An automotive salesperson does more than sell cars. He or she is an extension of the brand that’s being sold. They’re the collective face of the dealership they’re selling for. There is even more to it, however: they are also their own brand.
A salesperson is essentially his or her own business. Liken it to a hairstylist who is hired by a salon. That stylist is given a chair, a counter and a big mirror, and many of their clients will follow them to their new place when they move. An automotive salesperson has customers, just like a hair stylist. Are the customers as likely to follow that person from dealership to dealership? Probably not. But customers will come back to your dealership to work with the same person again and again if they had a positive experience. You’re just giving that salesperson a chair, desk, a computer and a CRM full of names.
If you’re an automotive salesperson, or you manage automotive salespeople, it’s time to start thinking like a business owner. Following are some tips to help automotive salespeople become their own businesses.
Become “The Guy”
Everyone’s got a “guy,” right? A friend might ask you, “Do you know a good painter? I need my living room repainted.” You say “Yeah, I’ve got a guy. Let me give you his number.” A family member might ask you, “Who does your taxes?” You say, “I’ve got an accounting guy, and he’s excellent.” On a night out, a friend might ask a group, “Does anyone have a dentist they love? I’m thinking of switching.” You shout out, “I’ve got a guy, my dentist is the best!” And so it goes with babysitters, after-school tutors, bathroom remodelers, orthopedic surgeons and mechanics.
The same happens with auto dealerships. A friend might say, “My lease is almost up and I’m not sure what I should do.” Her friend might respond, “I just got my new car at ABC Motors and I worked with Joe. He was great. You should go see him.”
You want to be that “guy.” How do you do that? The first step is making sure EVERYONE knows what you do for a living. Everyone. Family, friends, neighbors, people at the local deli you frequent, your barber, your dentist, and even that lady you sat next to on a recent flight. People must know what you do if they’re going to think of you when the time is right.
Next, you want to sell a car to someone in that group. This will get the referral ball rolling. Sell a car to a second cousin, and ALL the cousins will know you sell cars.
Now, ideally, when one of your family members, friends, neighbors, barber, deli guy and dentist are in the market for a car, they’ll think of YOU.
Have a Catchy Name
What does Matt the Mazda Man do? Of course, he sells Mazdas. No question about it. You don’t HAVE to find a catchy name, but it doesn’t hurt. Or you can “promote” something unique about yourself. Wear a bow-tie every day. Be the person who knows EVERYTHING about the OEM you sell. Be the salesperson who always leaves a cool gift in the back seat of every car you sell. Differentiate yourself, and people will remember you and refer you.
Social media is a wildly useful tool for automotive salespeople when it’s used properly. Create social media accounts JUST for your clients. Friend them all, ask them to follow you or “like” you on Twitter/Facebook and Instagram. Ask them to write Google and Yelp reviews for you. Build and nurture your relationships and your customers will naturally spread the word about you. (Just make sure the word is good.) Post delivery pictures regularly and tag your customers in the photos. Post things about your dealership, brand and the fun side of your life. (Important caveat: stay away from controversial topics on your social media pages and leave that for your friends and family. Remember, this is your business, and social media errors have brought down a lot of businesses.)
When you’re setting up your brand, you’re in it for the long haul (or…you should be). Join a Business Networking International (BNI) or other networking group in your area. Understand in advance that it’s a time commitment: you’ll have to attend regular meetings a few times a month in the evening, but it will be worth it. Again, you’ll be “the guy” in your group. You’ll sell cars to the people in the group and they’ll recommend them to friends. In return, you’ll patronize their businesses and recommend them to friends.
Engage in Small Sponsorships
To help build your personal brand, you’ll have to do some advertising. Remember, you’re your own brand. It doesn’t hurt to make a charitable donation or support a local event or sports team. If you’re Matt the Mazda Man, sponsor a hole at the charity golf tournament, or buy a banner at the high school sports team’s field. If you’re committed to being your own business, spending a few dollars is worth it in the long run (and tax deductible, which doesn’t hurt).
Make no mistake – this approach is difficult and painstaking and requires patience and long-term effort. The steps outlined above can’t be accomplished overnight. You’ll need to make a commitment to be in it for the long haul and work at it each day. Owning your own business is a lot of work, but it will pay off eventually as it gives you control of your own success.