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The Complete Guide to Hiring Product Specialists

Posted by James Patrick Kahler on November 16, 2016

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There’s a budding trend taking over the sales department at many dealerships.

 

Over the last several years, dealerships have been transitioning their traditional sales associate positions into product specialist roles. A product specialist focuses on the customer’s basic needs and helps eliminate the pressure most people associate with the car-buying process. They work on a fixed salary as opposed to hitting monthly sales numbers, allowing them to focus all of their energy on finding the best car for customers.

 

Today’s customers are very informed and do significant research before setting foot into a dealership, so the product specialist’s key role is to answer questions and demo the newest technologies many of today’s vehicles include. Some in the industry have come to compare the role of a product specialist to that of an Apple Store Genius.

 

What’s the need for a product specialist?

 

As automotive technology advances, so does customer education on the vehicles in your showroom. The majority of today’s customers are more informed than ever, and the need for a traditional sales approach is not working as well as it used to—both on the dealership end and the customers they’re pitching to. Customers don’t want a sales pitch upfront when they come to the dealership. Instead, we’re finding they’re more interested in building upon their own research and getting any extra details on the vehicles they want.

 

There’s also today’s Gen Y workforce to consider when employing product specialists. Traditionally, this group of job seekers has been hard to recruit and retain, but that’s beginning to change. According to a recent Automotive News article:

 

“The pay structure (for product specialists) also helps the dealership attract recent college graduates to its sales team, which it rarely did before its new structure.”

 

The product specialist employment model helps meet the needs for everyone—the dealership, today’s younger workforce and the customers. Employing product specialists helps improve customer experience and loyalty, while simultaneously lowering employee turnover.

 

Hiring product specialists is quickly becoming an industry trend and should be something every dealership ought to apply if they want to keep up with the needs of today’s buyers and job seekers. Before you consider deploying this sales structure at your dealership, there’s something you need to know that’s essential: the right way to hire a product specialist.

 

Here’s a guide to hiring product specialists, with four steps on how to go about getting talented product specialists into your dealership, the right way.

 

Part I: What to Look for When Hiring Product Specialists

 

Dealerships face the challenge of attracting young professionals and recent college grads for employment, especially in the sales field. This is why dealerships have resorted to reinventing the typical sales role into product specialists—where employees work on commission, reasonable hours and help improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

 

According to our team of Hireology Talent Coaches, here are the critical factors to look for when hiring for a product specialist:

  • New to the industry—You want your employees to be molded into your system, not bringing bad habits to your dealership
  • Ability to be a sponge—If they know nothing about the car business, then they must be prepared to absorb information and be ready to be molded
  • Aptitude to demo the vehicles—Not number crunching
  • Knowledge of technology—Must be savvy to speak to tech and upsell this information with automobiles
  • Provides great customer service—Willingness to learn and develop knowledge of how to help customers

 

There’s an infinite amount of job seekers out there that could be the right fit for the job. Don’t limit your recruiting to only those with experience or a relative job history. As long as a candidate has the right attitude and personality, he or she could be the exact employee you’ve been looking for.

 

Part II: Where to Find Those Who Are Fit to be Product Specialists

 

Dealership executives must know how to find and recruit preferred talent when it comes to building a team of product specialists—which means sourcing your candidates. You need to proactively determine where you want to locate top talent. Think about using job boards such as Indeed.com, Glassdoor, LinkedIn and Snagajob so you can source candidates from the world’s best job sites.

 

WHAT TO DO

 

According to our team of Hireology Talent Coaches, here are the critical factors to look for when hiring for a product specialist:

  • Publish jobs to the most effective job boards
  • Implement social sharing through your social media pages
  • Transform your website into a customizable job site
  • Use digital and mobile-friendly job applications
  • Apply candidate pre-screen surveys
  • Consider setting up an employee referral program

 

Outside of utilizing job boards, Hireology’s Talent Coaches strongly recommend attending college career fairs and most importantly, building a strong social media presence for your dealership. This includes information such as company culture, career opportunities and employee reviews on your dealership’s Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter pages, as well as helps ensure your dealership remains current in the minds of your potential job seekers.

 

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Part III: How to Attract the Right Talent

 

There are two critical factors for attracting qualified candidates to fulfill your product specialist roles—the job post (which includes a job description) and the career site. Most young job seekers aren’t looking to get into traditional auto sales, so highlight the fact that you’re hiring for a product specialist position to drive more interest in the millennial market. Let job seekers know this key difference in the job description and post.

 

HOW TO POST YOUR JOB

 

Here’s an example of a Product Specialist job description:

 

JOB: Product Specialist

 

COMPANY: Jon Doe Automotive

 

RESPONSIBILITES:

  • Assist customers in selecting a vehicle by asking questions and listening carefully to their responses
  • Direct clients to online tools available for reviewing vehicle options, packages, features
  • Prepare and present demo vehicles so latest technology is enabled and ready for display (Bluetooth, navigation, green fuel options, hybrid tools, etc.)
  • Explain product performance and benefits
  • Describe all optional equipment available for customer purchase
  • Build strong rapport with customers
  • Perform high-quality, professional and knowledgeable presentation and demonstration of new/used vehicles
  • Work closely with Sales Manager on pricing tiers associated with different models & their respective technology options
  • Assist with lead generation by managing incoming email leads & set appointments for vehicle demonstrations all over email and text communication
  • Prepare email collateral for clients in anticipation of scheduled appointments, making sure clients are informed before they walk into the dealership

 

REQUIREMENTS:

  • Compensation is salary base + bonus
  • Enthusiastic with high energy throughout the sales workday
  • Prepared to be a “sponge” with Sales Managers
  • Eager to learn about the automotive industry
  • Ready to hit the ground running on learning new products in & out
  • Outgoing with a friendly personality
  • Have quality customer service skills
  • Possess strong communication skills

 

BENEFITS:

Add any benefits that your dealership may offer for employees, such as: 401K, medical and dental insurance, paid time off, etc.

 

Put Your Career Site To Work:

 

Updating your dealership career site is critical when attracting today’s product specialist job seekers. A-players are attracted to strong and positive work culture. They also want to see a clear career path, as well as the impact your company has in the local community, so be sure to highlight your dealership’s workplace culture on both your job postings and career site. Design, word choice and other essentials also play an important role in attracting applicants and top talent.

 

Find all the reasons why you might need to update your career site here, which includes a free career site checklist.

 

Need to update your career site or create a new one?

 

Don’t let a non-existent or old careers page slowly fading on your website get in the way of finding great product specialists. Take action and recognize ways to improve and enhance your careers page and employment brand. If you’re not sure where your website stands, then follow these seven signs it might be time to reboot this crucial part of your dealerships hiring process.

 

Part IV: Interview, Verify and Hire Your First Product Specialists

 

After you build your talent pool with a number of applicants, it’s time to interview your top candidates for your product specialist positions. Starting this process with a phone interview is the best way to prioritize the best candidates from the other applicants. From there, it’s highly recommended to conduct in-person interviews with the preferred candidates so you can get a better feel of who these people are and whether or not they might be qualified to work at your dealership. Lastly, before you make your hiring decisions, it’s always best practice to verify your candidates via background and reference checks.

 

WHAT TO DO

 

The following information will help you conduct interviews and run background and reference checks specifically for product specialist candidates:

 

The Phone Screen—To get a better sense of who the applicant is, make sure you ask about his or her careers plans, what they like/don’t like, their job history and finish up the call by providing any information you have about your open product specialist role. {To get everything you need to know about phone interviews, click here.}

 

The Face-to-face Interview—These interview questions are different compared to the phone screen. This is the time when you can learn more about the candidate and measure his or her work behaviors and personality. {To get a list of interview questions for a product specialist job, click here.}

 

Verification—The last step of any good interview process contains background and reference checks. There’s an easy way to do this, without having to spend extra time on your end. {To get the ins-and outs of conducting these screens for a product specialist candidate, click here for background checks and here for reference checks.}

 

This sales team structure at dealerships is changing. More dealerships are finding success with product specialists: recruiting efforts are improving, customer satisfaction is succeeding and overall business is on the right path for thriving in today’s market.

 

Hireology recently talked about the model of hiring product specialists with Michael Marlin, director of the product specialists division at Ray Skillman Auto Group. Marlin explained their success with targeting the millennial market when hiring product specialists:

 

One group we’ve found to be really well-suited for the product specialist roles are college athlete graduates. They really understand the team aspect of working together to reach a goal and working through challenges and connecting with people.

Beyond this, we’ve built out our website and social channels to talk about the career opportunities a product specialist role sets you up for. We found that a lot of our talent pool didn’t realize the opportunity you can have in the automotive world and we’ve worked very hard to make strides here: especially with millennials.

 

As for highlighting the benefits and opportunities to attract this group of job seekers, Marlin added:

 

We’ve really thought outside the box on highlighting the benefits of starting your career as a product specialist. If you visit our Facebook page or website, you’ll see content we created specifically to highlight our career opportunities, and what working in our dealerships is really like. From those we’ve hired, we’re finding that people watch and consume this content and want to work with us because of the material they’ve seen about our dealership and our opportunities.

Besides the website, we’re also carving out some of our TV advertising budget to create a spot for product specialist commercials. We’re actually rolling out a series of rotating spots - with a clean, professional look - to get our employment brand out there and position us as a great place to work.

 

Don’t let your dealership fall behind your competition when hiring new sales employees, especially on the product specialist end. It’s time to start employing product specialists so you can improve customer experience and loyalty, as well as achieve the hard-to-reach goal for every dealership—lower turnover.

 

To get your dealership on the right path to building a more efficient sales team, talk to a Hireologist today by clicking the link here. To get a printable version of this blog/guide, simply click on the link below.  

Product specialist guide download

 

Automotive Industry, automotive hiring, Retail Automotive, Dealership Hiring, Turnover at Your Dealership, Dealership Product Specialists


James Patrick Kahler

About the Author

James Patrick Kahler is Hireology’s Copywriter & Content Specialist. He is a graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and has over four years of professional experience writing for various industries. Outside of the office (and sometimes inside), he has a passion for comedy, advertising and his Cleveland sports teams…all of them.