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Building the Best You: If we’re not growing, are we falling behind?

If our knowledge doesn’t grow, our value to our customers and our dealership will begin to diminish.

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to all the factors we can’t control in the automotive sales industry. The state of the economy, drastic increases in interest rates, supply chain issues, customer demands, and more are all elements that are out of our control. 

That’s why it’s important — why it’s essentialto take full command of what we do control. Nothing and no one can stop us from learning all we can about our dealership and our inventory, and continuing to improve our skills through daily habits so that we can serve our customers with the goal of exceeding their expectations.

If they have a question, it’s our job to answer it. 

And, while a customer may throw a wild pitch at us from time to time, the vast majority of questions are predictable. Questions about vehicle performance and features, for example, should be answered without having to leave the client alone so we can find the information. After all, we wouldn’t make a major purchase without knowing at least the basic facts; our clients won’t, either.

When we first step into a sales position, most of us are eager to learn these facts. We’re in learning mode, working to get up to speed and move our career in the right direction. By knowing more, we increase our value — both to our customers and to our leaders — so we’re continuously on the hunt for new information. 

Once we’ve been in our position for a while, however, “learning” mode can slip into “I know it all” mode, and ultimately, “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mode. Logically, we understand that the moment we think we have nothing left to learn is the moment when we start to slide backward instead of surging forward.

Nothing stays the same, so if our knowledge doesn’t grow, our value to our customers and our dealership will begin to diminish.

More: Dealer Chris Saraceno on business today: ‘We have to focus on what we can control’

Eternal Students

My Theory of 5 mentors instilled in me the idea that we are always students — in our careers and in every other aspect of our lives. By studying, overcoming challenges, and seeking the counsel of those who has skills, knowledge, and daily habits that we don’t, we not only stay relevant and useful, but we keep our minds fresh and continue to grow. Great ideas don’t come to those who are intellectually lazy and satisfied. They come to those actively asking questions and seeking knowledge. 

Still, there is the temptation to rest on the knowledge we’ve already gained. After all, it’s working for us and we don’t feel like we’re losing ground. If some game-changing bit of information comes our way, we’ll take a look, but our fundamentals are sound, right?

A full cup can hold no more water. Once our minds are full of “certainty,” there’s no room for anything else. But, if we increase the size of our cup by staying curious and open to new ideas, there’s no limit to the knowledge we will gain.

Mistakes are Made

One of the reasons many people stop trying to gain new knowledge is that they don’t want to appear foolish. In their minds, asking a question means they don’t already know the answer.

Here’s the thing: It’s OK to not know the answer. It’s not OK to pretend we do, or that the answer isn’t worth knowing. 

Our pride and our fear of making a mistake can keep us from growing. We can become fearful of changing the processes that have worked for us in the past because new ways of thinking can be uncomfortable and uncertain. We’ve all heard the statement, “Pride comes before a fall.”

And, in our culture, it’s never been easier to find sources of information that we can use to expand our minds and our skills. No matter if we’re new to the industry or are the leader of our dealerships, we should constantly be looking for educational opportunities.

My Theory of 5 mentors and I have learned that we can gain new insights from 20 Groups, conventions, podcasts and dealer associates. Many of our younger team members also will have great ideas — ways to reach younger shoppers and bring in new generations to our store. If we’re known for listening to new thoughts and being open to fresh ideas and brainstorming, they’ll be eager to share these with us. 

If, however, they know we’re not open to anything that looks like it might be untested, they’ll learn to keep their ideas to themselves. Those ideas will either die in silence or be used by our competitor when that team member leaves us for greener, more progressive dealers. Remember that the best and the brightest want to work with companies that are focused on growth and opportunities. 

Times Change — And So Should We

Do customers shop the same way as they did a decade ago, or even two years ago? Have the vehicles changed? Have financing options? Our industry is constantly evolving, and we need to adjust with it. I know we all understand that if we don’t keep up with our customers’ needs and demands, they will find a dealership that will. Worse, the majority won’t tell us why they are going somewhere else — they’ll just disappear! 

How do you think “the way we’ve always done it” mindsets will do in this ever-evolving marketplace? We owe it to ourselves and our customers to always be open to learning about our business and continuously looking for growth opportunities for ourselves, our team members, and our dealerships.

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