A crowd of salesmen assembles on the showroom floor. None of them quite understand why they’re whispering. Some have heard rumors of a salesman who existed many years ago. Others swear this isn’t true. A few say he could never survive again because we live in different times.
The salesmen gathered on the showroom floor have hardly any information to go on. Old timers on their way into retirement would sometimes talk of the old days, the old pay plans, the old sales ways – but you never knew if they were putting you together or not. And over the years, those old ranks had thinned out to virtual nothingness. Once in a while, you’d still run into an old timer clinging onto a dealership. But before you got to know him, he was blown out or had enough and flipped you off as he sailed into retirement. If what you’d heard about the old days were true, you couldn’t really blame him. Not for his offenses toward anyone standing on the line.
You imagine him back in the old days with a full head of hair, carrying a briefcase containing his book of business. Living in a nice neighborhood. Attending community meetings. Raising a family with his salesman’s pay plan, driving a demo from the dealership that even included insurance. He didn’t live this way because dealers liked to overpay salesmen; he brought his dealership a tremendous amount of business. He was a Pro.
When he sold a car, it was by no accident. He sold a car to Mr. Perez every few years. He sold cars to Mr. Perez’s two kids. When Mr. Perez’s neighbor admired Mr. Perez’s new car, he sold a car to him, too. The Pro’s briefcase contained a file on Mr. Perez. At the dealership, the Pro would call his contacts and update his files; he’d send birthday cards, anniversary cards, graduation cards, and so on. In many ways, he was part of the Perez family. Then something happened. And this something started to happen to many more of his clients.
The Perezes moved away. His business had either downsized, relocated, or he took a job in a Sunbelt city. By the 70s, more Americans lived in suburbs than in the cities fueled in part – not so ironically – by the automobile. Kids in their 20s moved away and never returned to town. The sales Pro just didn’t carry the same book of business he used to.
The Pro’s book began to thin out. Dealerships responded with more advertising. Without the bulk of the Pro’s loyal customer base, the dealership found their profits per sale decreasing as competition for customers heated up. None of this happened overnight, of course. And it probably happened at different times and in slightly different ways for different cities and towns. Some towns even became suburbs. In these instances, the Pros didn’t know the shiny new residents. So, the Pro’s pay plan followed suit.
Today, we may readily jump to assume the Pro is gone, but he still exists. Just not in the form we used to know him. If we take a look at the old Pro, we can see that his tried and true techniques have simply been absorbed by the dealership. Instead of one human, he’s now represented by departments and dealer tools. Let’s take a look:
Briefcase = CRM
Phone = BDC and Salesman + Email
Product = The salesmen on the showroom floor
Community = Dealership Social Media, Charity, Sponsorships
If you’re a salesman like me, you know that our elder Pro forefathers haven’t disappeared. They’ve simply been replaced by larger entities. Instead of a face, he’s a brand. Instead of calling his customers himself, a mini-call center does it. Instead of sending notes and cards, a CRM spits out direct mail with pre-paid postage. Instead of coming in to see you, a mailer or email motivates the customer to see the dealership. And you fight for the up as they pull in.
But does it really need to stay this way? If you’re a salesman today, you have many more ways to maintain contact with your customers as your Pro forefathers once did. Not even 10 years ago did you have these tools to stay in contact and remain top of mind when a customer’s local friend, relative, or co-worker is looking for a new car. I think you know what these tools are. They’re sitting in your pocket now, connected to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, blogging platforms, and maybe even your own single-user license CRM.
And if you use these tools effectively, you may find yourself adored by the dealership the way the old Pro once was.