In the automotive training business you have to constantly try to stay within your own niche. By doing this you are able to move forward when you understand what you plan to teach and not just wing it. In dealing with a pre-owned department you’ll find that the last 15 years have slowly reverted into the same IT world that all the other departments live in. Pre-owned software and assistance with managing that department is necessary. (I never thought I would hear myself say that). In today’s climate you get a flavor for who is around you and how they are pricing their cars. It gives you an opportunity to look at what’s aging too rapidly, what’s turning the quickest, etc. We all know what’s on pre-owned software so it’s not necessary for me to go through what it does for you.
When doing an in-house, pre-owned department analysis for a dealer or a dealer group, it is necessary for us to listen extremely close to what the managers tell us in the initial meeting about the biggest problems they face every day. In the last six months I changed the way this is done. I asked these managers to write down the single biggest problem they would change if they could while we were in this meeting; not sign it, fold it over, pass it to the front of the room and then I would write it on the whiteboard. What has really amazed me is, hands down, eight out of 10 of these problems are going back to some form of the basics in the lost art of selling, and how little these managers really know about teaching basic fundamentals to their sales force. One of the things that has become big in management training classes that we are doing now, is simply role playing with these managers on things such as, how to greet a customer without saying the old worn out cliché, “can I help you,” or the five minute dissertation of introducing themselves to a customer and telling them all the awards the dealership has won, how long they have been there, how many committees the dealer is on, and what charities the dealership supports; but how to get back to being a person and how to fill in that pregnant pause between a greeting and actually going to the vehicles that you want to show and ultimately overcoming that pause that every salesperson faces when qualifying a customer.
These are making an enormous difference in the number of demo rides we are seeing. The next thing we go over in basic simple terms is how to improve the gross in your store. We are so focused on being competitive with what our software problem tells us is market worth that we don’t actually put the focus on “product worth.” You can find any item, anywhere that’s cheap, mid-priced or off the charts in any commodity that you buy. Gross and profit on a pre-owned car are dictated by the ability to discuss its worth.
That is why going back to the basics and involving your sales team in pre-owned walk arounds are so paramount.
“We might be better with a dog with a note in its mouth.”
That dog can go out and find the treats taped to the window of each car that a customer is looking at. The customer can give him a treat and take the note from his mouth that has a list of everything the customer needs to do in preparation of meeting someone to do the paperwork. I know that was a little far-fetched, but I threw it in for the humor. A sales person in our industry is an artist. Sixty-five percent of the deals we work are going to have a trade involved, in which the majority of those are not our make. In our business we are set up to take in any vehicle offered to us. In return, that is tying up precious operating capital. The knowledge of our product on every make to our sales force is paramount in the turn of those vehicles.
Without exception, every in-house we have done that I have been involved in, on those notes that have been passed up, are more continuity between the sales force and the BDC. In my opinion, when the BDC is putting pre-owned trades or purchases up for sale prior to the individuals that are selling them, even though they’re there, it’s not a really good idea. It seems to be that if you put the vehicle up the minute that it’s brought into inventory you will have fresh cars up that people are immediately going to go to. Well, in theory that’s great, but the true problem that I have heard from managers is that people will call and the salespeople don’t even know it’s there because it is still in recon and the pricing of the car has not been established. It becomes “a ring around the rosie” for everybody involved.
Selling is an art and no matter what business you’re in it’s going to require human contact at some point ladies and gentlemen. That means a handshake, a welcome and exchanging names. Then you can start the qualification process of what that individual has in mind, while being product savvy enough to get them to it, so a demonstration can come into play. At the completion of the demonstration you want a turnover and a close. That is the simple basic art form 101 that every sales manager should be well educated on and be able to counsel a sales force on any given day.
Until next month.