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September 09, 2006

Female Energy Needed To Sell Cars?

With sagging sales and several automotive manufacturers financial health limping along, the question is would adding more female employees, creative ideas and energy help propel additional sales for automotive manufactures?

Here are some thoughts:

 
 From Lorraine Schultz:
Lshultzthumb One of Ask Patty’s very own panel members, Lorraine Schultz, Founder and CEO of the Women's Automotive Association International, had an interesting experience when shopping for a vehicle. Lorraine was looking for something specific and didn’t want to settle for something close to what she wanted.

Waai_logo She visited no less than five different dealerships and while she was at each one she asked for a woman salesperson. You can imagine the shock from these salesmen! Some where less than happy when she asked. While looking around one particular dealership she was approached by a salesman and when she explained what she was looking for, he handed her his card and left!

Another experience she had was when she sat down to talk to a salesman about a deal, they didn’t offer her the price she was expecting and didn’t offer her the deals she already knew were available. Needless to say, she didn’t buy from them. One sales team member tried to talk her into a vehicle that was one size up from what she really wanted. But the price was right and the add-ons were plenty. She almost inked the deal--until she drove it. Once she was behind the wheel she realized what she had thought all along: She didn’t want a vehicle this size; she truly wanted the original size she was looking for. She left that one behind as well. However they did give her some beautiful roses and promised to keep looking!

Lorraine has a particular car in mind and a certain price she is willing to pay. Her advice to people in a similar situation is to wait. She is comfortable knowing the right car is out there and with some patience and some diligence, she will find it.

As for finding women salespeople? That’s been a little bit harder.

From Candie Leigh White, Author of "The Green Pea":
Candie_pic_1_1_1In August of 1998, one month before I jumped back into car sales and made it a career for the next eight years, I was involved in the planning of an annual technology show in Los Angeles.  I had come up with a format, a  “schtick” for the three-day event.  A disaster preparedness show that would highlight what technology could do for emergency management in our government.  Ironically, the biggest issue OEM managers had was the inability to communicate inter-department.  Fire departments could not communicate with police who could not communicate with paramedics.  Well, we see how that affected us all September 11, 2001.  Now, after a total of ten years in car sales, I am bowing out for the same reason.  Management does not know how to communicate with salespeople who do not know how to communicate with customers and it becomes a vicious circle- perpetuated by an industry that continues to put a Band-Aid on a festering sore.

ThegreenpeaIn light of Ford’s new CEO, brought in from Boeing, I wonder what type of cloth will be applied to an industry that is desperately in need of new energy from within? What is that needed energy? Female energy.

We all know now that women are 50% plus of everything and that extends to car buying; but sadly, not yet to sales and especially management at dealerships.  What I have heard from the inside is that other salespeople want more women influence.  They want a softer image from management.  They like being able to deal with women who can help them sell a car to a woman.  I may be out of touch because I have only sold cars in California, Washington and Florida, but that has been my perspective.  The guys I sold cars with like working with women.  Sure, I had to prove myself first but once I did, we were all one.  Then it became us against an archaic management style that is as far from feminine as alligators are from poodles.  Okay odd comparison, but you get the point.

One thing I did that was very different from the men is that I explained everything to the customer; without fear.  Customers enjoyed my honesty and candor.  The men would always ask how I did it.  They came to me for help in communicating.  Not always, but enough to make an impact.  Management, however, feared this interaction.  Customers, women especially, want to understand and are not afraid to listen.  Sales is all about communication and women are better at opening up.  Men are great analyzers.  Together, we can be a great team.  Unfortunately, I fear the auto industry will continue to scratch its head and wonder why companies like Ford are losing market share then they will try to fix it with more testosterone.  Perhaps if buyers refused to deal with anyone but a woman at a dealership for a while, someone will catch on.  What do you think?

Ask Patty features many women working in the automotive industry but it's still very male-dominated. Will you be one of the women to rise to the occasion and help to change that?

If you need help finding a career in the automotive industry, check out our recent post on the topic or contact us at Ask Patty and we will help push you in the right direction! Email us at info@askpatty.com.

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