A Better Pitch: Car dealers offer free seminars to improve quality of sales staffs




Carl Thomas never thought getting laid off would mean a turn for the better.

For more than a decade, Thomas had worked as a boiler/generator repairman for the Cleveland Board of Education, including eight years at John Adams High School. That was until he was bumped from his job by a fellow worker with more seniority.

Since last spring, he has been a new car salesman at Crossroads Lincoln Mercury in Independence. In just over two months, he has sold 11 new cars and shared a commission on another. He is pleased with his strong performance and his new career.

Thomas is one of 203 graduates of the Northeast Ohio Training Academy, a sales seminar set up by local car dealers to improve the quality of salespeople they hire.

Since last year, when the free program began, academy graduates have racked up sales of $10 million in new and used cars, estimates the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers Association. Gary S. Adams, CADA executive vice president and secretary.,

"Selling cars is not as easy as many believe," he said. "You may have to work nights along with Saturdays, in addition to some long hours."

Attracting and keeping good people is the major problem facing new car dealers today. said Tony LaRiche Jr. of LaRiche Chevrolet Inc. in Willoughby Hills. He is chairman of the CADA training academy.

"We feel our training seminars have significantly lowered our sales personnel turnover," he said. The three-day seminars are conducted by Hal Becker, a former Xerox salesman who conducts sales classes nationwide.

``It is only a lot of common sense built into an individual's plan for success," he said. "On the last day, we use a new car to walk around a new car and explain what consumers will probably ask or how their questions can be answered."

Not everyone can succeed in sales, and not everyone remains in the sales part of industry, Becker said. "But after the seminar, the individual will know if they want to continue."

Robert Ziol, a new salesman at Reliable Oldsmobile in Independence who has a degree in public relations, said he had taken many management classes at Ohio State University. "But nothing compared to the advice from the seminar. I learned how to listen and deal with people."

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