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July 14, 2006

Women Who Work In Car Dealerships

Mom_headshot_1 Ask Patty interviewed Phyllis Foro this week about her career in the automotive field and her thoughts on the car buying experience for women.

Phyllis Foro is a 20 year veteran of the automotive industry
and consultant to many car dealerships in the Northwest

Ask Patty: Tell me how and/or what made you decide to enter the automotive industry as career choice?

Phyllis: My husband dared me to get a real job after 13 years as a teacher/administrator in California and Oregon.  One of his friends came over for dinner and showed us his new Mercedes (price tag over $40K…..late 80’s) He said it was the worst sales experience he ever had…and he paid cash!  The root cause was the sales consultant did not listen to the wants and needs of the customer….hence the entire transaction was stressful!  Hence, the beginning of the Phyllis story…teaching in another way…..

Ask Patty:  What are the challenges for you as a women working in the automotive industry?

Phyllis:  When I started in the business, the guys did not take me seriously.  In the mid 80’s a women’s place was in the office (I was offered a few jobs as receptionist, title clerk, office secretary…..when I applied for a sales consultant position).  One dealer even told me that in his organization, the women worked in the office!  Then there’s the good ol’ boy network!  And……..calling women honey and sweetie (makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up!). About three months into my new career, my sales manager came into my office, shut the door, raised his voice and said…”For…you are costing me money!”  It seems that I sold the most vehicles that month and was going to be awarded the coveted Salesman of the month engraved plaque. However, knowing how I would react to the wording on the plaque, he had decided to contact the engraver and change it to Sales Consultant of the Month….and the engraving change would cost more!

I still have that plaque on the wall of my office today….along with my Evolution of Authority plaque.  (foot steps that are graduated in size from Big Foot to a Prada Heel.


Ask Patty: I understand your job is to help dealerships improve their bottom line results. 

Phyllis:  Actually, my job is to assist dealerships to improve profitability…the money part and the people part (sales profitability and customer satisfaction). A good description would be process improvement and organizational development.  My goal is to help them achieve their goals to increase profits and exceed customer expectations of every interaction. I help move the ball down the field one yard at a time….with the goal in clear sight. We never loose sight of the goal.

Ask Patty: What if any are the big changes you are seeing today in how vehicles are being marketed to women.

Phyllis: Manufacturers are finally listening to the women’s wants and needs.  They are conducting women’s focus groups and taking survey and other forms of feedback seriously.  Advertising is targeting the women’s market. Women can make their own decisions, and can purchase or lease a vehicle on their own….without a man…and feel good about all aspects of the transaction.

Ask Patty: Tell me about your recent personal experience buying a vehicle, what vehicle did you buy and why did you buy.

Phyllis: Great story…..when I came on board with my current, a major auto manufacturer, client, my contract stated that I had to drive one of their vehicles.  So…the Auto Show was in Seattle.  My most important concern when selecting a vehicle (besides how I look in it!) is how the seat adjusts for comfort and visibility. I went to the Auto Show and sat in their vehicles   until I found one that fit me and met the perimeters of the contract. My last few vehicles had been mom-mobiles and SUV’s…now I wanted one that made me look and feel good.  So I selected a navy blue convertible. It’s a great day in Seattle when the top is down!  Then I contacted two local dealerships to see who had the inventory.  The dealership closest to my house was very polite, secured an appointment, and said that they had the inventory.  Upon arrival (two hours later), I was invited to drive every other model with a manual transmission that was on their lot….however, no convertibles with auto transmission!  How frustrating!  They took

my number and said they’d call when they had the convertible with automatic transmission.  Two weeks passed……no contact.    During the same time, I visited another dealer, same county, about 45 min. away.  They had about 4 to choose from….so now the decision was about color only!  Great experience!  The sales consultant stepped thru all the steps of the selling process, finding out my wants and needs.  He took me seriously!  (He didn’t know I worked with his manufacturer,  until the end of the sales process).  Reminds me a the lyrics of a  song from the Broadway play, Ain’t Misbehavin…“find out what they want…how they want it and give it to them just that way!”  This business is all about relationships, trust and positive word of mouth advertising. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel good about my convertible and the team that assisted me!   P.S.  The first dealership never called me back.

Ask Patty: What is one piece of 'good" advice you would you give women before they buy a new vehicle?

Phyllis: Do your research.  Identify what YOU want.  Remember, you will have to live with your decision for the life of the contract/lease.. and you will be reminded of that decision every month when you pay on the contract.  Use the internet. Visit manufacturer’s sites, research competitive comparisons, consumer reporting sites, etc.  Go to the dealerships…get to know the vehicles.  Sit in them, drive them….make sure they fit in your garage.  Does it fit your lifestyle?  Does the vehicle make you look and feel good?  Does the financial obligation and term of contract/lease fit into your budget timeline?  Do not be pressured!  Secure the vehicle when it is right for you.    There is always an incentive…compare and contrast. Be the subject matter expert!  Ask someone for help that you can trust (family member, spouse, friend, etc.).  Pick a sales consultant that helps foster a positive, caring, trusting relationship.  Shop!  Shop!  Shop…..it’s what we do best!

Gather enough information to make an intelligent decision….YOUR DECISION!

Ask Patty: Thanks Phyliss for sharing your  knowledge , tips, story and information  on the car buying experience. This was an awesome interview for Ask Patty!


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