How to Lose Vehicle Sales

Businessman cowering on blue blackboard background with chalk drawing of

Yes, yes, I know the title sounds negative. Losing sales, after all, is a dealership’s worst nightmare. But talking about what NOT to do helps dealers identify mistakes to avoid and highlights the more productive solutions commercial salespeople should pursue. It’s an important conversation, because some of those pitfalls are not just small stumbles along the way, but major setbacks that contribute to missed sales opportunities and negative attitudes among sales team members. In other words, highlighting “How to Lose Vehicle Sales” allows us to have a discussion about if your dealership’s systems and practices perpetuate a culture of success or failure. Let’s dig into 3 quick scenarios:

Scenario 1: Johnny, a commercial salesperson at ABC Auto, has worked hard to gain referrals every time he sells a truck. In fact, using a vendor referral strategy (our preferred method of lead-generation, which you can read more about HERE), Johnny was able to gain 14 referrals from a recent customer.  Johnny checks the referrals against the CRM and finds that five of the most promising prospects are listed under the name of an “old timer” sales consultant. According to the record, the older salesperson has not sold a truck to this customer in 10 years (!!), and hasn’t met with them in 5 years (!!), but when asked the older team member refuses to relinquish his claim to the customer. Johnny concludes that any prospects belonging to another salesperson must be ignored, even if the other consultant is making no effort to land any sales. Discouraged, Johnny is now less productive and sales opportunities are likely missed.

Scenario 2: Management at ABC Auto divides the metro area into zip-codes, in an attempt to balance out opportunities for salespeople. Johnny has built a solid relationship with the owner of XYZ Heating & Air through the local Home Builders Association, and the owner tells Johnny that although they currently buy from a competitor, he’d now like to work specifically with Johnny. However, it turns out that their home office is located in the zip-code of another sales team member, who demands Johnny split the deal. The sale is not lost, but Johnny — who only earned half the commission despite doing all the work — grows increasingly resentful of his fellow salespeople and the dealership who implemented the policy. As Johnny becomes less motivated and considers looking for a new job, the business is at risk of losing one of their most proactive and resourceful sales consultants.

Scenario 3: ABC Auto institutes a new policy: If a salesperson has not sold a vehicle to a customer in the last year and/or made physical contact by scheduling a meeting or appointment, any other team member can call on and win the business of that customer. There are no long-term claims and there are no territories. In this system, sales calls and coverage are maximized, fewer sales slip through the cracks, and salespeople fairly earn what they work for and feel as though their hard-work is respected. A few older sales consultants don’t love the new system, but dealership management has effectively explained the benefits of the new system and emphasized that while they deeply appreciate everyone’s past contributions, the increasingly competitive market will spare no dealership or sales team that cannot keep up. Everyone maintains a professional attitude, productivity increases, and sales are on the rise! And Johnny? He’s energized and moving more inventory than ever before!

Clearly Scenario 3 showcases the system that is going to most fairly reward hard-work and bring in more sales. Too often in commercial sales, we needlessly allow the competition to not only maintain their current customers, but even move into our marketshare, just because we are tied to traditional practices that used to work but no longer keep us competitive in today’s world. Long-term claims and geographic territories restrict your salespeople’s ability to take advantage of emerging opportunities and/or react to changing market landscapes. Instead, your dealership should provide systems and expectations that set sales consultants up for success and hold them to high standards of productivity. (You can read more about our Tips for Creating a More Productive Sales Team HERE, and you can review What an Ideal Sales Day Looks Like HERE)

Sales is so much like sports. Probably the greatest wide receiver in the history of the NFL is Jerry Rice, who attended a small college at Mississippi Valley State, but became the all-time leader in most major statistical categories for wide receivers in the National Football League. The secret to Jerry’s long-term success? He worked just as hard in his final years in the NFL as he did his rookie season. Many first-year players, 20 years younger than Jerry, would workout with him during the offseason, only to leave in exhaustion, unable to keep up with the veteran’s rookie-level energy and drive.

My point is that champions, like Jerry in football or Johnny in sales, never take anything for granted and are tireless in their pursuit of excellence. When I conduct training at commercial dealerships, so many salespeople admit they’ve stopped going the “extra mile.” If your sales are lagging behind where you want them to be, maybe it’s time for your dealership and sales team to capture some of that rookie-season energy, rediscovering the passion, practices, and strategies that can turn your business into a champion. If not, you’ll continue to learn firsthand just how to lose sales.


Ken TaylorAbout the Author

Ken Taylor

As the Founder and President of Commercial Truck Training, Ken has consulted, coached, and trained commercial dealers on individual, regional, and national business levels. Known as an industry leader, Ken has worked with companies like General Electric, General Motors, FCA, Ford, Commercial Truck Trader, and Equipment Trader.

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