By on March 19, 2018

2017 Nissan Titan Crew Cab - Image: Nissan

To think of the Nissan brand is to think of nameplates like “Sentra,” Rogue,” and, just maybe, “Pathfinder.” That’s traditionally as truck-like as a non-gearhead’s thoughts get after hearing the automaker’s name. As it continues to position itself as a serious truck maker and Detroit Three competitor, Nissan knows this needs to change.

While the little Frontier has graced our landscape for two decades, the process of purchasing one usually comes down to looking at the window sticker, asking if it comes in a cheaper version, then perusing a very basic list of features. Little different than buying (or selling) a car or crossover. That works for the simple Frontier, which sells great despite its advanced age, but it doesn’t work for would-be Titan buyers who stop in at a Nissan dealer after kicking the tires over at the Ford shop.

With this in mind, Nissan’s now moving its Titan-boosting efforts into the showroom.

According to Automotive News, Nissan salespeople are the latest improvement area for the automaker. While the current-generation Titan and its new, larger Titan XD sibling bowed for the 2016 model year, sales staff apparently still need guidance on how to sell them to truck people.

“There has been a lot of training — and a lot of training is needed,” said Tim Hill, a Florida Nissan dealer owner and chairman of the Nissan National Dealer Advisory Board.

“A lot of it’s new for Nissan dealers. Before, we had basically one model of the Titan. Now we’re going more head-to-head with the domestics, offering many different truck variations. That’s a learning curve when you haven’t been selling full-sized trucks.”

2017 Nissan Titan King Cab - Image: Nissan

Buyers interested in the Frontier aren’t likely to ask about payload or towing, but you can be sure Titan buyers will. As well, the current crop of Titan models are far more varied than the singular model of the past. Gas and diesel power, multiple cab and bed configurations — the Titan line resembles that of other serious full-size pickups, and salespeople had better know what buyers want to hear.

“It takes specialized training to understand the different customers in the segment,” Hill said. While the in-store training focuses on the Titan line, rival pickups aren’t going unmentioned. It’s doubtful a buyer will walk into a Nissan store without cross-shopping other trucks, and that’s why Nissan staff need to know the gear ratios of both a Titan and an F-150, he said.

“When you’ve been selling cars and crossovers that don’t come in these different configurations, you’re just not used to it.”

On the product side of things, Nissa has done seemingly everything in its power to make the Titan an appealing package. A stripped-down version for work crews, single cab models for the contractors and public works departments, plow attachments, and a factory lift kit are just some of the tactics Nissan has employed to gets buyers into the model. It seems to have paid off, but there’s always room for improvement.

February sales of the Titan line in the U.S. rose 25.9 percent, year over year. Over the first two months of 2018, Titan and Titan XD sales, collectively, are up 35.7 percent.

[Image: Nissan]

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26 Comments on “Nissan Fixes a Problem: Salespeople Who Aren’t So Hot at Moving Trucks...”


  • avatar
    Sub-600

    There’s precious little a salesperson is going to offer as far as enlightening me on a car I’m interested in. I know everything I need to know when I get there. What I need to know is what type of deals are available and when I might take a test drive. That being said, I’ve often wondered why salespeople aren’t better versed on what they’re selling, I mean, given the time they spend standing around. I’d be interested just for my own edification, let alone the fact that a potential sale may depend on my knowledge, or lack of it.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      It is rare to find and hire a salesperson who is also a gearhead.

      But I had the distinct honor and pleasure to know one of such people, a 22-yo USC grad named Sally who grew up in El Centro, CA, and worked the Alfalfa farm owned by her family.

      She could tool and wrench with the best mechanics, loved pickup trucks, and earned an economics/marketing degree.

      Problem was, she didn’t last long as a car sales person because the really good ones rarely do.

      She got a job offer she couldn’t refuse and last I knew she was working real estate sales in SoCal, making really Big Bucks, and living in $million-plus homes she buys and sells, using other people’s money.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      Knowledge is the enemy. It’s much easier to sell if you only have superficial knowledge.

      How else are you going to talk someone into a big ticket purchase when:

      – there’s an improved version coming next year that will make the current models totally unappealing

      – a competitor sells a better product for the same price

      – a competitor sells the same quality product for less

      – a competitor sells a better product for less money

      – there’s a less expensive / better version of the vehicle that suits the customer’s needs better than the one you’re trying to move

      It’s not auto specific. Unless you own the business, there’s not a great reason to be an expert in the item you are selling to the general public. You need to know just enough to not embarrass yourself, and perhaps just enough to answer questions in a manner that leads towards getting the sale.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      “I’ve often wondered why salespeople aren’t better versed on what they’re selling”

      Working as a Nissan salesman in the early 1990s I must say that the company provided very good product training. I absorbed it like a sponge, and became a true professional at what I did.

      The problem was the six-day work week, low pay, abusive dealers, abusive customers, etc. Nobody with any pride ever hung around long.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        “That being said, I’ve often wondered why salespeople aren’t better versed on what they’re selling, I mean, given the time they spend standing around. I’d be interested just for my own edification, let alone the fact that a potential sale may depend on my knowledge, or lack of it.”

        I’ve wondered the same thing Sub-600, and my impression generally is that it is a combination of some modern “no commission” dealerships that are a rotating door of low skill people from elsewhere in retail; be it failed realtors, the kid that was selling printers at Best Buy 2 weeks ago, etc. That and generally most of the population not being anything close to “car guys,” let along serious gear-heads and DIYers.

        The last time I did deal with an experienced and professional salesman, it was at a Subaru dealership. The guy (white dude in his later 40s) knew the product inside and out, was incredibly polite and well spoken, and applied basically no sales pressure. It helped that we liked the Outback we test drove. I was so impressed that I’m seriously motivated to go look at the Ascent with my wife when they come out, specifically setting up a time with that salesman just because we had established such a good rapport. I’m normally someone that wants to squeeze every last dollar out of a deal, but I’d honestly be willing to pay more (to a degree) in this case to reward the gentleman for his professionalism.

  • avatar
    scrubnick

    I actually just bought a Titan last week. They finally offered what I was looking for; base model, regular cab, 4×4, long bed. The salesperson was cute definitely not the most knowledgeable. I was probably her easiest customer. I knew what I wanted, knew they had one on the lot (for a long time) and basically just came in to sign paperwork. I can imagine that for a truck buyer that is actually comparing and needing to be sold on it that the dealers do have some room to improve.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Garrett-

    I can tell by your post you have never been a truck owner. As someone who frequently tows-and has towed a travel trailer coast to coast-I can tell you to sell a truck you need more than “superficial knowledge”. I am going to be asking about rear end ratios, maximum rear axle weights, payload capacity, etc. The Ford and Chevys (don’t know about Nissan) come with different axle ratios-some not maximized for towing.

    So yes-to sell a truck you need to know your stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      Well, for 3/4 tons and up, sure. For 1/2 tons, it’s a toss up these days given how many people are coming from family car shopping, the nitty-gritty is not always needed. Else Toyota wouldn’t be selling as many Tundras as they do. Do you really think Jason from accounting or Spencer from PR is going to ask the Toyota salesman “what is the best gear ratio for max payload if I choose the 1492 ;) package with the everything option?” Nope.

      Now to sell an XD requires a whole new level of BSability.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “Now to sell an XD requires a whole new level of BSability.”

        The Titan is VERY popular in MY area among young military men AND women, probably because of the lower price and easy financing.

        Not much salesmanship requires when they automatically qualify for no-down 1.75% financing from, among others, USAA, local credit unions, and some of the smaller local banks.

        • 0 avatar
          CKNSLS Sierra SLT

          highdesertcat

          Your right-if your not going to use a truck to it’s full capability and the only thing that matters is the monthly payment-it’s all you care about.

          However-if you decide one day to hook up 7,000 pounds behind it one day-and you wonder why it’s crawling up a hill-it’s because it’s got the wrong axle ratio.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Agreed, I live in mountainous terrain and for decades I towed fully loaded trailers of construction materials up US 82.

            My comment was specifically aimed at the XD because many young military men and women don’t care that it is a diesel, since they drive diesel trucks on the flightline all day long.

        • 0 avatar
          TwoBelugas

          Why buy an XD when for the same money you can get a real 3/4 ton with better gas and diesel motors from the big 2.5?

          The 5.0 diesel is a dog of a motor that both Dodge and Toyota passed on, and real world MPG from 5.0 Cummins is not much better than 2500/F250 gassers, and its towing/payload is just miserable for a 7400lb truck. That’s right, the XD tops out at 7400 lbs!

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Often dealers will throw a slow mover on special as a loss leader.

            The Titan trucks have generally been slow movers, compared to other brands, and the XD turnover may be even slower.

            The XD can be had at pretty good discounts at some dealers in the American Southwest, which is fundamentally F-series country.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Tweener XD “GVWR” is only to compensate for the added weight of the diesel and related hardware.

            The Titan/Cummins “Concept” was no doubt met with cheers and applause by “the suits” at Nissan, until a nerd engineer pointed out the negative capacity it’d have, meaning zero or less payload/towing.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “Why buy an XD when for the same money you can get a real 3/4 ton with better gas and diesel motors from the big 2.5? ”

            Like HDC said, the price.

            The discounts on the XD makes even Ram blush.

            However, if I was getting an XD for some odd reason, I’d likely just stick with the gasoline V8.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            I was seeing bro-d out XDs show up in the OBX almost immediately after they went on sale. Forget the towing/payload numbers, it’s one of the cheapest ways (after discounts) to get a diesel crew cab 4×4 that you can slap a lift and huge tires on and go belch smoke on the beach with.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      Wrong on both counts.

      I have previously owned a truck.

      Anybody who cares about everything you mentioned does their research beforehand. If they don’t, it can be looked up at the dealership.

      They do not care about selling the best vehicle possible to the customer. They care about selling what they have to sell.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Interesting. Usually all it takes is the prospect of much fatter gross profit and thus a better comission to figure out how to move the metal. Full size trucks have that.

    I wonder if Nissan dealers intend to continue to pay their salespeople small flats even on Titans.

    If it were a Detroit 3 showroom, they’d sooner let you walk if you weren’t there for a truck. More time to work truck customers that way.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I always know more then the salesperson at a dealership when it comes to the vehicle I’m looking at. Sometimes a staggering amount more. Now with that said when I bought my Dodge truck many years ago the fleet manager did review some things with me and tried his best to juggle the option packages to find a truck that fit my requirements. In the end he gave up and just ordered it as I requested but I applauded his efforts. I also had a very good VW salesperson, mainly because my brother told me to go see this guy. We had already decided on the car but this particular guy pointed out many features of the vehicle along with some trick stuff. For example holding the door key in the lock position would close all the windows for you. Cool… thanks sales dude! But today you would learn that via some wacky YouTube video.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    They should start pushing the fact that ALL Titians are assembled in the USA.

    Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find current data for the % of USA/Canada parts content, just for the previous generation.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      It’s hard to wave the Old Glory with any sincerity when the truck’s big logo on the grill literally says “Japan Industries”.

      They might have better luck having a US only sub brand that cuts off the immediate association with the parent brand as much as possible. Nothing funnier than seeing Nissans and Toyotas with Metal Mulisha decals and a giant flag on the hitch mount.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    This came up in a quick google search-

    The Titan was designed in California, engineered in Michigan and is assembled in Canton, Mississippi. Although the transmission is sourced from Japan, all of the engines are made in America. The standard gasoline engine is made in Tennessee, and the diesel engine is made in Columbus, Indiana. Like the Frontier, more than 50 percent of the Titan’s components are made in the United States and Canada.

    My Sierra was assembled in Mexico…….

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    What are Nissan salespeople supposed to do? The “problem” is the Titan. Like how many Titans can there be at Nissan dealers at any given time? 2 for each? 3 maybe?

    “Man I hope you like the XD Platinum Reserve in Metallic Pea with every conceivable “Package”, luckily there’s only 2 Packages for it…”

    Otherwise what can they can do besides point them at the nearest Ford or GM or Ram dealer?

    Nissan and Toyota want to sell you a pickup, just like it’s an Altima or Camry. Three trims, 2 or 3 packages for each or scram.

    Buyers of fullsize pickups are very specific on the exact truck they want. And they sure don’t want to wait for it. If they do order it custom, never mind axle ratios, man there’d better be close to a million different ways/combinations to spec it out.

    I don’t know if Nissan understands this market, like a foreign film without subtitles, but let’s start by not blaming the sales staff.

  • avatar
    George B

    I’m starting to think that salesmen have about as much to do with sales as a crowing rooster has to do with a sunrise. Both annoy you with a lot of noise, but have little influence over events. Good products at a good price sell in spite of the salesman, not because of him.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Often, the problem in the sales game is the sales person and/or the sales manager.

      ” Good products at a good price sell in spite of the salesman,” is absolutely correct but in more times than not, the sales person or sales manager wants to dance when the buyer does not.

      The basic question, a direct approach, of “How much does the store need to sell this vehicle for?” brings consternation and upset to the sales staff. This is contrary to what they have been told is the game of selling, upselling, and padding the final transaction price.

      And then they’re surprised that the prospect walks out the door, leaving them wonder, “WTF did I do wrong?”

  • avatar
    dont.fit.in.cars

    Titans along with any quarter ton are large sedans with an open trunk. Take one look at an XD rear axle, leaf suspension and six hole wheel pattern.


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