Car dealers need to do more to attract top sales talent

We’re in the middle of the 152 registration period and the last 2 months has been exceptionally busy for automotive recruitment. In advance of a busy June, demand for experienced and talented salespeople has increased dramatically .However, as the law of economics goes, high demand + low supply = a candidate’s market.

We’ve recently represented excellent car salespeople, who, in response to demand, have had a number of dealers who are interested in speaking to them. However, when the candidate gets to interview stage, there is a barrier.

It’s (not) all about the money

Dealers are not doing enough to attract talented people to their business. We have had several experiences whereby, a candidate, with an exceptional sales record, has chosen to go to another dealer because the business didn’t offer enough to attract him/her. By ‘enough’, I’m not just referring to money.

Yes, in the sales game, money is a huge motivator. And employees greatly appreciate other perks like free healthcare and a nice company car, however, it is by no means the only way to incentivise staff. While a candidate needs to sell him/herself to a prospective employer, the same goes for the dealership.

Selling yourself works both ways

The hiring process shouldn’t be about trying to recruit a candidate for as little money as possible, regardless of their calibre. If someone is going to be spending 40+ hours a week in the company of a particular group of people, it should be an attractive place to work and an enjoyable experience.

This isn’t airy fairy stuff. At hiring stage, each candidate wants to feel wanted. Once you have identified a preferred candidate, leave your negotiation head behind you and don’t be afraid to let a candidate know that you want them to work there and that your dealership is somewhere they will flourish in.

Dare I say it, Sales Managers may not be the best people to hire salespeople. An excellent negotiator, keeping his/her cards close to their chest, may come across as trying to hire someone for as cheap as possible, not selling themselves as their future employer.

Most people don’t want to join a company with an expectation to leave within a year or two. The majority are looking for a place to settle and enjoy. Of course, standards and targets need to be met and performance expectations need to be set but if you want to close a deal and ensure you are the dealership where key talent seeks employment, you must change your mindset.

Hold onto your best salespeople

Wait, we’re a recruitment agency… we shouldn’t be saying this!?

Given the changes that are going on in the industry at the moment, dealers are, unfortunately, seeing their top salespeople leave their company. Don’t assume that they were just offered more money by another employer. We have actually seen quite a few salespeople take a salary reduction in return for the opportunity to work in a nicer work environment with better prospects.

If a top salesperson is going for an interview with company X, Y and Z. And company X and Y offer a similar basic salary, similar OTE and a similar company car, why should they be expected to choose one of these companies when company Z has offered extra incentives?

Examples of incentives that don’t cost the earth

…but could be the difference in getting that top salesperson or not:

1. A slightly later start time

As it’s an employee’s market, sometimes you have to go a little further to find the right candidate. If they have a long commute, giving them 15/30 minutes grace could have a significant impact, not only on the length of their commute, but their stress levels. Obviously, this should be given on merit.

2. Flexibility around family commitments

If a candidate has a young family and has to drop off their child before work, giving them the time to do this will ensure that they’re not only not killing themselves to get to work on time but also, they will arrive to work in a positive frame of mind.

Employers shouldn’t feel, “15 minutes later means 15 minutes not selling.” Giving your employee this flexibility will ensure that they work hard when they are there.

3. Encourage ideas

We’re all aware that the automotive sector is highly procedurally driven, things have to be done a certain way. There is, however, always a case for improving some elements of the business. Whether it’s a new marketing idea or customer programme, encouraging employees to come up with good ideas and where possible, implement them into the business, will give them huge satisfaction.

4. Let them eat cake

On those crazy registration days, often staff struggle to get out of the dealership for a sandwich. If this is the case, bring lunch to them. A little goes a long way. In my last job, on days where serious deadlines needed to be met, someone would go out and bring ice creams in for everyone. It was a small gesture but the 5 minute break in the madness was greatly welcomed before getting back to work.

5. Education support

While some employers think, “why should I contribute to an employee’s education when they could just leave the company after me shelling out thousands for them to do an evening class?” The truth is, often they won’t. Whether it’s a part time degree, relevant to their job, or an evening class in photography, providing assistance will be evidence that you value them as an employee and are investing in them for the long term.

6. Go offsite

When most people hear the words, ‘team building’ there is a collective rolling of eyes. Granted, taking an hour or two off during the day can be difficult for small businesses, but where possible, when it’s not a busy period, allow staff to let their hair down and do something a bit out of the ordinary.

7. Gym membership

We all know that a healthy body contributes to a healthy and more alert mind. Most gyms offer very reasonable corporate memberships. You’ll be amazed by the shift from post-lunch-slump to increased energy.

8. Appearance

In customer facing roles, appearance and good grooming is essential. Why not offer free haircuts and discounted suits to staff? It will not only improve customer’s view of the business but could also be a way to avoid the awkward ‘poor grooming’ conversation.

9. One-on-one lunch

Away from the dealership and outside of a formal review, the Dealer Principal should take time to have a one-on-one lunch with employees. The informal approach is a great way to really understand what the employee is happy/unhappy about.

Have you successfully implemented other employee incentives? Let us know.