Sunday April 22, 2012

Special to The Eagle

PITTSFIELD -- The Internet has changed how most people buy their cars: They tend to kick fewer tires and do more online research. But those in the field say the fundamental qualities endure for the person selling them.

"If I don’t like the person, I am not going to buy anything from him," says Matthew Quinn, general sales manager at Bedard Brothers Auto Sales in Cheshire. To this trait of likeable personality, Quinn adds integrity, honesty and enthusiasm.

Quinn says some salespeople love cars, but love is not necessary. You do have to like cars. A working knowledge of cars is useful, "but you do not have to be a technician or mechanic. You have to know what features best suit your customers."

That is the personality part. He said he listens to the customer, figures out what he or she wants in a car, and then tries to match those wants to the cars he either has or can get.

Training for this work comes in a variety of ways, with some of it given by the employer, and some provided by the manufacturer. Internet training seminars are common, though some manufacturers still send trainers; and occasionally, the salesperson is sent out for training.

The Massachusetts State Auto mo bile Dealers Association and National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) also offer training to member dealers and employees, Quinn says.

Online training programs help NADA to reach more dealership employees, says Marilyn Youngs, senior director of NADA Uni versity, the national organization based in McLean, Va.


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"These programs enable em ployees to train on topics of rel evance, reference critical materials, without leaving the dealership, and provide testing and tracking for accountability."

It takes about three months to begin to understand the business and six months to really understand, Quinn adds. Part of the training includes shadowing other salespeople.

That was a big part of Joe Scibelli’s training. To become a sales manager, and then general sales manager at Haddad Motor Group, he says, "I worked side by side with other managers."

"Internet research has actually made our job easier," Scibelli says. "We have more informed customers with all the information at their fingertips. Most people find our cars through the dealer website, the Internet, and various third-party sources," he says. "How ever we still do have customers who like to walk the lot."

To the list of qualities in a good salesperson, Scibelli adds organizational skills and a sense of fairness.

Bart Collins runs his own business in Lee -- Southern States Used Cars -- but he has worked in bigger area dealerships, including Haddad Motor Group and Johnson Ford. Now, he enjoys the flexibility of being his own boss. He also finds this work less stressful than the high volume big dealerships.

His office phone rings with regularity, and there is a CARFAX app for his smart phone, which sits ready on his desk. He can scan in a car’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Num ber) and get a vehicle history report. He does his homework on the cars and so does the customer. People come with a sense of what they want, he says, and in some cases, they know exactly what they want.

Collins gets his cars in a number of different ways, including trade-ins, and auctions, which he attends weekly, usually in East Windsor, Conn. There, 4,500 to 5,000 cars await about 2,500 dealers.

"I know what I am looking for," he says when asked about being overwhelmed by the numbers of cars and dealers at auction. He knows what his customers have asked for, and and knows online what’s there.

"Just be up front," says Collins about a salesperson’s job. "It is not about bedazzling." Be knowledgeable and helpful. He employes four others at Southern States: a clean-up/detailer, an office manager, and two certified mechanics.

Collins belongs to a NADA 20 Group, which meets regularly and keeps him abreast of industry issues. These groups, says Diane Carnovsky, NADA 20 group membership manager, are teams of non-competing dealers, grouped by franchise, volume, and location, that share best practices and solutions to problems.

Quinn at Bedard Brothers is enthusiastic about the opportunities this career offers. 

"You are not judged on your educational background. It is the person’s integrity and sincerity: that is what makes a good salesperson."