Today’s car buyers are walking into dealerships armed with more information than ever before. The average car shopper spends more than 11 hours researching cars online. Dealership employees are no longer the gatekeepers of all the information consumers need to make a hiring decision. Customers walk into the showroom already armed with the knowledge of which car and features they want and how much they’re willing to pay.
The traditional sales approach is no longer effective for customers who have a well-informed idea of what they want before even stepping foot in your dealership. Retail automotive dealerships need to adapt to this era of a better-educated customer — and a growing number are beginning to do so.
More automotive dealerships are favoring product specialists to fill roles that were previously sales focused. Product specialists act more as brand ambassadors or product experts instead of salespeople in the traditional sense. The product-specialist model tends to be more customer friendly, focusing less on the hard sell and more on finding the car that best fits customers’ needs.
With the transition to product specialists, dealerships who have made the switch are seeing plenty of benefits — from improved customer experience to lower employee turnover. Here’s what dealerships stand to gain and how they can adjust their hiring process to reach this talent pool.
Increase Customer Service and Loyalty
The need to improve customer service and loyalty is one of the biggest reasons to move over to a product-specialist model. This model allows the customer to shop at their own pace while having access to any additional information they may want. They quickly develop rapport with the specialist, and without the pressure of a hard-sell, begin to value and trust the product specialist’s suggestions and general knowledge.
After the customer has considered different car models and features and has made a decision, the specialist turns them over to the team lead or sales manager. A salesperson does not have to act as a middleman between the manager and customer. You cut down on the back-and-forth between customer and manager, allowing for a more transparent — and therefore trustworthy — process.
By communicating directly with the sales manager, customers experience a smoother experience, from the initial in-store touchpoint to the final car purchase. They will remember the quality, speed and ease they were able to purchase a car from your dealership. And they will be more likely to return in the future for service or recommend it to family and friends. In a time of changing sales culture, it is crucial to cultivate customer loyalty.
Attract Top Millennial Talent
Millennials are a key demographic to attract in your recruiting efforts. They comprise a significant portion of the U.S. population — about 25 percent — and are the largest segment entering the workforce today. By targeting this group, you will have the best chances of securing a quality candidate. The product-specialist role is attractive to Millennials for many reasons, from compensation plans to level of required experience.
Product specialists earn base pay — either hourly or with a salary — instead of commission alone, like traditional sales roles. Recent graduates want the stability of a regular paycheck, and an entry-level product specialist can make up to $60,000 a year which is very attractive pay for Millennial hires. Chances are they have significant expenses — from student loans to rent — and they don’t want to rely on potentially volatile commissions to make these payments. Dealerships shifting to the product-specialist model should highlight this compensation plan on their career site and through job postings on sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and other recruiting channels.
Finding the Right People
When executed correctly, employing product specialists is a win-win for everyone — employees, customers and the dealership as a whole — and an effective hiring process can help you hire the right employees for this emerging dealership role.