Category Archives: Cars for Salespeople

How Poor CEO Decisions Impact Sales Reps: The VW Recall

An Interview with Aaron Hansen, Sales Manager at Cambridge Volkswagen.

Volkswagen-TDI

If you are a sales representative, sales manager, or other front-line staff, there is nothing worse than finding out the head of your company made a huge mistake that reflects poorly on your company.  In some cases, you may have a head’s up of the bad news and have time to prepare, be proactive and inform your clients directly before they find out from a 3rd party, however this is not always the case.

As most of you are aware, Martin Winterkorn, the recently resigned CEO of Volkswagen, had approved the decision to install software on over 480,000 “clean” diesel vehicles in the US between 2009-2015. This software only activated the cars’ pollution controls during emissions testing (while on a hoist) which has now prompted a world-wide recall of nearly 11 million vehicles. This was obviously a fraudulent means to pass the rigorous EPA standards in the US and will end up costing VW up to $18 billion.

Most certainly, this is not the first scandal of its time, especially in automobile history.  In my opinion, the majority of large corporations are guilty of some sort of fraudulent activity, just not all of them get caught.

Where I feel pain, is for the sales people.  They had no say in the executive decision whatsoever yet have to deal with the wrath of chaos the CEO’s have created for them. No matter how bad the news, the sales reps have to suck it up, put on a happy face, keep smiling and continue selling.  I have been there and it’s not easy.  For those of you who are in this situation, I would recommend reading my previous article on The Rumor Mill: How to Grind it to a Halt Before it Hurts your Business.

In this article, I have interviewed Aaron Hanson the Sales Manager at Cambridge Volkswagen here in Canada to get his take on the incident and how he and his sales force are handling the matter.

TSW:How did you find out? Did you have any advanced notice or time to prepare?”

AH: “No head’s up at all.  I saw it on the news the morning before I came into work.”

 

TSW: “How did you and your team react to the news?”

AH: “We were all stressed initially but the fact of the matter is, we sell the cars, we don’t build them. This is not the first or the last time this has happened to a car company. Regardless of what it is in the news, VW is still a great brand that we all have faith in.  We have always and will continue to focus on great customer service. It is a small upset so we just persevere, with smile!”

 

TSW: “How do you stay positive?”

AH: “Easy, we are still alive! It is what it is.  Only 30% of our sales were TDI models and the rest were gasoline powered.”

 

TSW: “How do you feel this news will impact sales now and in the future?”

AH: “Unknown. It is only 5 days in, so it is too early to tell.”

 

TSW: “What sort of message have you been relaying to new and existing customers?”

AH:  “All our TDI customers (whose contact info we have in our database) were contacted immediately. We sent everyone a message informing them of the news, if their vehicle was affected and encouraged them to call us with any questions and concerns.”

 

TSW: “What kind of responses have you been getting?”

AH: “99% Positive. Almost everyone took the time to reply and say thank you for the follow-up. They were really appreciative of the proactive approach that we took.”

 

TSW: “What have you been saying to new potential customers who come into your dealership?”

AH: “We are completely upfront with them from the get-go.  So far, none of them are really concerned. They all still want to buy! The primary reason people buy our diesel vehicles is because of the fuel economy and they buy from us because of our excellent customer service.”

 

TSW: “Since your reps are 100% commission based and have specific monthly quotas for different vehicle types (diesel, gasoline, used), will you still be upholding those targets or adjusting them?”

AH: “Right now, it is unknown how this news will impact sales because it is too early to tell.  That being said, we are being flexible and seeing how and if sales will change.”

Based on my interview with Aaron, I think he is doing the best a sales manager or representative could do when faced with this particular situation. If you find yourself in this situation, I recommend you follow this example.

Aaron has been my sales rep at Volkswagen for the past 10 years.  I have purchased 3 cars from him, 2 of which were TDI’s, so am I concerned about my TDI vehicle or the VW Brand?

No.  I am a trusted and true VW fan and as I said previously, most major corporations lie and engage in some sort of fraudulent activity and so did VW. So what? What else is new?  I still love my car and I still stand by the fact that I think the VW Passat TDI is the #1 Vehicle for Sales Reps.

I did not buy my car for “green status” which it was never eligible for here in Canada anyway.

I did not buy my car so that I can drink water out of the exhaust.

I purchased my VW Passat TDI because of the fuel economy, handling, comfort and because of the excellent service I have always received from Aaron and staff at Cambridge Volkswagen.

A great sales rep can go a long way, and in most cases can be more important to the consumer than the company they represent.

I would love to hear from other sales reps about how you have dealt with a similar situation where your company has received some negative press and what you and your team did to overcome that.

Happy sales my friends.  Remember, even when times get tough, keep persisting and keep positive no matter how hard it may be.

Cheers,

TSW

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Top 4 New Vehicles for Sales Representatives

BusinesWomanInCAr

Having a sales territory that encompasses the entire country of Canada, it’s only inevitable that I do my fair share of driving. I routinely drive quite far from my home base in my own car but I will not drive across the country.

When I fly to Western Canada for example, I always rent vehicles.  For someone who is regularly in the market for a new vehicle, this is a huge perk because not only am I exposed to so many different types of vehicles that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought of but I also have the opportunity to drive them for extended periods of time.

When most of us are purchasing a vehicle, we may only spend 10 minutes giving it a test drive.  In my opinion this is not enough time considering the amount of money you will be spending nor is it sufficient for deciding whether or not the vehicle is suited to you and your needs.  If I will be spending over 1/3 of my day in a vehicle, I want to make damn sure that it is:

  1. Safe (i.e. drives well in the snow, has a sufficient number of airbags, performed well in crash tests)
  2. Comfortable
  3. Functional (i.e. has enough power outlets storage space, compartments, etc.)
  4. Affordable (both in terms of payments and fuel economy)
  5. Has Sufficient Storage Space (for literature, equipment, personal items etc.)

*Note that the above criteria are not necessarily in order of importance.

When you spend 10-20 minutes test driving a vehicle, can you be assured that that vehicle meets all of those criteria?

So, all of that being said, based on my experience driving several different types of vehicles for extended periods of time in different road conditions, this is my list of the best new cars for sales reps or other road warriors. I say ‘new’ because most companies require their sales reps to drive relatively new vehicles and therefore I will not include reliability in the criteria because new cars all come with a standard warranty.

Top 4 New Vehicles for Sales Representatives <$50,000:

***Note: I kept the figure below $50,000 because I am of the belief that if you are in sales your car should look nice, but not be too flashy and expensive. Your car is an extension of you and the company you represent.  You want to look professional, sharp, savvy but NOT flashy or cheap.

4. Toyota Rav4 AWD

Toyota-Rav4This is a solid all-round vehicle that is comfortable, affordable, roomy and drives well in the winter. The Rav4 used to be my #2 choice, however in recent years its quality and functionality has declined. Recent models performed poorly in crash tests and the handling is noticeably looser making it feel more unstable.  The other setback which applies to us road warriors is that there is only a single power outlet, so good luck if 2 of your multiple devices needs a charge!

3. Chevrolet Impala

Chevrolet-Impala-2015Out of all the cars I’ve rented, I have driven these the most.  They are comfortable and very spacious which is great if you’re setting up a mobile office.  Fuel economy has improved over the years but isn’t the best in its class which can be a pain if you do a lot of driving and need to fill up every day. Although it is only a FWD, it is quite front heavy and drives very well in the snow if you have a good set of winter tires. The Impala has recently been redesigned to give it a more polished look which I find appealing. It no longer looks like you borrowed Grandpa’s car.   Overall, this is a working man’s car that functions very well and is safe.

2. Jeep Compass 4×4

2015_Jeep_CompassI never thought that I would include a Jeep on my list because of their historical poor reliability and bad reputation for being gas guzzlers, but after driving this vehicle for 3 days, I completely changed my mind.  The biggest shocker was the fuel economy.  I was pleasantly surprised to get approximately 600km on a single tank.  It was also extremely comfortable to ride in. The dash was nothing fancy, but it was functional and had multiple power sources which is essential for any mobile office!  There is a tremendous amount of storage space although the vehicle itself is quite small and handles extremely well in tight situations as well as in the snow.  The 4×4 option is a huge plus if you drive in the winter.

  1. VW Passat TDI

VWPassatTDIThis car is by far the best car for sales representatives and needless to say, that is why purchased one.  Aside from the luxury look (both interior and exterior), it is extremely comfortable, spacious and most importantly, you can’t beat the fuel economy!  As you can see in this photo below, I got 1000km (approx 621 miles) on a single tank (actually only using 54L or 14.5 gallons) without the fuel indicator warning going off.

VWDash1000km

Diesel is still cheaper than gasoline here in Canada, so that is an additional savings. The handling is far superior to any Japanese or American vehicle.  The steering is tight and solid. Although it is only a FWD, it is excellent in the snow when equipped with snow tires.

The biggest shocker about this vehicle is the price.  Even though it looks and handles like a luxury car, it is cheaper to run and maintain than a Honda Civic!

Honda Civic Sedan:  Base Price $28,500 CAD. Driving Range: I was filling up every 350km at a cost of $45-50CAD

VW Passat TDI: Base Price for Comfortline (model I have) $29,000 CAD. Driving Range: I fill up every 950km at a cost of $55-60 CAD

In a perfect world I would have a 4×4 or AWD Diesel vehicle but unfortunately, it is impossible to find one for under $55K CAD.  So in the end, I opted for the most fuel efficient “luxury-looking” vehicle that performs well enough in the winter with a good set of snow tires.

If you’re a road warrior who is in the market for a new vehicle and are looking for an unbiased opinion on different models, feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to help.

In the meantime, drive safe fellow road warriors!

Cheers,

TSW

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