Fraser Brown, managing director of MotorVise Automotive
The gender inequality that persists within automotive retail could be addressed by simply modifying the recruitment process, says motor trade expert Fraser Brown.
While the days of salespeople characterised by ‘Swiss Toni’ – the fictional car dealer who featured in 90’s TV comedy The Fast Show – may be long gone, such stereotypes linger in the consciousness of many customers.
Prior to founding MotorVise Automotive, Fraser managed multi-site franchise dealer groups and is all too aware of the positive impact on sales that a diverse and balanced sales team can have.
He said: “The modern motor trade is adopting a customer-focused approach and has moved away from the days of testosterone-filled showrooms where female customers and anyone who wasn’t a ‘petrol head’ were left feeling distinctly uncomfortable and unwelcome.
“When I first worked in dealerships, there were few women in sales, and I managed to increase the ratio to around 40 per cent.
“I did this by designing and holding bespoke recruitment days. The wording of the adverts changed, and they were less about must-hit targets and performance. Instead, the emphasis was on promoting the role of a salesperson as host, with the aim of making the client feel valued.
“As a result, we recruited more people with the right customer-focused skills, a large proportion of which were women.”
Fraser also changed the recruitment process by moving away from short, pressurised interviews to longer periods of assessment, which allowed female applicants to feel more at ease and grow in confidence.
He has taken these lessons into MotorVise Automotive, which organises specially designed recruitment days for dealerships to ensure they find people with the right skills and behaviours.
This includes group and individual exercises to uncover candidates’ strengths, weaknesses, and true personality, plus assessments that offer a more holistic view of applicants and ensure a better organisational fit.
While the gender ratio continues to move in the right direction, one 2020 study found just 28 percent of women working in automotive sales, compared to 39 percent across dealerships as a whole – suggesting more must be done to bridge the talent and skills gap.
Fraser added: “It’s important to have a diverse and balanced workforce which allows dealerships to create a better experience for all its clients, especially women.
“Dealerships need salespeople with listening skills who provide clients with solutions, rather than leaving them feeling intimidated, ignored, or pressurised. If clients leave feeling valued, having had a good experience, they are much more likely to return or make a purchase.
“There is still some way to go in terms of gender equality within automotive sales, but this industry must act if it is to banish the damaging ‘Swiss Toni’ stereotype once and for all.”