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6 basic needs that motivate your dealership staff and how to meet them

Over the past months, automotive retailing experts have talked at length about complacency. Many dealers and managers are now asking themselves—How do I coach and motivate people when profits are through the roof? Today on Inside Automotive, Jonathan Dawson, Founder and President of Sellchology Sales Training and host of CBT’s Mind Your Own Business, discusses strategies for discovering what motivates your team and implementing a system to drive profits.

First, you must identify each individual’s motivation. Are they moving toward or away from something? Most people are pain motivated. Once they reach a comfort level, they tend to coast or not do anymore if their pain levels have been satisfied. Dawson gave an example, “But say If you short someone’s paycheck 50 bucks, they’ll be cracked the whole day instead of making five more phone calls and making 500 bucks. The reality is most people are fearful of losing something more than hopeful of gaining something.”

Next, you have to ask what motivates your employees. Internal or external drives? If you’re internal, you tend to push yourself forward or motivate yourself to move forward. If you’re external, unless you have someone there to kick you in the butt or pat you on the back, you aren’t going to care or pay attention.

As a leadership team, there are other drivers that you can use to motivate your team. The six core needs are:

  1. certainty
  2. variety 
  3. significance
  4. community
  5. contribution
  6. growth 

It would be best if you learned how your employees’ minds work to lead them better. This means being aware that they are not like you and recognizing that this can be used to work together more efficiently.

When you know what motivates your employees, you can create a better work environment. Dawson gave another example, “I had a manager ask an employee to come up with their own spiff, and the employee said they wanted new teeth, the manager would know to work with the employee towards that goal. The employee wouldn’t be spending that money on themselves, but it would be a goal they cared about and worked to accomplish. 

When you use cash as bonuses, most people aren’t going to spend that on that TV they want– it’s now the family money. But if you incentivize with things they want now, it’s a look-what-I-won situation, not a look-what-I-bought thing. Stop measuring your employees’ weaknesses based on your strengths. Look at each person individually, so you can coach and lead much more effectively.”

When discussing ways to implement some of these tactics, Dawson revealed that there are two primary ways to pay people in your spaces. The first is outcome-based, which is what almost everyone does. You pay based on a certain number of car sales, or you can pay for behaviors and activities, asking yourself what behaviors and actions are associated with our desired outcomes that the salesperson has more control over.

For example, say you rearrange how you pay someone a commission, instead of 500-600 dollars flat based on the desired outcome, whatever it is, pay them in increments based on the steps that get you to your desired outcome. So, say if you talk with a customer, you will pay 50 dollars regardless of the outcome. If they fill out the forms, you’ll pay 75 instead, and so on. The salesperson will say, “Oh, wow, regardless of the outcome, if I talk to five people, I can make x amount of dollars,” and if the desired outcome does happen, you may not have spent as much money as the flat outcome fee by doing it in increments.

We want to motivate the management team to think from the perspective of either the customer or people on their teams to help them get their house in order before the lots fill back up with inventory.


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CBT Automotive Network is a multimedia broadcast platform serving automotive professionals. With interviews featuring the biggest names in the industry, daily newscasts following top stories, up-to-date market data, and exclusive articles covering the latest industry trends, CBT is the leading voice of the retail automotive industry.

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