There’s No Future in the Past
Recently I visited nine different dealerships in a two-week time frame. My purpose was to listen and conversationally assist those dealers in dealing with issues plaguing their stores. So many things clamor for our attention in dealerships but few truly deserve it. Interestingly enough, the similarities of their concerns were quite amazing and each deserve nothing less than our undivided attention.
The constants they asked my opinion on were as follows:
Attracting, hiring and retaining good employees
- Developing consistent profit and customer relationship processes
- Development and growth of all team members (proper training for all departments)
- Customer service training (for all team members who have a customer touch point)
- Leadership understanding and implementation for their management team
- Getting all departments to understand and participate in managing the numbers
For years now, I have seen countless dealerships and dealer groups invest tons of money into heavy advertising, non-essential technologies, shiny objects and notably, large inflatable animals, most often in the likeness of King Kong. For the most part, are these investments (costs) returning a reasonable ROI?
“The individual talents in your store are paled by the sum of those talents working together.”
I guess one could argue when a couple is driving down the highway and the wife says “hey there is a giant dinosaur lets go buy a new car.” When I asked a dealer friend who is a rather good golfer about this, without a hesitation he said, “Chuck, you drive for show, and putt for dough.” Even though he may play more golf than I’d like (his bad day is a 79), he had a great point. Your go-for-broke long drive advertising and your inflatable King Kong are all for show.
So, my goal for this article is to help your putting, or in other words help direct your investment to, as my friend said “Putt for dough!” Now, what exactly does it mean to putt for dough? In short, it is the discipline to allocate your recourses, both time and financial, to your dealership where they will generate the greatest return, and not necessarily where it will generate the most fame or locker room “raw, raw.”
By far, the best place to practice your putting is with your team members. Nearly every dealer principal I speak with agrees that their most valuable resource is the men and women serving their dealership. If you agree as well, but you are not doing enough to help your people grow, you are not showing the courage to improve your bottom line.
From my perspective, there are several ways to invest in your dealership and the following are just a few:
Training Your Team
Not all training is equal; not by a long shot! With that said, you need to find a training firm that has a 21st Century approach to training. In the mid to late 20th century, selling involved marketing a product based on features, performance, and status relative to substitutes. This type of selling relied on information asymmetry where the selling agent knew more than the purchaser. But thanks in large part to the Internet information revolution; information asymmetry is drying up fast. And because of this, selling has, and is continuing to change. This is why it is imperative that you interview your training approach with the highest possible scrutiny. The last thing you want to do is pay someone to teach your team skills that are outdated, overused car stuff, ethically challenged or simply flat out wrong. To help you find the right training firm, I’ve created a list of essential classes your staff needs.
- 21st Century Communication Skills. It all starts with our words.
- Behavioral pattern identification for adaptability and flexibility in dealing with the variety of different customer personalities.
- CRM process and due diligence training. Mining the wealth of opportunities in your database especially “Orphan Owners.” Stop and count how many customers you have and most likely, 40% of them are orphans. Need a special process though to do it right.
- Contemporary Telephone skills for everyone who touches a customer. In today’s marketplace, roughly 75 to 80% of opportunities require solid phone skills.
- Prospect follow-up management discipline. Around 80% of selling opportunities remain unsold. An “unsold” is only an opportunity waiting to happen.
- The Fine Art of Negotiating & Closing. It all hinges upon this critical moment.
- Leadership Development Training. It takes “growing managers to grow team members.” If management is not growing then your people nor your store will grow!
Key Point: The clincher here is you and the leadership team must stay the process course to learn and support these new endeavors or else you are wasting your time. If you want a road map towards ideas send me an email.
Hiring Your Team
Attrition is the nature of any business, and even the best teams loose people. When this happens to your team, save time and money by hiring a solid principle based recruiting firm. But just like training firms, finding a recruiting firm that will find, nurture, and deliver the best people possible is a tough job. Think of this search as practicing those 4-foot knee-knockers, but the result will be more dough for you in the end. Here is my short list to use when searching for the right recruiting firm.
- I personally like on-line firms who utilize technology and therefore have a presence and pull from all the jobs sites. If you want a recommendation based on my experience, send me an email.
- Ask if they have a one-time per recruit fee, or if they offer a performance charge.
- Discover their recruitment process, and use your gut. If their process appears to trick potential employees, find a different firm. But if their process is straightforward with mechanisms for discouraging poor performers, you have found your recruiting firm.
- Do they have a website that thoroughly exposes processes and is well presented? If they have this in place then the likelihood of this firm’s approach most likely will be solid as well. Also look for credibility and references.
Once you find a recruiting company that meets your requirements, stop spending money on advertising for employees. If you reallocate that budget to your recruiting firm, you will end up with more, higher quality people to serve your dealership. And, save time in the process.
Key Point: It is extremely important that you do have a well thought out and written hiring, interviewing and on-boarding process in place. If you don’t, you will NOT attract new qualified candidates into the business because the paradigm of the “car business” remains skeptical in the minds of many. You have to show them you are corporately inclined and have a well developed and written training/development/mentor plan for their successful career advancement into the business. If you need some ideas on formulating this solid process, send me an email.
Managing by the Numbers
The Heisenberg theory simply states “You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” When you understand that the system and ‘practice of measurement’ does exert a psychological influence on the people being measured, that, in and of itself, affects the operating results. Part of the control process is measuring people and processes. The measuring action alone works like the Heisenberg Principle and affects the results.
Measuring systems, people or processes should focus on the ‘activities’ to insure the desired results. Communicate priorities to your entire team. What is important to the manager then becomes important to the employee, and what the manager does not give attention to is perceived as unimportant by the employee. Choose it or lose it. The key here is to make certain you are checking on the correct things.
I particularly like what Sam Walton practiced – Management by walking around, seeing and hearing what was going on. Or inspecting instead of simply expecting. He could have chosen to sit in his office and guess at outcomes or become dependent upon his managers to tell him their ideas of what was happening. The MPI should not be reserved for the service department. It needs to be a regularly performed leadership practice. Remember; “You do get what you inspect, not what you expect.”
Why is this important?
Management needs to understand that there are unintended, un-thought factors that affect productivity. Watch what you say, how you act and what you emit to your team.
Management should be mindful of understanding what and how to deal with the emptiness after a certain project was managed, implemented, and life returns to normal. Gotta start a new initiative. Keep your initiatives, learning, leadership and personal growth workshops ongoing!
The relationships that managers develop with employees tend to influence the manner in which the workers carry out directives and the productivity they produce. Better focus on positive, enhancive and new employee relationship initiatives. Employee satisfaction index (ESI) creates better CSI. Believe it and live it.
The team is important; there is a social system that is interdependent in the workplace. The individual talents in your store are paled by the sum of those talents working together.
Key Point: Have a meeting once a month to go over in detail, department by department the numbers which drive your business. This should be a wide open approach to growing your business by growing each person responsible and making them accountable for their departmental growth. Base your plan upon targets to meet or exceed. If you need a good idea on how to approach this important event send me an email.
Just like in quantum physics or quantum mechanics: The very act of observing a system, or people will in itself affect that system and the people. In this case, behavior is altered simply because it is being observed and making the people feel valued.
Now get out there and practice your putting!
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: email@example.com.