Would you agree that great people drive greatness and without good people, your business is just a sound check getting ready for the real show? I do and that is the message I wish to expand upon. There is a long-standing concept going around that states; this new market economy is all about taking stock in people. Without motivated, well-trained and cared for team members, the dealership loses its most important component, the relationship.
Consider this: without first building solid relationships with our team, it becomes difficult for them to build solid relationships with their prospects, managers, teammates, and customers. The end result is that we most likely will not have ‘loyal’ customers. Just temporarily satisfied ones. While obvious, this reality is often overlooked. The solution is either re-tooling your current team or finding and developing new ones equipped in building long-lasting customer relationships.
When I sit down at the very first meeting with a dealer/principal and his or her entire management team to explore what opportunities a sound customer relationship approach could mean to the store, I begin with the three letters, CRM on the whiteboard. I then ask which of these letters they consider to be the most important. Eighty percent of the time they respond by choosing ‘C’ or customer. I guess this response stems from the car business that tells us we have to have a customer in order to sell them a vehicle.
Just like us to put ourselves first, you know, sell them a car. Perhaps it stems from one of the million definitions of CRM; Customer centric or customer first. However, when you look at the statistics of the number one reason given by new vehicle owners when surveyed as to why they purchased their vehicle, 82.4% responded: “Because we liked our salesperson.” Hmm, don’t you think the ‘R’ could be most important simply because it is difficult to even have a purchasing customer if there is not a relationship? In most cases, it actually requires a good relationship.
Hopefully, we are in agreement that relationship development is a good starting point. Now let’s look at the various relationship areas we need to focus our attention in order to achieve an overall acceptable foundation for understanding relationship building. Before the customer ever gets to the dealership there is another relationship construction site which needs to be developed, stabilized and rendered with consistency; The Management Team. We all know that most managers would rather manage paper than people. Paper does not challenge them, talk back to them, ignore them or in most cases, demand immediate attention. Our problem in this business for way too long has been expecting monumental ‘people developmental’ skills from our managers without providing them with the learning tools to teach them.
It is indeed unfortunate that, as of this writing, I have not seen one automobile manufacturer provide courses on leadership to the thousands of managers who are managing the salespeople who sell those manufacture’s products. Sure, they provide product knowledge and some selling skills, but not leadership skills. In order for a store to grow, it must have managers growing in leadership skills before they can grow their people. And, this applies not only to sales but service, parts, and administration. You see, relationship development needs to be an all-inclusive dealership campaign. The truth is there are a lot of managers but so few leaders. And, leadership is the single most important element in relationships that must be present in order to build a business that withstands adversity. Conversely, without effective leadership, it becomes like a rudderless ship. The wind blows from the west the ship goes to the east. Usually, we end up going in circles instead of choosing the direction we wish to head because no one is at the helm. Leadership… choose it or lose it.
“Real leaders transform the present into something better. They say ‘goodbye to yesterday and hello tomorrow’ with an optimistic attitude.”
Sure, technology can help you get exposure and get folks in but then people take over the process. When you open a bank account what has to happen before you start using your debit card or writing checks? That’s right – you have to make a deposit. Similarly, when we deal with employees or customers, we have to make several “emotional” deposits with them before we make a single “emotional” withdrawal.
I shopped a dealership recently. The salesperson walks up and said, “welcome to (dealership) my name is Joe and you are?” Then, got very close and sticks out his hand. This guy made three emotional withdrawals from my emotional bank account before he made any deposits. It saddens me to see the perpetuation of old techniques being employed in today’s new marketplace. People simply don’t know what they don’t know and if they have never experienced exponential team growth they usually can’t imagine it occurring for them. But this a fallacy because any workplace can turn things around.
Invest some emotional deposits into your team and watch the difference it makes. Ok, sometimes they mess up. Instead of ruining their day and beating them up (which they pass on to your customers), identify the error and let them know the next time you are sure they will get it right. Let them know you have full faith in their talents and know they will make better decisions in the future. This way they can maintain their dignity and go out to pass on positive deposits with their customers. Remember, praise in public, reprimand in private.
You have likely viewed the TV commercials for eHarmony.com and other various dating sites. Yep, I’m comparing automobile retail to online dating because eHarmony.com has a truly remarkable feature – Personality Profiling. Profiling like the method utilized by eHarmony serves as a foundation for connecting people with deep, lasting relationships. If personality profiling is strong enough for launching long, loving marriages, its positive impact on your employees and your customers could possibly be outstanding as well. And while personality profiling can improve just about anything that involves people, we’re going to delve into two specific situations for you to use in your store today.
The First Use for Personality Profiling Is With Your Own Team.
There are essentially four types of personality profiles each having sub-profiles with various specific attribute traits. However, for the most part, each of the four major profiles is easily identified and therein lies the secrets or instructions in how to deal with each person exactly the way they want to be treated. Each personality profile has its strengths, as well as its weaknesses. As a manager, it’s vital for you to understand the personality profile of each person belonging to your team. This insight will help you affirm each person’s positive actions, and alter his or her negative traits and help them be more successful in the long run. In addition, this enhances the overall morale of any business and productivity.
Think about it, if your employees are working in a respectful and cohesive fashion and they are more productive then they are less likely to leave your employment seeking other opportunities. Why should they leave you and end up in a toxic environment where everyone is cutting each other’s throats? As a leader, if you strive to develop a pleasant workplace by understanding each team members’ profile and helping them to become the best they can be because you “understand” them, your attrition goes down and production goes up.
Does your dealership have people that just don’t get along or a team that just doesn’t seem to gel as a single entity pushing in the same direction? If this is the case, the solution may be found by utilizing the first step of personality profiling, awareness. You, as a manager, should implement a personality profile understanding program. Through the utilization of this type of program, each of your employees will learn about their own behavioral tendencies, and how their tendencies impact the people they interact with daily.
This will have a greater rippling effect than you could ever possibly imagine because, by in large, most people aren’t aware how much their actions, language choices, and verbal- and non-verbal communications affect how their communications are received. The result of this hit-or-miss interpersonal connectivity prevents a group from totally harmonizing, and creates unnecessary animosity among teammates. Once your team grasps the concept, continue to challenge each person to modify their interpersonal communications to create total team harmony.
Managerial Tip: The tongue can be used either as a weapon or a tool, hurting relationships or building them up. Sadly, it is often easier to destroy than to build up, and most people have received more destructive comments than those that build them up. Every person you meet today is either a demolition site or a construction opportunity. Your words will make a difference. Will they be weapons of destruction or tools for construction?
The Second Use for Personality Profiling Is With Your Customers.
The most basic foundation for selling and servicing vehicles is building relationships with your customers. If you don’t believe this, stop reading this article and head back out to coerce and hammer on another fresh-up. However, if you’re one of the many dealerships to embrace this concept, personality profiling may be the missing link. Several years ago, CRM software was touted as the key to building and keeping relationships, and it has taken most of that time for people to realize CRM software only represents 10% of the solution. CRM is there to facilitate and help your people and processes become better. The missing link, however, was, and continues to be, the human element, and more importantly, modifiable interpersonal communications which build relationships.
So here’s the solution: train your sales staff to identify their own and each customer’s personality profile and adjust their message accordingly to each individual they speak with. If they can effectively, in a repeatable manner, practice active listening and message modification, everything will increase! Sales will go up because more leads will be converted to completed deals. Gross margins will increase because the focus of conversation will be moved off the topic of price and onto the relationship part of the business. And CSI will go through the roof because customers will be sold directly at the level they are comfortable buying.
Question: Do you believe that your dealership has room to improve current performance in several areas? Most intelligent leaders would quickly say yes, absolutely.
A question you may ask yourself is do I have the right people on board to execute a value-added relationship building type business strategy? With proper tools and training in most cases, I believe we do. The big challenge and the $64,000 question is: Do we have the leadership and the fortitude to implement these changes to streamline and improve the employee and customer experience in our showrooms?
I have worked with both small, medium and large dealerships in helping them identify multiple things we could turn into greater opportunities because we (the dealer and my team) worked together as one team looking in the same direction. The successes came about because the dealer wanted to improve and sent a strong signal downstream that we would all work as a single team to ensure those successes took hold for the long term. I know if you want to improve, it can be done because I have seen some great transitions over the years even when it looked gloomy. The single biggest preventative factor getting in the way of improvement is “starting.” You have to turn the ignition key to get the engine started and same holds true for any successful strategy you employ.
Your concern should be that if your store doesn’t implement these changes then some other dealership will probably see this as a great opportunity to initiate those changes, improve the buying experience, and by then it could be a disaster for change-resistant dealers.
If you have a regular training firm, give them a call to ask if they offer a course emphasizing personality profiling curriculum with communication adaptability. However, if you don’t have a training firm, or if your firm doesn’t have an applicable course, email me and I can point you in the right direction. The most important item to take from this article is that you need to start embracing personality profiling while you’re still ahead of the curve. Make it a great place to work and your customers will make it a great place to buy.
Come listen to Chuck speak further on this topic and learn a flexible and adaptable approach to communicate with other personality types at Digital Dealer 24 in Orlando, April 10-12!
Author: Chuck Barker
CHUCK BARKER is President & Founder of Impact Marketing & Consulting Group, located in Virginia. He has assisted Dealers & Corporations across the country in Sales & Service Development training programs, Management Leadership Workshops and Business Improvement/Analysis Consulting. He is a pioneer in BDC, CRM, Best Processes and Team Member Development since the early ‘90’s. Chuck has held Automobile, Corporate and International Executive positions for over 27 years. Chuck has been a monthly author/contributor for Dealer Magazine for over 11 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.