Visiting with various dealers throughout the country the last few weeks, I decided to conduct a survey identifying what they believe is needed to increase business from the front end sales department.
I first asked them how things were going. “Well, we are holding our own,” was the most common response.
That reminds me of General George Patton’s response to his troops in World Was II when his officers radioed back from the front lines saying essentially those same words; “We are holding the line.” The general responded, “I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We’re not holding anything, we are advancing constantly, and we’re not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy. We’re going to hold onto him by the nose, and we’re going to kick him in the a–. We’re going to kick the hell out of him all the time and we’re going to go through him like crap through a goose.”
Ok, well that was pretty clear as to how Patton felt about pushing forward and advancing towards victory. Isn’t that how we also need to inspire our dealership’s troops as well? No more sitting still just pushing forward? Holding on is for the other guys. It is not for a store that wants total dealership growth and success.
I am not suggesting for a moment that we act anything like the various car guys you have no doubt seen on Youtube ranting and raving, belittling people, discouraging and destroying sales people’s spirits. Frankly I think these types of people should be hung on the flag pole out front by their heels for all to see what a poor leader they have become. How could anybody in their right mind ever think that negative input like this could ever produce the best positive results?
Sure, you might scare them into a short term ‘fear of failure’ action but it is just that, short term. You are not growing people. You are tearing them down, and believe me, they will hate you for it. Sorry, I get crazy when I see this nasty stuff because this is the major contributing factor for what is and has been creating such a bad reputation for the car business. Remember, our prospects are watching this garbage as well and in doing so they are developing personal opinions about us.
Ok, so back on track, in these interviews with dealers, whether it was selling new or pre-owned vehicles, it was obvious most dealers have the same problem when it comes to developing a ‘Navy Seal’ like trained sales team.
What is needed is to have one ‘Champion’ in the store to be in charge of the growth, training and well being of that team. Not just in charge, but totally accountable and responsible for the increase in sales knowledge and training, motivation, encouragement, providing assistance, consistency, vision, team building and process fulfillment.
Big list. But real champions are not shy about the grand prospects of goal attainment and have unshakable confidence in shooting for the Gold Medal podium, so why would this task give them any reluctance in the least? However, faith without corresponding action is dead in the water. It will take you nowhere except disappointment. Faith and action together can provide immeasurable good works.
Remember last month I wrote about finding someone who goes from Tourist to Tour Guide?
A dealership champion will be your Tour Guide planning the route, showing the route and leading the team to the right destination which is people and store growth.
Having faith and expectancy that we can reach new goals successfully is the ignition or starting point for this adventure. Following through consistently with expecting it to happen is the engine to make it happen. All too often, dealerships believe one thing but their actions demonstrate the opposite. Consistent expectation and action = goal attainment.
The problems standing in the way as stated by these dealers were for the most part the same:
- Who in my store should become the Tour Guide?
- What resources should the Tour Guide have at his/her disposal to create business improvement, and finally,
- Will they stick with it?
Who in the store should be the Tour Guide?
Any leader; sales manager, business development center manager or general sales manager who has the following trait:
One who get things done successfully thus separating them from those who merely dream about it. The difference? An attitude of total faith, commitment and action that seeks uncompromised expectant success in the face of any problem and is willing to pull out all the stops to go for the gold.
The tour guide needs to know how to work well with his or her people. As a result, the people will be eager to be lead to new soaring heights of success. Tour guides have to understand the group dynamics and be able to be flexible and adaptable to the multitude of personalities.
If I owned the store I would compensate this tour guide to take on this significantly important role. When all the tools are implemented properly, you can expect a 3-6 unit increase per sales professional along with higher gross profits quickly. So to compensate the tour guide is a small price to pay and keeps him/her in the groove.
What resources should the Tour Guide have at his/her disposal to create business improvement?
If you are to have a total ‘in-house’ sales development program solution you better start by throwing out all the old training manuals from yesteryear and begin with the today and tomorrow progressive techniques. What got us here will not keep us here.
A few dealers showed me some of the programs they were using and I had to laugh because 90% of the material was dated, useless and frankly riddled with very old approaches. “If I could would ya” stuff is way dead and has been replaced by the new communication approaches which get us to where we want to be and where the customer wants to be.
And, get this; these new approaches have better grosses and happier customers.
Funny how that works. The new techniques intertwine all the skill elements, floor sales, phone sales, follow-up, internet, email, prospecting and people skills to enable sales people to get more done in less time with awesome results in units sales and gross profits while developing better customer relations.
Nothing up the sleeve here, just solid leading edge 2010 developmental skill sets that have not been in place before. These development sessions need to be on a regularly scheduled day and time. Not to be confused with ‘sales meetings’ where we hand out rebate information. No, these are good thinking times with no distractions. Half of the sales team for a couple of hours then the other half so schedule them when you have floor coverage.
Once you get them accustomed to these events they will look forward to them especially when you are well prepared with the good stuff. Sure I love going into my clients’ dealerships for two or three days every two or three months to help with these development and leadership sessions but your people need this every week or at least every other week to become foundational. You wouldn’t allow Alex Rodriguez to only have batting practice once a quarter would you? No, so keep your team practicing and becoming better frequently and watch their batting averages improve.
Will they stick with it?
If you are piloting a fully loaded oil tanker moving forward and you immediately shift it to full reverse, 30 minutes later the ship stops, before it really starts reversing direction. Keep that in mind when managing your dealership. Don’t keep changing your direction. Your organization will not be able to cope with it.
Stick with the good long term stuff and make it your store’s long term plan and have patience in getting there. If you are a senior manager or dealer/principal it is your responsibility to say we are changing to a new store culture and we will be training and implementing new ways of doing things and I want everyone on board for the journey. If you have some that want to abandon ship let them jump because you have to have everyone on board for it to succeed.
Failure is contagious but success is infectious. Say: “I’m proud of you guys. You’re a bunch of winners. We’re getting better every day.” Or, “You’ll do better next time.”
Reinforce success and correct for mistakes. You must reward success and lead for improvement when needed. Expect some failures. Remember you’re dealing with human beings. Give the people the latitude to learn and grow but remain firmly planted on the pathway for new and enhanced growth. There is a vast difference between knowing and doing. Just make sure you know what you are doing and then do it.
Once you catch the scent of these new improvement methods you will never let go. I have amassed tons of material on the above and would be more than happy to share with you some of my most important observations and a couple of planning guide ideas for you to achieve your new and improved in house solution. Write me a short email requesting ‘solution’ and I will send you out a guideline to get you started in accomplishing a total in house development solution so your store can begin reaping the rewards right now.
Ken Blanchard nailed it when he said, “There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”