Can you be an automotive consultant or vendor if you have never sold a car before? We’ve heard from both Chris Leslie and Josh Mitchel.Let see what our panel of unbiased judges have to say about it.
JASON STUM – Launch Digital Marketing
I’m loving these debates, and like the previous rounds before it, the question posed in Round 3 is one that isn’t as cut and dry as you might think.
First off, let me say, that I agree with the points Josh made 100%. Whether you sold cars or not, it just shouldn’t matter. The products, services, the people who represent them and, ultimately, the results should be able to stand out on their own.
Let’s look at it the question from another angle.
At Launch Digital Marketing, I get to help develop marketing strategies for clients in other verticals besides automotive. Never once have I been asked by a restaurant proprietor, gym owner, mattress dealer or funeral home director if I have any background experience in these areas. They all look to us for our guidance and I’m proud to say, our people, products, services and results do indeed stand on their own.
So as crazy as it might sound, even though I never owned a gym (or let’s be honest, spent any significant time in one) it turns out, solid marketing strategy can help increase membership signups and improve retention rates. Weird, huh?
What I’m saying is, in a perfect world, as long as that vendor representative or consultant has an intimate understanding of their company’s offerings and has a handle on the unique situation of their client – that’s all that should matter.
…we don’t live in a perfect world.
I’ve had the pleasure of being on both sides of the car business. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard decision makers inside of dealerships, either through their words or through their actions, unequivocally state that having dealership experience in the past is of the utmost importance to them.
So while Josh and I may feel that dealership history shouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, the reality is that it does matter to the people inside of dealerships. The ones who will ultimately decide where and how to spend their limited budget. You just can’t ignore the fact that (rightly or wrongly) dealership experience often times can give you a critical edge over the less experienced competition.
And that, my friends, is why I have to say Chris K. Leslie is my Round 3 winner.
BILL PLAYFORD – DealerKnows
This is a touchy subject for me since it’s something I’ve written about extensively, so I’ll try to keep this as brief as possible. The short answer is that they’re both right.
Can you be an automotive consultant or vendor if you have never sold a car before?
Based on the question as it’s asked, I’d have to agree with Josh. Not selling a car isn’t a barrier to success. There is precisely nothing that prevents anyone from declaring themselves an expert in retail automotive. There are no accredited degrees, peer-reviewed certifications, or standardized examinations that create anything resembling automatic respect in the showroom.
Instead, anyone with a valid email address can parade around social media and build a business empire in retail automotive. All the while, presenting unproven strategies and tactics based on unprovable data,
Should you accept this? #$%& no!
As a business professional, working at a dealership or not, you owe it to yourself to conduct thorough research on the vendors and partners you do business with. Ideally, your vendors and consultants should have experience working inside a dealership. However, that’s not enough.
What does selling 23 Hondas over six months in Pittsburgh have to do with selling Chevys in Albuquerque? That’s like saying, “We both stand on two legs so you must know my life’s story.”
Selling cars isn’t enough. Instead, choose those who have experience that not only meet your immediate needs, but understand how their solution interacts with all of your existing solutions AND all the variables that make your business unique (brands and volume sold, demographics, etc.). This is where Chris nails it.
If you are seeking a consultant or a new vendor partner, you must take BOTH points of view to make sure you are making a balanced decision. The choices you make today can and will impact your results tomorrow.
JENN DUNSTAN – FlexDealer
I’m siding with Josh on this one. Having worked in-dealership and having hired people because they worked in-dealership—you would assume my support would go to Chris. However, the fact is, retail is a human-to-human business. An acute business sense and knowing how to build relationships of trust are what’s essential.
As a mentor to my own team, I recognize that non-automotive hires will face unique challenges as they navigate the industry learning curve. But the crux of the matter isn’t whether you’ve sold a car—it’s how well you understand the business behind why we’re selling the cars.
There’s a large portion of salespeople that simply have no grasp of the business behind the sell—regardless of how many deals they ink each month.
A vendor’s only chance at longevity lies in understanding how their product or service remedies a true in-dealership pain point. And that enlightenment can come with or without working a day on the showroom floor.
The decision has been made. Chris Leslie has been declared the winner of round 3. It seems that most agree that while you may not need to have sold a car to be a vendor consultant, you should definitely know your customer and their unique pain points in order to establish a valuable long-term vendor/client relationship.
Stay Tuned for Round 4!