Today's column will be the first of several that explore the how and why people get into the retail car industry. The first area I want to discuss is automotive sales, a sometimes maligned profession that is a key part of a dealership operations.
If you visit a new car showroom in Ontario, you will discover that the personality types and career paths of salespeople are as diverse as the colours of a rainbow. There is no defining characteristic that predisposes someone to pursuing a career in sales.
Some arrive after finishing college or university. Others arrive after having worked in an unrelated industry. Some even arrive after have worked in other departments within a dealership.
Many automotive salespeople begin their careers almost by accident and discover that they have a natural talent for the profession of selling. I say 'profession' quite deliberately because over the past two decades, automotive sales has evolved from a job into a profession.
Gone are the days of Herb Tarlek characters wearing a plaid suit and chomping a cigar greeting customers with, "Hey, have I got a great deal for you!"
Today, salespeople are brand specialists who are formally trained and educated on a specific brand. They must pass exams from the manufacturer to understand the technically-advanced features of today's automobiles. They must also pass an automotive certification course from the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council, which teaches a code of ethics and proper business practices.
As brand specialists, these men and women are more informed about vehicles than any previous generation of salespeople in history. They need to be; consumers are better informed as well and have access to as much information as brand specialists.
Today's brand specialists possess an abundance of skills. In addition to being effective communicators and well organized, some speak multiple languages; some are well-connected within their communities; some have mastered online tools to connect with customers and prospects.
Brand specialists sort of run their own mini businesses within a dealership. They manage their own personal social media accounts and utilize the latest online and mobile technologies to stay in touch with their personal and professional networks.
I mentioned earlier that no specific characteristic defined the average brand specialist, but if I had to choose a couple of qualities above all others that are shared by all automotive salespeople, it would be these: they enjoy being around people and helping others, and they possess great marketing skills (our top performing brand specialists have studied marketing at Durham College).
All of the successful salespeople that I know put other people's concerns first. Whether they're an introvert or an extrovert, whether they're young or old, they have a genuine desire to connect with people and go out of their way to ensure that their customers are looked after.
Our industry is looking for new, professional brand specialists all the time. If you are undecided about a career, or want to change careers, I urge you to contact your local new car dealership and speak to brands specialists and sales managers.
You'd be surprised at the earning potential; the sky is the limit. Your career path could go from brand specialist to business manager to sales manager to general sales manager to dealer principal.
Or, Visit the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association website (www.tada) and click on the Career Opportunities link. There you will find sales employment opportunities and a link to post your resume.
For those who give it their best and enjoy working with people, automotive sales offers a fulfilling career opportunity. This is a fast-paced industry filled with new challenges and rewards and it might be the career for you.
The automotive business never stops - just look at the highway.