When visiting a retail business I think it is uncomfortable when one sex dominates the staff and you happen to be the opposite sex. Think about a man visiting a women’s clothing store by himself and how out of place he appears perusing the inventory. From my own experience, I tend to quickly browse and leave when I feel out of place. I would guess that there are retail statistics that support the fact that men will buy more at a women’s clothing store when they are accompanied by a woman than they will when they are alone. It is all about comfort and when people feel secure they tend to be more trusting and open minded.
If this assumption is correct and women would be more inclined to purchase a vehicle if they felt more comfortable and secure in a dealership how can you go about improving the experience. Obviously hiring more women to work in the dealership is necessary but may not be easy to enact right off the bat. I’ll talk about some approaches to hiring in a moment but I would suggest that a good first step would be in teaching your male staff to be “gentlemen” to both men and women. Being a gentleman is perhaps not in sync with today’s carefree environment in the workplace but it is still respected by both genders. Behaving like a gentleman is not about how one dresses it is as simple as being polite and respectful. Both male and female customers appreciate these traits and yet you seldom see them expressed in dealerships today.
Dealerships are typically friendly but not always polite and respectful. I still like the phrase used by the Ritz Carlton “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen." However politically incorrect it may sound it is still music to a great deal of customer’s ears. If the actions are sincere and genuine then they are greatly appreciated.
The big snafu’s are easy to cure such as statements made by salespeople – “is your husband going to be involved?” the more difficult changes are to the subtle items such as eye contact and body language. This will take involvement and oversight by managers as they walk around and observe their employees in action.
Recruiting women to work in your dealership should be a short-term ambition and a long-term commitment. You should be ambitious to recruit using job fairs and orientation days that allow you to be in the consideration pool for women candidates. During recruitment I often hear that women candidates are warned that the dealership is a male dominated environment and they should be prepared to deal with some salty language and locker room behavior. An about face would be to warn your staff that the old man’s world environment will not be tolerated in order to make your dealership more conducive to hiring women and enjoying the benefits of female buyers. It’s a long-term commitment and in many cases will take a great deal of time to cause change that is durable over the long haul but the return is well worth it.
I have seen the positive effects of this long-term commitment in many dealerships and one in particular is a used vehicle dealership that is one of the largest volume used vehicle operations in Colorado. This dealership has 22 people on their sales team of which 17 are women. The old adage that men will feel more comfortable only buying from men is not the case at this operation where women work the deals from start to finish. Their long-term commitment to creating an environment that is friendly to men and women has paid off in consistently high sales and profits. You can enjoy the same results but it will take the commitment from the top of the house.
KainAutomotive.com is an automotive training and consulting firm that specializes in Internet marketing and sales training.