What's the REAL Cost of a Bad Salesperson?

| by David Metter

If you think good salespeople are expensive, try bad salespeople. In 2017 alone, dealership employee wages totaled over $66 billion and “auto retail continues to boast one of the highest average salaries of any industry,” according to NADA’s annual report. Combine infamously high turnover rates with a decently-compensated workforce, and I’d argue the ACTUAL cost of a bad salesperson in the car business is a lot more than you think. As someone who spent my first seven years at a dealership on the selling floor, I was always frustrated when it seemed like our comp plans served the worst salespeople, not the best ones. 

To attach a dollar amount to what a bad salesperson could be costing your dealership, we first have to define the value of a good salesperson by doing some simple math. According to Automotive News, last year’s average retail gross profit per new vehicle sold was just over $2,000. Let’s call it $1,500 to be on the conservative side. So, a good salesperson selling 15 cars a month at an average gross profit of $1,500 a car is generating $22,500 in gross profit a month for your dealership, or $270,000 a year.

But that’s really not their true value, and this is why…

A salesperson selling 15 new cars a month equates to 180 customers a year. Then you have to factor in the lifecycle of the vehicle and the potential service revenue associated. Let’s say out of those 180 customers, half of them serviced with you. And, of those 90, each returned for service five times over the car’s lifespan. That’s a total of 450 service visits. According to Urban Science, the cost of an average service RO is $128.88. Do the math, then add it to the gross profit and you get $327,996. (My math is below for anyone in question).

·      450 Service Visits x $128.88/RO = $57,996 + $270,000 = $327,996

So in reality, for a year’s worth of customers, we’re talking a value of over $325,000.

That number sets the stage for what a bad salesperson could be costing you – because you can apply the same logic to 15 lost sales, or defections to competing dealers. If you have someone you think is one of your top performers selling 15 cars a month, but they lost 20 quality opportunities, that’s the equivalent of $30,000 a month, or $360,000 a year in LOST profit. Are you willing to lose a third of a million dollars from employing just one faulty salesperson?

If that cost isn’t enough for concern, there’s also the fact that there could be multiple people under your rooftop disguised as your “best” performers. But when you overlay all the opportunities they touched that we know defected – or purchased from a competitor – on top of what they sold, the story shifts and their actual sales effectiveness comes into focus.

The takeaway here is it’s not just about the 20 cars you could have sold. It’s about the dollars attached to those sales and the potential future profit in service revenue and repeat buyers. We all know the closing ratio on a customer is higher if they’ve already purchased from you. Selling a second and third car to someone who already knows and trusts you is a lot easier than selling the first. It becomes easy to watch the total worth of a single good salesperson exponentially expand when you know their number of closed opportunities consistently exceeds what they’re losing – but you need that defection data to get the REAL story.