America may not be ready for a woman president, but a woman car salesperson or even a General Manager? Sure, why not! Car dealerships are finally catching up with the rest of the world in recognizing the equal footing afforded to women in today’s society and, most importantly to my dealer clients; the family car buying decision. I am not suggesting that there isn’t still a “macho” ceiling that needs to be torn down; just that it has already shown some cracks.
Sites like Ask Patty have targeted a clearly defined opportunity to understand and sell to women but the true horizon is set on career opportunities for women in the car business. Dealers have realized that they can train male salespeople to be more sensitive to women’s issues and they have solicited “Patty’s” advice and support to help them. More forward-thinking dealers have accepted that women salespeople and managers already have a jump on their male counterparts since they are already on the women’s team!
I have been counseling my dealer clients for years to recognize the unique role of women in the car buying process. Our creative message has become much more relationship based with information rather than sales hype but the success of our campaigns have been in the changes that we first implement into the dealership’s selling process. When given a client dictate to improve their message to women I have a standard reply: "How many women salespeople or managers do you have on your team?" If they reply with one - or none - I know that my job has just started.
My next question is; would you run a Spanish ad and not have any Spanish speaking staff? Of course not; so why not hire women to translate for your women customers? To help the more committed dealers I have extended our services to include national searches through sites such as Career Builders and Monster.Com with special consideration paid to female applicants. The real solution, however, lies in the interview process and the dealers’ understanding of the unique needs of women in the workplace. Any good Human Resource department has an Employee Handbook with policies and procedures to deal with sexual harassment issues brought about by ignorant male management teams but that only deals with risk management, not improved sales or soliciting and retaining qualified women staff.
The remnants of our old male-driven society still places a disproportionate amount of family responsibilities on women, even working women, and there are associated issues which must be addressed. Pregnancy leaves, day care for working mothers, family needs, and other domestic responsibilities all fall squarely on female shoulders and they must be dealt with. A male colleague confessed that his wife is a great example to this point, since even with his heightened sensitivities to women’s issues he still claims to not know how to do the laundry. "My hectic schedule pales when compared to her 40-hour work week combined with her share of the housework," he says. "We split all of the household chores 80/20 and you can guess who claims the 80 %!"
Career opportunities for women in the retail automotive industry are improving and they represent the solution to two problems for today’s dealers. First, having women on a dealer’s staff evidences the dealer’s commitment to represent his female customer’s interests. Secondly, women represent a yet untapped resource of qualified “people persons” ideally suited to sell cars, Hiring and maintaining a qualified sales staff is a common goal of every car dealership I have ever managed or represented. The ability for women to earn incomes greater than most comparable positions in the marketplace and equal to, or greater than, their male counterparts in the work force is a competitive advantage which dealers must present in their hiring and interview process.
The ball is in the women’s court to recognize the opportunities that their newly recognized powers present to them. Not only as a consumer looking for the best deal on their next new or pre-owned vehicle, but as an integral part of the solution to improving women’s role in society and in the car business with the benefits and income to match their contributions to the workforce and our economy.
President & CEO