Web site trains auto dealers in female-friendly techniques
By Sarah A. Webster
Published January 10, 2007
Women flat-out 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.
But 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?"
Women still report being asked those types of 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?
Enter AskPatty.com, started by a couple of entrepreneurs who thought they could make some money straightening out the problem.
Many dealerships have already installed child-friendly areas, and
dealerships report doing their best to treat all customers with respect.
A communication issue
But AskPatty.com, a New York-based Web site, aims to go a step further
and help improve the communication between female customers and auto
The 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.
AskPatty.com also provides a unique service: certifying dealerships as
female-friendly after they have passed a course on how to communicate
with women, which continues to pose a challenge to many salesmen.
Forty-nine 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 in 2006 -- 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."
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 also has two male partners in the AskPatty.com
AskPatty.com gets about 20,000 visitors each month. About 50 dealerships have signed on for certification services.
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 Web site
also provides the dealerships with a complete marketing and advertising
AskPatty.com visitors can dial a phone number that directs them to dealerships.
AskPatty.com is partnered with Maddox Smye, a Naples, Fla.-based
company that specializes in training salespeople about dealing with
Steve Rajnert, 32, the Internet sales leader at Dorian
Ford in Clinton Township, Mich., took the initiative to get his
dealership certified after finding the Web site earlier this 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 says he has changed the way he sells to women.
"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.
Now, 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 Web site, but didn't click on it.
Ready to buy anyway
She again noticed the AskPatty.com logos at the dealership, and asked
about them. Knowing that the dealership was certified as
female-friendly was a nice perk, though Swaneck doubted it influenced
her decision to buy a 2007 Ford Explorer.
She had nothing negative to report about her experience with Rajnert.
"I felt like he was my buddy," she said.