Don’t Let Your Comfort Keep You From Your Calling
In attending the Digital Dealer 24 Conference & Expo this past April in Orlando, it became overwhelmingly apparent that so much of the automobile business has become dependent upon technology to drive growth. As a speaker, I wanted to deliver something different—something that could help individuals and dealerships to develop relationships with customers, employees, and frankly anyone they came in contact with in their day-to-day activities.
So, my session at Digital Dealer revolved around identifying and effectively communicating with the various types of personalities we all encounter daily. First, we identified each attendee’s personality type then showed them how to identify the personality type of people they communicate with. Then, I showed them how to (and this is important) communicate with the various personality types in a fashion that yielded a solid relationship development process because they learned how to “speak,” “email,” “video,” and “text” to each type in the language that the recipient type clearly understood.
My April article took a deeper dive into this very subject. Last month, with the help of Lexus General Manager Dan Kommeth, we constructed an article titled “Technology Does Not Replace Your People” whereby we hit on multiple ‘how to’s’ in developing a better dealership through better, enhanced relationship understanding.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-technology. In fact, I am a partner in a disruptive technology company that identifies and develops technology solutions for problems that have not been solved within several vertical markets including the automobile space whereby we are specialists in geo-fencing dealerships, which identifies all visitors to a dealership. I tell you this because I witness many times a week where I am before a corporate CEO/president or VP-level individual and I immediately identify what makes them tick (personality/behavioral wise) and deliver my conversation on a parallel channel with them and things go smoothly.
The problem comes in when I have one of our really smart engineers in that meeting who speaks to everyone the same way not recognizing the other person does not have the same engineering knowledge as himself and everyone gets a blurred looking expression on their face; Then, I have to unscramble the message in a fashion that the recipient relates to. It’s all about communication and understanding the powerful significance of developing flexibility and adaptability when dealing with everyone.
My presentation centered on what I believe is still the fundamental bedrock of any personal relationship and/or business transaction — having a good relationship. However, good relationships do not simply evolve on their own. They must be cultivated beginning with the initial contact with another person, and then stay true in your communications (according to the personality type you are speaking with) throughout the entire process of the interaction.
Trouble comes into play when your entire team has not been trained in these fundamentals and the customer is handed off on a TO or F&I. If consistency is not maintained throughout the transaction red flags pop up in the customer’s mind and point to confusion on their part. When confusion plays a role, transactions become sticky. Therefore, the entire store has to be training in these 21st-century techniques else, you risk losing a grip on your transactions and lower than expected trust-based relationships.
Most dealers and managers agree their employees are their greatest assets. As a consequence, I like to equate the following simple formula to ensure how important this is: customer relationship development + employee relationship development = business growth, stability, low attrition, and increase in morale, which translates to increased productivity.
I can typically walk into most dealerships and within a few minutes determine the personality complexion of the employees which in turn permeates the customers and their opinion of your store. Does the store, as well as its people, radiate a comfortable, secure, and confident environment or does it radiate the haphazard-crazed approach? One of the primary reasons for the latter is that the people are not given enough positive, motivated attention, and they are not trained well. Your store does radiate one of these two. The question is, which one?
Let me give you an example:
I was strolling through a potential new client 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 and service people along the way.
My question posed to these folks was this: “What do you feel the dealership could do to make you more successful at what you do?”
The most prevalent answers were:
- “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 salespeople 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.”
- “Managerial involvement.” “The managers don’t seem to want to take the time to help me succeed and seem irritated when I ask them a question.”
- “When I interviewed for this job I was told I would be trained. So far, I was told how to do paperwork but nothing about how to sell. I have been here three months and have to rely on other salespeople for help.”
Training was at the top of the list from both seasoned sales professionals and new hires alike.
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.” When I asked why, he said, “Well, that’s simple if they don’t come to work we don’t sell cars.”
Next, I asked him how much they spent monthly on advertising. “$80,000 a month,” he responded.
I then asked him how much they spent on training their people, and his reply was “zero?” “Why zero?” I asked. “O’ I have too many irons in the fire to take time for that,” he said.
Wow, zero? And your greatest assets are your people? That’s kind of like investing in a million-dollar beach or mountain house and letting it wither away without any maintenance being performed on it. Just let it crumble before your eyes and it, in turn, paying you back by depreciating its value so you will ultimately lose money. I’m sorry that just doesn’t make good sense to me. And the ‘too many irons in the fire’ rap is a flimsy excuse for either not knowing what to do or being too ignorant to understand its importance or maybe just doesn’t want to invest in the solid development of his people. Mark my word, it will cost you 20 times more not to train your people than to train them in good practices and processes.
There are studies that indicate if you 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 customers because employees don’t know what to do, losing additional service opportunities, damaging your reputation because of their frustration and confusion being taken out on customers, administration time required interviewing and getting them on board, employment advertising costs, managers spending unproductive maintenance ‘fix-em’ time instead of on productive tasks, and creating a morale problem to mention a few. Lots of money going down the drain. If you would have just invested a small percentage of the ad budget, this person could be contributing to the overall growth of the store instead of making it go backward. One fellow explained not training people 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 about how the lack of training is commensurate with their high attrition problem the dealer immediately told his GM to get out all the old training programs and boring videos and start training again. That just won’t do it anymore. Today’s auto landscape has changed dramatically. The consumers have changed as well, and using those tired old-school training methods will most likely do more harm than good. New training methods are here so use them. Studies have shown that the best way to approach adult learning is instructor-led training for a multitude of reasons; team engagement, feedback, comradery (learning together and sharing of ideas/concepts), more fun, entertaining, and usefully measurable.
Ok, so if our people are truly our greatest assets why don’t we treat them like they are? It is time to consider carving out a conservative five to 10% of your ad budget and begin to invest in your greatest asset—your people. That newspaper ad will be in the garbage tomorrow, your radio or TV ad most likely switched to another station at the commercial break, your digital footprint on prospects is unnerving, but your people will hopefully still be there day after day, year after year. Doesn’t it just make sense that if you have an asset you want to appreciate, you should be happy to make further enhancements toward its appreciation valuation? I think so, and so do many others.
Your receptionist, service advisers, business office, internet person all need advancement in the new technologies and communications skills. Your sales and service people have to know the new 21st-century way to communicate and handle objections. How about phone skills? Wow, you mean people call before they come in. Yes, they do, and the closing ratios can hover around 40-45% when processed properly. Train them in the proper techniques, and you will see your asset begin to soar. Re-focus on training you will make an indelible cultural change to your store for the better. Good ERD will certainly render good CRD—and a whole lot more.
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.