referral.  Car lots are always looking for salespeople and usually tend to hire those who have experience in the business.

The Times Are Changinghiring

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However, the retail automotive industry is currently undergoing great change.  The public opinion of car salespeople usually places them near the bottom of the ratings list when it comes to ethical and trustworthy people with which to deal.  With car manufacturers putting a lot of emphasis on the CSI, and monitoring the customers buying experience, there is a lot of change taking place in our business.

Reputable dealers who are customer focused stand the best chance of pleasing both the buyers and the manufacturers of the brands they sell.  If for no other reason, this makes hiring the right people a critical aspect of car sales management.

In this article, we will look at the pros and cons of hiring those who have experience in the car business and those who have no experience but have potential to succeed as salespeople.  With the rising cost of employing and training new salespeople for your team, getting it right every time becomes a task to be taken very seriously.

The Pros and Cons of Hiring Experienced Car Salespeople

Hiring salespeople with previous experience in this business has been the normal course of action that managers take when they are looking for new sales staff.  Often, they will offer their current staff a hefty bonus for recommending good referrals and this can generate connections to people who are already experienced in car sales.

Pros of previous experience:

  • Already familiar with the car sales process
  • Familiar with the paperwork process
  • Come with easily verifiable references and sales history
  • Used to working on a commission basis
  • Used to working in a competitive sales environment
  • May have strong goals and know how to achieve them
  • May have good prospecting and follow up skills

Cons of previous experience:

  • Might use outdated and negative sales practices
  • Could be difficult to adapt to new sales methods
  • Often feel they do not need more training
  • Like to do things their way
  • May have a status quo comfort zone
  • Can be hard adjusting to new management

Today, all of this is coming under scrutiny as more and more dealerships are using outside training companies like ours to get new hires started off on the right foot.  Experienced salespeople are often fixed on a selling style and mindset that is contrary to what today’s customers want.  Because of this, some dealerships prefer hiring blank slate talent with no specific car sales experience but strong potential and an expressed desire and enthusiasm to start a new career.

The Pros and Cons of Hiring Salespeople with No Car Sales Experience

If you are someone who searches online job sites on occasion, you may have noticed that car dealerships around the country are hiring and many of their ads include terms like: “No Car Sales Experience Necessary!” or “Looking for a New and Exciting Career?”

These are good examples of the change taking place in this business, and, as I already mentioned, a sign of the times and the desire of many dealers to break from the old pattern of how cars are sold.  For these dealerships, other things are a higher priority.

Here’s a typical example of some of what dealers are looking for today:

“HIRING NOW! New Car Salesperson wanted for ABC Motors. MUST have a winning personality and possess EXCELLENT communication skills.  Do you have experience in RETAIL SALES, CUSTOMER SERVICE, BARTENDING OR SERVING and WANT to MAKE MORE $$$?”

“We offer PROFESSIONAL TRAINING and BIG BONUSES for those who WILL WORK HARD.  Potential to earn a SIX FIGURE INCOME in the FIRST YEAR.”

Pros of Hiring Non-Experienced Salespeople:

  • Tend to be very excited and thankful for the opportunity
  • Teachable and eager to receive professional training
  • Don’t have a lot of pre-supposed expectations
  • Willing to work hard to build a good career
  • Do not require a lot of un-teaching of bad methods
  • Tend to appreciate working with more experienced team members

Cons of Hiring Non-Experienced Salespeople:

  • Can require a bit more risk
  • Often have little to go on but what you see in their personality
  • Might require more help with goals, follow through and discouragement
  • May have no relevant resume or references
  • The initial investment can be costly
  • Requires more initial oversight
  • Might not take to the competitive nature of the work

As you can see there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer that covers every person or situation when looking to hire new car salespeople.  But, depending on what your needs are, and how much time and effort you are willing to put into the interview process, it can be an exciting experience that can eventually produce great results for your dealership and for the person you end up hiring.

By being proactive and laying out a good plan with clear goals, you can build a sales team that eventually produces excellence for your business and for your customers.  Take a tip from music executive Tommy Mottola who offers this advice for finding great people:

“When I’m hiring someone I look for magic and a spark. Little things that intuitively give me a gut feeling that this person will go to the ends of the earth to accomplish the task at hand.”

That’s good advice for the music industry and for the business we are in as well.
But if you truly want my opinion, I will take the inexperienced person over the experience one every time!

David Lewis
David Lewis
David’s firm is a national training and consulting business that specializes in the retail automotive industry. He also is the author of four industry-related books, “The Secrets of Inspirational Selling,” “The Leadership Factor,” “Understanding Your Customer” and “The Common Mistakes Automotive Salespeople Make.” Visit his website at

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