Apart from inventory shortages, it’s tough to find anything “wrong” in the automotive industry today. Every dealership (sales and management alike) is pounding their chests on social media: record month, most gross ever, #1 in volume etc. Hell, even the stigma of being a “Used Car Salesmen” is gone and people are wishing they were in our industry when they see what kind of money is being made. My question to everyone is this, what do we do when inventory is back? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been the first one to say “ride it till it bucks” but seriously think about it. When the lots are back to 170 Camry’s in stock, or 350 F-150’s to choose from, what are dealers going to do? Because we have all the key ingredients for a huge disconnect. Consider this timeline: things are normal, then COVID, then shutdowns and downsizing, then very slow to rebuild due to an election year, now a chip shortage and the folks that were hired in place of those furloughed actually think this is how sales is and consider themselves sales pros…. An ill fitting suit and stupid socks simply do NOT make you a sales pro.

I think the better question is, what are “salespeople” going to do, wait a minute, let me rephrase that, what are the “clerks” going to do? Now before you get offended and start justifying your existence as a dealership employee and tell me how many hours you put in, units you have out, or money you’ve made think about the last time you had to “sell” a vehicle. I mean truly sell, sitting down with a customer doing a want and needs analysis, a proper walk-around, negotiating, maybe even having to T.O. to a manager to close the deal for you? The answer for all is probably identical, not in a very long time (if ever for the new folks) but who cares? Dealers are making more money than ever (as are salespeople) with having to do the least amount of work they’ve had to. But they should care because sooner than probably any of if think we are going to have to get back to being “sales professionals” and not “clerks” and a lot of dealers aren’t doing anything or preparing for that reality.

Automotive has always been a “knee jerk” business in a lot of ways. Sales are down MTD, we better advertise this week in the paper. Internet leads are down, better start spending more money on Google Ad words to drive more business to the website. Staff needs training, lets get someone in here for a day, hit them with information overload, hope they pay attention and retain all that was crammed into an 8hr session. To top it off, all of these things are expected to IMMEDIATELY change results and produce ROI. Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t that what follows these conversations, “we just spent “x” on a, b, and c…. where’s my ROI? I’m sure all will agree, there is never a “good time” to spend money but isn’t it easier to stroke a check when the money is falling off the money tree then use the excuse “we can’t spend any money on training or advertising because we aren’t selling anything.” The “Mega Wealthy” in the world don’t just collect money in their bank accounts and stare at it daily. The take that money and invest into the future to make more and more, so they never run out, just food for thought.

And yes, I sold through the downturn of 9/11, the horrendous market of 07, cash for clunkers, etc. History doesn’t always need to repeat itself….