How do I hire great car salesmen?
It’s a question that has plagued sales managers and GM’s for years, but it mostly goes unanswered. The problem is twofold. One, no one grows up dreaming of being a car salesman. You will never interview a candidate who says “I knew I wanted to sell cars when I was a kid and I saw that man in the three piece suit sell my dad his El Camino.”
The other obstacle you have to overcome is that there is an unjustified stigma associated with selling cars. If you’re a car salesman, people assume you’re a lying dirt bag. It doesn’t matter if that assumption is wrong, the fact that it exists to begin with is driving quality candidates away from your dealership.
So how can your dealership find the highest quality salespeople and keep them around? There are 3 characteristics I look for in every hire I make:
Honesty & Integrity
I can’t stress this enough. One of the most effective ways to find a good fit for your dealership is to stop looking at resumes and start looking at the people behind them. This person is going to be the face of your dealership to hundreds, if not thousands, of potential customers and I guarantee that none of them care what is on that person’s resume.
When a customer walks into your dealership, they have three expectations:
- They will find a car
- They will be treated fairly
- You will work for them
If you can’t provide this for your customers, you’re not doing your job. So how can you identify honest candidates? It’s been my experience that the honest, trustworthy candidates tend to be more comfortable and professional in an interview than the guy looking to get hired and fog a window.
Here are some things I keep an eye out for:
- What’s their first impression like? Do they approach you confidently? Would you be comfortable making this person the face of your dealership?
- What’s their demeanor? Are they nervous or guarded? How relaxed are they talking to you? My rule of thumb: If you can make me laugh, you’ve got a great shot. Everyone hates job interviews, including the person doing the hiring, but if you can make me enjoy a job interview, you can probably make a car buyer enjoy spending money at our dealership.
- Do they exaggerate or embellish? Do any of their past work experiences sound a little too good to be true? Be wary of these candidates. Today they upsell their resume, tomorrow they upsell a lemon.
Turnover at dealerships is awful. You lose good guys every month, whether it’s for more money or better working hours, and you have to cut loose more than your fair share because they can’t pull their own weight. Finding a good hire who is looking for a career instead of a job is a must if you want to build a great sales team.
Here’s what I look for in committed candidates:
- Are they on time and well groomed? Do they respect your time and your dealership enough to treat you with respect? If they’re not on time or dressed appropriately, that’s a non-starter.
- Did they do their homework? How much do they know about our store? How much do they know about me? Did they at least Google me so they could greet me when I met them on the showroom floor?
- Are they willing to go above and beyond? Will they work weekend shifts? What about Friday nights? Your dealership needs someone willing to put in the work.
- Try this: Hire more salespeople than you need for the showroom floor and add an extra shift. The true “car guy” will work bell to bell anyway!
Common sense is huge, but it’s not that common. I don’t expect a candidate to know everything about car sales when they walk in the door, but I would like to see some basic industry knowledge that everyone should know. Here are some fun trick questions I like to throw their way:
- Are you willing to work the overnight shift?
- Along the same lines in states with “Blue Laws:” Are you willing to work Sundays?
There are no “right answers” to those questions, but I like to pay attention to how candidates respond when you throw them a curve ball. Can they think on their feet?
I also look for people who get how to sell. They don’t need to know the ins-and-outs on their first day, but I like to use the “Sell me this pen” technique. Bad candidates talk about features. Good candidates talk about benefits. GREAT candidates ask discovery questions. “What would you be using this pen for? Is it for business or pleasure?”
These are the three biggest traits I look for in any dealership hire. If you’re hiring salespeople who are honest, committed, and have a little bit of common sense, you can teach them the rest.