Dealerships! Your Sales Team Should Be Mentally Tough

High employee turnover plagues auto dealerships, far exceeding the average turnover rate in most other industries in the United States at 54% for the high performing dealerships and up to 71% for the poorest performers. The costs associated with bad hiring decisions can be high and with automakers relying heavily on dealerships for new auto sales, service, and parts, the performance of dealerships impacts heavily on automakers’ overall profitability.

In addition to wages paid, the obvious cost implications associated with selecting the wrong person include unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits and administration, time spent interviewing potential replacements, training a new hire, and managing a recent recruit more cautiously, only to unnecessarily repeat the process a few months later.

The hidden costs of a bad hire are difficult to quantify but could include losing potential sales, the wrong hire alienating prospective customers or losing existing long-term customers, the negative effect on the morale of other employees, negative online reviews, and even legal problems. In terms of bottom-line costs, average estimates suggest the cost of turnover is around 20% of an individual’s annual earnings on top of what a bad hire was paid.

McKinsey & Company conducted a survey designed to identify what distinguishes top-performing dealerships from average performers. They found the number one area where top dealerships stood out was in their use of talent management practices, such as structured interviews and formal training and that these had a significant impact on profitability. But what qualities should dealerships be looking for and developing to reduce the impact of unnecessary employee turnover and build a top sales team?

Steve Martin from The University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business found that seven main personality attributes; modesty, conscientiousness, achievement orientation, curiosity, lack of discouragement, and lack of self-consciousness impact top salespeople’s success. These traits can be compared to various aspects of the 4Cs of mental toughness model that can determine how we perform under pressure.

Mental toughness describes the mindset we adopt in everything we do and is closely related to qualities such as character, resilience, and grit. Studies consistently demonstrate links between mental toughness and performance, the adoption of positive behaviors, and wellbeing.

In the workplace, mentally tough individuals show greater commitment to setting and achieving goals and targets, they respond more positively to challenge, they deal with adversity and setbacks with greater confidence, and have a stronger sense of being able to control their ability to achieve. They are better at prioritizing their workloads and focus on continuous improvement and achieving their best. The four core components of mental toughness are control, commitment, challenge, and confidence and below, we look at each component in more detail:


People with high levels of control regulate their emotions better, they keep anxieties in check, and are less likely to reveal their emotional state to other people. These individuals are more likely to believe they have a significant degree of control over their lives, that their plans will not be thwarted and that they can make a difference.


People high in commitment seem to translate what they need to do into goals and targets that enable them to prioritize, plan and monitor several tasks at the same time. They appear to be prepared to do what it takes to deliver what has been promised (to themselves and to others) including working hard where needed.


Those high in challenge are more prepared to take risks and seek out or create new experiences and opportunities. They are prepared to see all outcomes as learning opportunities – whatever the outcome, good or bad.


Individuals high in confidence are more likely to believe that they are a truly worthwhile person. They are less dependent on external validation and tend to be more optimistic about life in general. They are inclined to be more assertive. They are less likely to be intimidated in social settings and are more likely to push themselves forward in groups. They are also better able to cope with difficult or awkward people.

Mental toughness can be measured in terms of the four core components through the MTQ48, a psychometric assessment that provides a reliable and quick assessment of an individual’s ability to withstand pressure in a wide range of environments. As a relatively plastic trait, if the individual has an open mindset, mental toughness can be developed through exercises, coaching, and mindfulness techniques.

With dealerships facing growing challenges, such as increasing competitive pressure from dealership groups with deep pockets, improving facilities, staff training, managing inventory, new technology to streamline sales, F&I, and service processes, and with customers expecting more rewarding purchasing and service experiences, you want your sales team to be mentally tough to manage and welcome the challenges, have a can-do attitude, be responsible and reliable, and demonstrate resilience and grit. Let us know in the comments section below how you think mental toughness can make a difference to your sales team’s performance.