How does a Car Dealership relate to real life?
January 3rd marked the year anniversary of my showroom opening.
I started working for the company before this but it was just a building site then (I documented it’s progress here: http://lifestyleseatbrighton.wordpress.com).
The New Year, 2013, saw me thrust into the limelight of the sales environment on my own, fresh from the protective shield of University. My boss was very supportive but I had no idea what was ahead of me.
A 5ft 1 (and a ½) female in a very mans world.
To celebrate my own little anniversary I would like to look back on what I have learnt.
The first thing is that black cars don’t just come in 1.4 petrol engines (apparently I said this on my first day) and I am now a fully-fledged petrol-head. Sometimes I even read AutoExpress or WhatCar because I want to…
But, aside from cars, there are several life lessons that the showroom has given me…
1. ‘Individual priorities are very different.’
One day I told a customer that he needed to give me sixteen THOUSAND pounds (I have written that out to explain how incomprehensible I found that figure).
He sighed. Looked at his partner. Then said ‘oh ok then.’ AND PUT HIS CARD ON THE DESK.
Maybe it’s being a student for so long. I just couldn’t understand how anyone could have £16,000 at their disposal on a Monday afternoon.
That day I learnt that not everyone views money, or the world, the way I do.
Its good to step into others peoples shoes every once in a while (although I wouldn’t advise stepping into mine; I’m a size 3 and that might hurt you).
I have since tried to see things from a neutral point of view. My customers know what they can or can’t afford- I’m there to present them with the figures and how it applies to them.
2. ‘Men never stop farting.’
Not really sure what else to back this up with.
I lived with lots of blokes at uni. Maybe they were sheltering me from what blokes are like.
Maybe they ate better than the blokes in our showroom… but the smell…
3. ‘Our society is sexist.’
Don’t get me wrong… we’ve come a long way over the last hundred years or so but there are obvious sexist issues that I encounter every, single day.
Everyone assumes I am the receptionist. Even women. People think I can make hot drinks and carry them. I do neither of these well. People assume I don’t know about cars. I do.
People assume I can’t drive or park. I can.
Maybe I deserve it, choosing to work in a male-orientated environment, but there are obvious advantages to this. People trust women. Women buy cars and (most) would prefer to deal with a woman who understands their needs without coming across as patronising.
4. ‘People Lie.’
I’m the first one to admit I have had a sheltered life but the only incidences where I have encountered lying is when I did actually look fat in that dress, or which friend really went home with which fella.
In the showroom people are always lying. Lying about the history of their car, lying about values of cars, lying about what other dealerships have said.
I found this difficult to deal with at first but I think I’m beginning to understand why people are lying, and will continue to lie to me.
5. ‘Men can be bitchier than women.’
I can make this sweeping statement because I have encountered two very extreme environments over the past few years.
The first was the dance industry. Very heavily female biased. Women could be nasty but they are also fiercely loyal.
Then there is the showroom, predominantly all men. If there is a sniff of intimidation they start to gossip. They can’t help it! Don’t go blaming the women guys- I’d actually say you are worse!
6. ‘First Impressions are Important.’
If I see a bad fitting suit I clench my jaw.
It reflects badly on you and the company that you have not endeavoured to sort out your personal appearance. Why would the rest of you (your business/your attitude/your service/your effort) be any different?
Smiling is incredibly important- the British public are impeccable at picking up on a genuine smile. And any mention of the weather gets everyone excited. Don’t even get me started on a ‘snow’ conversation when cars are involved.
We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but it is the first thing we see. We are voyeuristic. We can’t help it.
7. ‘Always say Thank You’
Exactly. Manners people. C’mon!
8. ‘People don’t know how funny they are.’
I have taken to documenting moments of comedy gold in the showroom. I won’t be able to do it justice in this blog. Instead I’ll continue to build on this humorous goldmine and publish a book..
Ok I’ve teased you with it now, here’s a tiny taster: Let’s just say the other day I had a customer who screamed out a high decibel reading every time she felt The Holy Spirit in her waters. The test drive was difficult for me.
The sales environment brings you into contact with all sorts of wonderful people.
9. ‘Lunch breaks don’t exist’
I assume this happens in most workplaces but the showroom doesn’t stop for lunch. Ever.
Sometimes you eat as you go but if you sit down whilst reading something, someone usually attacks you with sarcasm.
‘Oh having a lunch break are we?’
Sales people are human too!
10. ‘People will walk over you… if you let them.’
I considered putting this under the ‘lying’ category but it is different.
I was a push over. People frequently try to guilt trip me into getting more money off. My colleagues do it too. ‘Oh would you mind moving that car Therese?’
I’ve learnt to stand up for myself. Looking stupid can only happen a couple of times before you grow some thicker skin.
Not aggressive, just… assertive.
Whilst reading back over this I can see there are quite a few negatives highlighted. I don’t see them as negative, purely educational.
Needless to say this has been one of the most difficult years of my life but unbelievably necessary. I have grown up considerably and my levels of determination scare me sometimes. I should point out that I would have abandoned this career choice a long time ago had it not been for my managers showing utmost belief in me. Maybe they can see something I can’t.
I know I’m still stupid, immature and naive. I find every innuendo hilarious but I think some of these qualities need to stay with me.
People relate to a small, giggley girl, who knows her stuff, enjoys the paddle shifts on the Bocanegra and is determined to be the next Anita Krizsan… who knows?
The 2014 showroom is mine.