Having been raised in a family car dealership makes it easy for me to comment on life as a car salesperson. Fortunately, my work allows me to work side-by-side with sales professionals and I’ve come to realize every dealership sales team needs a little TLC – daily!
I was taught that if you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your guests. This has been true forever and it’s more accurate now than ever. My dad, Jack Kain, whom many of you know, said that when he realized he was in the “people business” instead of the “car business,” his success really accelerated. To succeed in the “people business” you must have an internal and external focus. Internal is making sure your sales team is kind, confident and capable. External is making sure your guests receive an exceptional experience. Ok is not Ok any longer. With so many choices in today’s automotive market, exceptional service is the only option for dealers.
Adam Robinson, CEO of Hireology, an online Human Resources platform, wrote a book everyone in the car business should read – “The Best Team Wins!” —where he provides guidance on how to recruit, hire and develop your team to be the best. It starts with a structured approach.
So, what kind of TLC does your team need?
Suppose you follow the guidance in Robinson’s book. Discover the talent in your team while adding a new member or two after you realize some don’t want to embrace the realities of modern automotive sales. Once you’re satisfied with your team makeup, map out your TLC plan.
Training – Language – Culture
Having operated our company since 2003 has helped me realize that our best performing clients have solid internal training plans in place for new hires as well as current team members. This foundational element allows us to bring in new ideas and strategies that can integrate into ongoing training program and ensure employee growth.
I toured Zappos.com headquarters in Las Vegas where I arranged a Q & A session with the Zappos.com Culture and New Hire Training Team. My plan was to learn what strategies they utilize to drive high employee satisfaction and retention with employees who help online shoppers. It’s difficult for me to fathom how a company that sells shoes can have lines out the door when they recruit new employees, while car dealerships struggle to get a handful of applicants for most any position.
It was clear in Zappos.com that they have high expectations for their employees and a culture of accountability. They are astute recruiters and spend four weeks grooming new team members in a classroom setting before moving them into an apprentice role in their acclaimed call center.
Quality customer interactions are the lifeblood of their organization and even their CEO works in the call center during peak holiday seasons. This allows him to experience the perspective of real customers, rather than just reviewing surveys, while literally sitting in the chair next to other rank and file employees. This level of accountability is the foundation of their success.
Sometimes I see dealership managers greet a guest and work them for a bit, which is nice for them and the customer. However, they quickly pass them off before taking a test drive, arranging a trade appraisal or doing the deal or finance negotiations.
I have yet to see a Sales Manager, GM or Dealer Principal ever sit in their own BDC or Internet Department and respond to leads or make calls. Imagine the impact it would have on your team if the Dealer or GM worked side by side with the Sales staff, BDC or Internet Team on a regular basis. I promise, it would definitely improve the buying experience. The Dealer or GM would not have the patience to tolerate how slow the current sales process works, and they would demand changes.
The good news is that in leading dealerships where managers are expected to truly lead their team and hold employees accountable for delivering exceptional client care, we see similar behaviors that build employee satisfaction and loyalty.
Maybe it’s just me but don’t you think it’s time to retire some of the common language that hurts the reputation of car salespeople? Customer-facing phrases like “Earn your business” or “Get you done” or the most overused of all “Call me back, I’ve got Great News!” wear me down. What’s worse is our employee-to-employee phrases that are derogatory about the very customers who fuel our income.
As long as we allow our employees and sales managers to use terms like “Jack” or “Bogue” or a “Get me done” to describe customers, we won’t be able to shake our reputation. I cheer when a progressive manager tells me they won’t tolerate salespeople describing completed deals with terms like “that was a 5 Pounder” or “I stole the trade” or “we buried them in the deal.” If we allow it, we encourage it.
A Dealer friend has taught me that when I train his team, I must use the word “Guest” when referring to customers. They won’t allow team members to call visitors to the showroom “Ups.” I love it and it keeps me aware that we can and must do better if we expect to hold off the disruptors like CarMax and Carvana.
It pains me to read the annual Gallup survey of Professions Ranked on Ethics. In the latest December 2017 survey, car salespeople are second from the bottom, just below members of Congress and right above, lobbyists, who are considered the least ethical. Truly, not every salesperson has a role in this low ranking, but I’ve seen how deserving it is. One of my favorite business phrases is “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast” and it’s true. Give me a client with a healthy overall culture and you’ll see happy employees, loyal clients and a bountiful bottom line.
Make the commitment to learn about creating a healthy culture. One of my favorite books is “The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace” by Ron Friedman. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.
My closing guidance is to use 2018 to give your sales team the TLC they need. You’ll be the primary benefactor and will become a magnet for recruiting the best available talent in the market.
If you’d like someone to kick ideas around with, let me know, I’d be glad to listen.
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me