Can auto salesmen get beyond pitches that are
dominated by fishing and the Vikings and requests to speak to a
husband? AskPatty.com says yes.
By Sarah A. Webster, Detroit Free Press
Last update: January 06, 2007 – 12:51 AM
DETROIT - Women decide or in some way influence most of the car and
truck purchases in the United States - more than 80 percent, according
to some estimates.
talk to women candidly about their auto-buying experience, and you'll
find that many aren't thrilled with the experience in showrooms. Auto
salesmen are still from Mars, and women car buyers are still from
Venus, it seems.
"When are you going to bring your husband in? When are you going to bring your dad in?"
say they're still being asked such disrespectful questions, said Fara
Warner, author of the 2005 book "Power of the Purse."
So what's a male-dominated industry like the car business to do?
It might call on AskPatty.com, started by a couple of entrepreneurs who thought they could make money straightening out the problem.
from J.D. Power and Associates show that the situation isn't as bad as
some anecdotes suggest. Men pay a little more for new vehicles than
women, and women are a little less satisfied than men with maintenance
and repairs at dealerships.
Many dealerships have installed
child-friendly areas, with toys and child videos, and dealers report
doing their best to attract female salespeople and to treat all
customers with respect.
a New York-based website, aims to go a step further and help improve
the communication between female customers and auto sellers.
site educates women about all things automotive, with a staff of female
automotive experts who write articles and answer questions on repair,
maintenance and car buying.
The site even featured Stephanie
Esterline, a 17-year-old from Grosse Ile, Mich., and her book, "This
Girl's First Car," on how teenage girls should care for their vehicles.
also provides a unique service: certifying dealerships as
female-friendly after they've passed a course on how to communicate
with women, which continues to pose a challenge to many salesmen.
percent of the nation's dealerships don't have even one female
salesperson, according to a 2006 survey by the National Auto Dealers
Association. The number of women selling cars and trucks in showrooms
declined this year - to about 8 percent of the 231,400 auto
"I'm not a screaming feminist waving my finger at auto dealers," said Jody DeVere, president of AskPatty.com. "I'm a businessperson, and I saw an opportunity."
be certified, members of a dealership's sales team must read a book on
how to communicate with women, titled "How to Get Rich Selling Cars and
Trucks to Women," and take a training course. Then they must pass a
134-question test, which takes about an hour to complete.
"We're teaching them how to attract, sell and increase loyalty with women," said DeVere, who has two male partners in the AskPatty.com
enterprise. The company also has formed a partnership with Maddox Smye,
a Naples, Fla.-based company that specializes in training salespeople
about dealing with women.
gets about 20,000 visitors each month. About 50 dealerships have signed
on for certification. Dealerships pay $225 per person for 12 months of
training and $795 a month for the dealership certification.
The dealerships get a link on the AskPatty.com
site that will direct visitors to a female-friendly dealership in their
area. The website also provides the dealers with a complete marketing
and advertising program where the name of the dealership is co-branded
What's more, AskPatty.com
visitors can dial a phone number that directs them to dealerships. Each
phone conversation is recorded for training and quality control.
Rajnert, 32, the Internet sales leader at Dorian Ford in Clinton
Township, Mich., took the initiative to get his dealership certified
after finding the website last year.
"They've actually given us a
lot of information on selling to women," he said. "Women are doing a
lot of the purchasing on their own. ... Sometimes the women don't feel
comfortable. This trains us on how to communicate a lot better."
Rajnert confesses that he has changed the way he sells to women, and it has improved his personal relationships, as a result.
"I give them a lot more attention than I would before," he said.
Before the training, he didn't always explain information about engines or transmissions.
"I would kind of brush over the internals of the car, and just say, 'Make sure you change your oil,' " Rajnert said.
he explains everything. Roanne Swaneck, a 36-year-old married mother
from Clinton Township, met Rajnert online, where she was seeking
information on replacing her Ford Freestar minivan. She noticed the AskPatty.com link on the dealership's website, but didn't click on it.
By the time she visited Dorian Ford, she had talked to Rajnert about 10 times by e-mail and phone.
She again noticed the AskPatty.com
logos at the dealership, and asked what they were about. Knowing that
the dealership was certified as female-friendly was a nice perk, though
Swaneck doubted that it influenced her decision to buy a 2007 Ford
She's thrilled with her new SUV and had nothing negative to report about her experience with Rajnert.