The economic downturn is an opportunity for automotive retailers to drive up the quality of salespeople in the industry, it has been claimed.
Rising graduate unemployment has created a pool of high-quality potential employees, according to automotive specialist Coachworks Consulting.
But it is a resource that will go largely untapped unless franchises improve recruitment methods and the sector as a whole tackles the stigma attached to car sales as a career.
International consultancy Coachworks believes retailers often employ salespeople with limited potential because the selection process is flawed – an oversight that costs franchises money.
Karl Davis, Managing Director at Coachworks, said: “The fact that car sales isn’t seen by enough people as a desirable career means you often see an under-performing salesperson from one retailer moving with little trouble to another one.
“The issues caused by a lack of quality candidates are then made worse by selection procedures that can be pretty shoddy.
“In many cases the receipt of a poor CV and the completion of an ill-prepared interview results in an offer of employment.
“But what sort of message does this send out? How can a job be viewed as the entrance to a fulfilling and credible long-term career if the recruitment process is so slack?
“Taking on the wrong people costs retailers money in lost sales and the need for intensive training further down the line.”
The advent of the internet has led to much better-informed customers, according to Mr Davis. If potential buyers know more about brand and pricing than their first sales contact, it creates a credibility gap that will harm revenues.
That means it is more important than ever to put together a knowledgeable and motivated sales team – a process that starts with hiring the right people.
Coachworks has published a white paper on how to attract and select the right candidates.
Hiring for Growth: How to Recruit High-quality Salespeople recommends Dealer Principals give a much higher priority to recruitment, allocating more time to the process.
There has to be a clear understanding of the five core competencies – or “value drivers” – required for the role, and CVs must be screened against these drivers.
Proper interview preparation is vital, says Coachworks, and no-one should ever be taken on after a single interview. Instead, the consultancy believes, retailers should consider psychometric testing and running intensive assessment sessions.
A quarter of 21-year-olds who graduated last year are unemployed, and the Office for National Statistics has found that 36 per cent of recent graduates are in a lower-skilled job compared to 26.7%in 2001.
Mr Davis said: “With so many graduates looking for work or on low wages, it should be much easier to attract high-calibre applicants with a job that could earn them £40,000 a year and comes with a car.
“As it is, it’s a struggle to hire a team of eager, willing and capable salespeople. That’s partly because car sales still has a certain amount of stigma attached to it.”
Mr Davis called on the RMI and the SMMT to combine resources to attend job fairs to sell the sector as a career choice.
And he urged retailers to work on reducing staff turnover and to use motivated existing employees to encourage other high-calibre jobseekers to join the business.
For more information: www.coachworks-consulting.com