What About Automobile Sales for Women?
By Thomas Procter
In a time that women have as much as 85% influence on all vehicle purchases, you might think this statistic would stimulate an interest from women in participating in the automotive industry as a career, or at least part-time. Yet, fewer than 7% of all auto salespeople are women. Even more remarkably, statistics show that these 7% are most often in the top 10% of sales for the dealerships for which they work. One might surmise that this success rate would be a tempting carrot for women wanting to make a substantial income, with benefits. Income for women in this category can realistically range from $5,000 to $12,000 per month, and even more, before taxes.
Perhaps their lack of interest in this industry may be partly explained by women born between 1988 and 2001 as being part of the “Y Generation.” These individuals are generally recognized as being more tech wise and knowledgeable of current trends, and statistically do more online preparation prior to their visits than men. They also have been exposed to extensive sales and marketing pitches, and are more immune to them, and less likely to succumb to the pressures of marketing.
But the main reason why more women are not in auto sales is because they have been turned off by the treatment received when they visited a dealership for the purchase of a vehicle. A huge turnoff? The most common question asked of them by car salesmen upon their arrival at a car lot: “Is your husband (boyfriend) with you?” As if they don’t have the ability to make decisions. Women share these experiences with others, and as a result a greater number of women develop an “armored” approach when they are confronted by auto sales representatives. Women look for real answers from knowledgeable salespeople with whom they can develop a trust relationship. They don’t appreciate disrespect when they walk onto a car lot, and can easily deduce that jobs in organizations like this are not desirable.
They must also face the problem of dealing with managers who don’t have the skills to meet the needs and demands of women coming into the industry. Women like to be accurate in what they tell prospective customers, and many managers just want sales people to gloss over details, saying whatever is necessary to get customers to commit to a deal, regardless of the concerns of the customer.
Another consideration is the hours generally required. Auto sales people often work 50-60 hour weeks. This could be a limiting factor, but the reality is that a great number of women already put in hours like that in tedious full and part time jobs in real estate, product sales, waitressing, and other similar time-consuming jobs. Commission only programs are finally moving to a salary-based draw system, and this move is favorable for women. Hours flexibility is also being demonstrated.
Okay. What about attitude? How do dealerships and men sales personnel react to women entering the sales force? The “good-old-boys” syndrome is still out there. At least 90% of the sales personnel are men, and many of these guys are reluctant to welcome women into their hallowed territory, and demonstrate attitudes toward incoming women sales personnel that reflect their prejudiced male-dominant thinking. Many of these misguided males are hostile and non-communicable with incoming women. Interestingly, the men sales personnel that recognize the opportunities from associating with these women reap handsome profits in referred partner sales from the women with which they develop working relationships.
It has been my experience in working with different automobile manufacturers that size of a dealership is not a factor in how women are treated in their sales organization. It is always the attitude of the management that sets the structure for successful implementation of women sales personnel. This can include individually owned dealerships, as well as huge organizations such as Autonation, Sonic, United Auto/Penske, and Hendrick. It really depends upon the attitude demonstrated by the management of each individual dealership. A welcoming and respectful attitude from management usually flows down to sales, and those managers that recognize the benefits from having women salespeople find themselves increasing their sales for their dealerships. Women sales people attract women customers.
So. Suggestions for women considering this industry:
- Dealerships are not the same. Visit until you feel comfortable. Don’t just speak with management. Talk to salesmen also.
- Don’t consider any compensations that do not have a salary/draw based plan.
- Upon employment, work to establish partnership alliances with trustworthy salesmen, as well as service writers.
- Take advantage of all training programs, and adapt them to your personality.
Tom Procter is a former California Public School Teacher, Businessman, published Author, and 18 years as Internet Manager with Saturn, Ford, GMC, Subaru, Mazda, Mercedez-Benz, and Acura.