The industry is selling itself short
A worrying trend is surfacing in the local truck and bus industry – and if manufacturers don’t do more to encourage emerging job seekers to take up careers in truck and bus sales, it’s going to create problems.
There is a critical shortage of experienced sales people in the truck and bus industry at present, and very little evidence of young people being employed and trained to take over from the few remaining older experienced sales people. The situation is really sad when one considers that there are so many suitable young unemployed people in South Africa who could be trained to fill these positions.
The situation is also alarming, and should be of great concern to the industry since competent truck and bus sales people play a vital role in assisting potential buyers of new vehicles to select the right truck or bus as well as add-on-equipment for their particular application.
To be competent as truck and bus sales executives, young people entering the profession must do a lot of learning before they will be able to help a buyer to select a new vehicle. They also need skills to ensure that the vehicle they select meets the customer’s needs and presents a solution to their transport challenge.
Until a couple of years ago, some truck and bus manufacturers were employing young trainee cadets and educating them through well-structured cadet training programmes. Sadly, many of the manufacturers who ran successful cadet programmes have virtually stopped doing so.
Manufacturers say there are two main reasons why they have stopped training new people. Firstly, they have found it very difficult to be reimbursed for their training costs from merSETA (the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority). Secondly, once they have spent time and money training young sales cadets, they are enticed away by other truck and bus manufacturers who don’t train new cadets.
The now largely defunct sales cadet programmes were properly structured and well run, and produced competent young sales people. Many of these people have become excellent sales people and are now the main core of truck and bus sales executives in this country – but there aren’t enough of these qualified sales people to fill all the vacant posts.
Other reasons why truck and bus dealers are unable to find good sales people is that some of the trainees who were previously employed in the industry have found that there’s too much to learn in order to be successful. Apparently they also found it difficult to cope with a low basic salary and unstable commission earnings, and have left the industry to sell passenger vehicles or other products that are easier to sell.
In my opinion, another reason the industry hasn’t been able to retain its cadets is that once they have attended training and are sent back to the dealerships, they are over-pressurised
to sell. This puts too much stress on them; they throw in the towel and leave the industry.
Truck and bus sales people need to learn a lot to be able to sell a sufficient number of vehicles in order to earn a liveable wage.
They have to acquire an in-depth knowledge of:
• The Road Traffic Act
• Corporate-sales selling skills
• Sales engineering, so they can select the right vehicle and add-on-equipment
• Vehicle operating costs, and
• Detailed product knowledge of the entire range of vehicles they are selling.
There is no doubt in my mind that truck and bus manufacturers and dealers will soon have to address this sales skills shortage if they want to continue selling their vehicles in this highly competitive market.
One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for 49 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel, 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.