In speaking with various dealerships, most dealers and managers agreed that their employees are their greatest assets. As a consequence, I like to equate the following simple formula to ensure how important this is:
Employee Relationship Development = Customer Relationship Development.
I can walk into any dealership and within a few minutes determine the personality complexion of the employees, management team and the store’s culture which in turn permeates the customer’s opinion of your store. Does the store and your team members radiate a comfortable, secure, professional and confident environment or does it radiate a hap hazard crazed culture? One of the primary reasons for the latter is that the team members are not given enough positive encouragement and they are not trained well. As a consequence they are not engaged employees. Your store radiates one of these two scenarios. The question is, which one?
Let me give you an example: I was asked to examine a potential new client’s dealership recently which consisted of multiple rooftops in close proximity to one another. I began at one store and eventually ended up at the last interviewing random sales team members along the way. My question posed to them along the way was this: What do you feel the dealership could do to make you more successful at what you do?
Here were the most prevalent answers:
-“Well, we sure could use some training.”
-“They just hired me and no one has trained me yet.”
-“I have never sold cars and the sales manager told me to talk with the other sales consultants to get a handle on things.”
-“I wish I knew what our processes were from day to day. One day it is this way and the next day it is another.” -“I am just not clear as to what to do.”
-“The managers don’t seem to want to take the time to help me succeed.”
-“I would like management to help me learn what I am supposed to do.”
-“My managers spend most of their time sitting at the tower pushing their mouse around, not helping me become successful.”
Career development, training and having clearly understood processes were at the top of the list from both seasoned sales professionals and new hires. Next, I visited with the General Manager and inquired as to how things were going. Of course I had to ask him the simple question: What do you consider your greatest asset to be? He replied: Our people. Why do you say that? Well, that’s simple. If they don’t come to work we don’t sell cars.
Next, I asked him how much the enterprise spent monthly on advertising. He responded with $80,000 a month. I then asked him how much he invested in developing and training their team members. His reply: Zero. Why zero? “I have too many irons in the fire.” Wow, zero? And your greatest assets are your people? That’s like investing in a $2 million beach and letting it wither away without any maintenance being performed on it. Just letting it crumble before your eyes and it, in turn, paying you back by depreciating its value so you will ultimately lose money. That just doesn’t make good sense to me. And the “too many irons in the fire” reply is a flimsy excuse for either not knowing what to do, ignoring employee development’s importance or maybe just not wanting to invest in the solid promotion of team members. Mark my word, it will cost you 20 times more not to train your team members than to train them in good practices.
There are studies that indicate if your hire someone, don’t train them and they leave in 120 days it could cost you upwards of $50,000 to $75,000. How, you ask? Brooming (is he trying to use “broom” as a verb?)customers, damaging your reputation, administration time required getting them on board, employment advertising costs, managers spending unproductive “maintenance fix-it” time and creating a morale problem, to mention a few. Money gone down the drain. If you would have just invested a small percentage of the advertising budget in equipping and training them better, they could be contributing to the overall growth of the store instead of making it go backwards. One fellow explained not training team members like this: “It’s like going fishing without a hook on the line. Sure we got the line wet but weren’t able to reel anything in.”
Upon speaking with another dealership and pointing out that his lack of training was commensurate with their high attrition problem, the dealer immediately told his GM to get out all the old training program videos and start training again. That just won’t do it anymore. Today’s auto landscape has changed dramatically. In particular, the entire “Sales Model” has changed. The consumers have changed as well and using those tired “old school” training methods will most likely do more harm than good. Besides, you will most likely have to dust off a ¼ inch of dust on them before you can use them and in turn create a bio hazard that OSHA would frown upon. New employee development and training methods are here so use them.
OK, so if our team members are truly our greatest assets why don’t we treat them like they are? Is it time to consider carving out a conservative percentage of your ad budget and begin to invest in your greatest asset; your team members? That newspaper ad will be in the garbage tomorrow, your radio or TV ad may be switched to another station at the commercial break, but your team members will still be there. Doesn’t it just make perfect sense that if you have an asset you want to appreciate, you should be happy to make further investments toward its appreciation enhancement? I think so. And so do many others.
All of your team members have to be versed in new communication skills to deal with today’s consumers. How about enhanced phone skills for sales, F&I, service, parts and administration? These employees are all touching your customers and you most likely want your customers to be handled professionally and with respect. Phone skill processes and training for sales/Internet/managers is huge because the phone is the tool that they use for incoming inquiries, Internet customer calls, follow-up calls, owner base calls, orphan owner calls, public relations calls and appointment no-show calls attempting to get them back in. Train them in the proper techniques and you will see your assets begin to soar. Re-focus on developing your team members. Good ERD will render Good CRD, and a whole lot more.
Like Navy Seals, U.S. Army Rangers endure a tremendous amount of training with unfathomable challenges including deprivation of sleep and food to be worthy of being anointed with the Ranger Tab, indicating they have become one of this elite fighting force’s members. They are often asked to do what others consider impossible yet accomplish the task with discipline and confidence. Ranger methods and Ranger Leadership lessons can be transferred to the operational methods we use in our stores.
Imagine while reading the following that you were describing your team members at the dealership as you refer to them as Rangers:
Rangers operate in complex, fluid and chaotic situations. They stand ready to respond to new and unexpected challenges. They think strategically and tactically. They plan teamwork very well and improvise on their own just as well when required to do so. Their knowledge, skills and courage are challenged on an ongoing basis. They are asked to lead important initiatives, often being called upon to deal decisively with key tasks and to leverage fleeting opportunities. They deal with the concrete and the intangible, and they must continually prepare for the future while alertly operating in the present. Rangers must train and learn constantly, adapt quickly and respond expertly. Yet at the heart of it all, they are about individual ability and courage, positive morale, smart thinking and aggressive doing, teamwork and leadership. Wow, sounds like a great job description for us to use in the store.
You would not arm a Ranger team with flintlocks when M4s are available.
What could a dealership attain with the employees all resembling the previous description of them? Unstoppable towards success in every corner of their business comes to mind. OK, so how do we develop, or in some cases, turn around our store to this level of professionalism?
“You can take the twelve best guys and bring them together and fail on a mission. You can take the twelve worst guys and bring them together and succeed on the same mission. To me, the difference between the two is the leader.” – Lt. Col. Mark Meadows, U.S. Army Ranger
One word; Leadership. Once your team members have been ‘selectively’ chosen, the team leader must begin with the process of developing a high-performance unit. Two tasks have to be accomplished quickly. First, the mission (processes and expectations) has to be spelled out with simple clarity. Your team has to know what the mission is in order to attack it. Secondly, the individuals on the team have to be transformed into a well trained, true high-performance team. A team in which every member of the team looks out for and truly cares about others on their team. Without this, you will have constant finger pointing nonsense instead of the team looking in the same mission-oriented direction.
Here is the point; To ensure successful and effective production from your team, changing the way you and your employees do business has to be in your foundation. I particularly like the quote from Herbert Kaufman; “Failure is only postponed success as long as courage “coaches” ambition. The habit of persistence is the habit of victory.”
Persistence is what you will have to have to ensure total team success. You will be leading your team where no one has gone before in your store and you will most likely encounter sizable resistance. Do not compromise your position, be persistent and charge forward with unwavering leadership. Leaders know the way, go the way and show the way. It is your job to take the vision and make it reality. I feel a leader’s number one duty is ‘constantly growing individuals on their team.’ If they are growing, so is the dealership. However, this requires a leader who is also growing in order to grow team members. Question: What have you done for the first time recently to grow yourself?
“Good leaders are always striving to become better leaders” -U.S. Army Field Manual
A true leader understands they have to usher in fresh, professionally inclined ideas and concepts ranging from relationship development skills to closing, not only for their team, but for themselves as well.
You would not arm a Ranger team with flintlocks when M4s are available. So why would you ever consider not providing the proper tools for your team members? Arm them with fresh ideas and professional skills which will create a huge gap of differential when comparing your store to your competitor’s. And, your business will grow with a lot less pain and drama.
Care more about your customers and they will care more about doing business with you. But you have to start with the care of your team before the customers ever receive it. If you would be interested in receiving more information on this subject send me an email and I will send you what I consider the “The Essential Foundational Elements for Leadership.”