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Now It Is a Must ... How Can We Do A Better Job Retaining Women In Sales?

Written By: Jody Devere
Posted on April 19, 2016

Dealerships currently report that women represent just 25% of face-to-face positions. But that small number is powerful: Within four months of reaching that percentage, dealerships typically experience as much as 35% gain in overall vehicle sales, new and used, and a substantially increased used car turnover.

Less numbers driven, but just as importantly, those dealerships also see an increase in desirable employee statements regarding company loyalty and goals toward longevity. How did they do it? Simple. They brought women into their sales, service, and management positions AND found ways of retaining them.

It's simple: Attracting women yields high results

Considering that 85% of all automotive purchases are either directly made by women buyers or directly influenced by them, if we are not responding to this statistic, then our dealerships are missing the boat. Totally.

ROI is a key driver in how we consider the physical programs and offerings we put forth to the consumer in our efforts to entice them to visit our facilities. We do recognize that internet information access has affected profit margins, margins that were inflated by consumer ignorance as to how much flexibility in costs existed.

The fact is that we just cannot make the margins we used to, and have to find ways of addressing our concerns as survival efforts. Playing the numbers game of total sales for a month will eventually be passed with the money lost in potential profits. The bottom line is that we must place our investment monies into areas of concentration that will bring us returns that will not only keep us in business but by their very nature helps us grow in our financial viability, viability that is attractive to women that may be considering this industry as a workplace.

Roadblocks to attracting women

Here are some reasons why we are not attracting women at this point:

  1. Traditional resistance. Many organizations still are thematically male-dominant and have programs in place that do not have interest to the new women-driven market. “What was good for my dad is good enough for me” is the motto above the entrance of many empty and abandoned dealerships.
  2. Reluctance to trying new programs. Management and owners may not have the desire or courage to try new programs. Or they may be lazy.
  3. Equitable pay and work programs. Considerations for family needs and even part or adjusted time participations. Traditional long hour work periods do not work.
  4. Knowledge and expertise.  Existing dealership management may simply not have either or both of these to design and implement marketing to attract and hire women, or initialize training and financial or equitable incentive programs to make this happen.
  5. Necessary minimal monetary investments. Many management personnel simply may not want to make these investments.
  6. “Difficult economy conditions.”  Many organizations lean on this often-perceived statement as an excuse. This is not an excuse.
  7. Negative reputation. Previous poor treatment and lack of respect. The dealerships experience has left a bad taste in many women's mouths. Women are still greeted on the sales lot with detestable statements such as, “Is your husband with you today?”  With such disrespect, it's not surprising that women don't consider dealership work as a viable option.
  8. Failure to address the needs of female millennials. Times are different. Women in this largest group of consumers want to be in organizations that “feel good” to their basic drives, other than just to climb through positions or achieve high income solely. They want to have better communication with their administrators and are most often prefer working “with” them, as opposed to “for” them.

So, how do we fix this, and not only bring talented women into our organizations but keep them there as well?

With sales consultant turnover figures ranging from 72% to 80%, the highest turnover rate is women at a shocking 90%. Turnover among millennials is presently at 54%. It is obvious we are doing a lot of things wrong.

Here are some realistic solutions to retain women

  1. Get off our butts and try new methods. Explore new technology. Employ marketing specialists comfortable with womens’ needs. Eliminate procedures that we have utilized just because we have always done so.
  2. Re-examine possible positions that can effectively interest and challenge women.  Conduct non-traditional interviews that ask what these interests might be.
  3. Re-evaluate compensation incentives and adjust them.  Consider not just the primary needs of full and part-time women, but their family and personal needs as well.
  4. Take a new look at our models. We must address the elimination of restrictive traditional procedures we may have in place.
  5. Encourage our educational systems to step up to the plate, and support local and regional programs.  We need realistic training at design, management, service, finance, and especially sales: This must happen at ALL levels of the industry.

Today’s women are time-constrained, pragmatic, comfort-conscious, and heavy into efficient and consistent communication with their employers. They are extremely effective at communicating within their own social groups and pay little attention to advertising. They are direct with their customers, and women are especially effective at establishing a meaningful rapport that translates into return business transactions built upon trust.

If we wish to survive, let alone prosper, we cannot wait any longer. Let’s do everything we can to attract these valuable women employees, and provide them with the incentives to keep them with us.

The time is now, not tomorrow.

Statistics in this article derived from the 2015 NADA Dealership Workforce Study.

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