Modernizing Your Sales Experience in Order to Better Serve Your Customers – Josh Letsis, CEO of ClosingBig

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The automotive retail industry is getting more competitive year after year, and it seems like there are new consumer buying trends developing every day. You might find yourself asking, “Which sales strategies are worth trying, and how do I get my staff on board with these changes?” Well, joining us today to lend his insight into modern sales techniques, leadership, and training strategies is Josh Letsis, CEO of ClosingBig.

Josh says that one of the biggest things that dealers nowadays have to understand is that they no longer have control. For years dealers had control of everything, from invoice to interest rates, and they had control of the process and the consumer. But Josh says that dealers no longer have that level of control and instead should begin to focus on serving the needs of the customer. Now dealers should focus on refining the car buying experience in order to better serve the consumers.

To hear more from Josh check out the full interview above. Click here to see more interviews with automotive retail leaders.

salesVIDEO TRANSCRIPT: 

Jim:
Welcome into the show, Josh.

Josh:
Hey Jim. Thank you. Appreciate it.

Jim:
Sure. Tell us, what are some of the modern sales training strategies that dealers should implement from your perspective?

Josh:
You know, probably one of the biggest things as a car dealer we have to understand is we no longer have control. You know, for the longest time we had control of everything. We knew what invoice was, we knew what blue book was, we knew all the information. We knew what interest rates were. The consumers had to come to us, so we talked control. You had to control the process, you had to control the consumer, and because we had that information.

Josh:
Nowadays, you know, the research says they’re spending a gazillion hours online and they’re only visiting a little over one dealership. It’s changed. We don’t have that level of control anymore. So dealers that are still teaching that, now, don’t get me wrong, you don’t want the process to go completely sideways, but dealers that are still teaching the, hey, we’re not appraising trades over the phone, we’re not going to send somebody an invoice, we’re not going to do any of this stuff, they’re going to lose because it’s all about serving the customer now and how can we better serve the customer in ways that they want to be served, because they’re used to shopping on Amazon. I mean you go to an Apple store now, you don’t even have to talk to anybody. You just take the app on your phone and you scan your product and you know, you walk out of the store.

Josh:
So that’s really what we have to start teaching and preaching now is how can we better serve our customers? It’s much more about the experience than it is about anything else.

Jim:
Sure. So drill down on that a little bit. What would you be telling a client today? How can they provide better customer service to their customers that come in looking to do business?

Josh:
One is give up that idea that we’re still going to maintain complete control in the process. Appraise some trades over the phone, work some deals over the phone. It used to be, I don’t want to quote somebody anything over the phone or over the Internet because they’re just going to shop me. Well, newsflash, they’re shopping you anyway.

Jim:
Yeah.

Josh:
So if you’re the dealership that goes ahead and does things the way the customer wants them done you’re probably going to win. And they may still shop you, you know, but we don’t close at 100%, so we’ve got to be okay getting into that uncomfortable zone and realize that, hey, we’re going to give up this.

Josh:
Another thing is our sales process, whether it’s 10 steps or 12 steps or however many steps we have in the dealership sales process, that we need to realize that they’re not rigid. We can’t take our customer from step two to step three to step four to step five, because sometimes the customer wants to go to step five after step two.

Jim:
Right.

Josh:
Now they’re all important in the process so sometimes we have to circle back, but if we hold our salespeople to that rigid process and tell them, hey, I’m not moving to step four until you get your customer to step four, again, we’re going to lose it because our customers frankly are that they just want to do things the way they want to do things so we have to learn how to maintain a little bit of our control in the process, but give a lot of that control to the consumer and then guide them down the process that we want to guide them down.

Jim:
That’s right. In your 20 year career in the auto industry, what has been your take on training available to salespeople and managers within a dealership?

Josh:
Man, it is… and I think most car guys and gals would probably agree with me here, it’s something that everybody says is super important, but it gets pushed by the wayside. You know, you’re working a deal. Susie’s got a customer, Bobby has an appointment coming in and, ah, okay, well we’re not going to do it today, and the next thing you know not doing it today turns into tomorrow, turns into weeks, turns into, oh okay, well we train once a quarter, you know, maybe we have the factory guy come in and train us up once a year, whatever that is. So it’s not because I don’t think they see the value in it, but it’s just there’s so much going on at the dealership and helping that customer that’s right in front of you becomes a top priority.

Jim:
Sure.

Josh:
And a lot of stores run lean from a management standpoint, so if there’s only one or two sales managers on duty, it gets really tough to round up three or four salespeople, get them upstairs in the training room, knock out a couple of hours of training. It just becomes difficult and somewhat prohibitive to get it.

Jim:
That’s right. That’s right. And many sales managers that we talk to, we’ll ask them, how did you learn how to become a sales manager because you were taken off of the showroom floor, because you’ve done a great job in sales and you’re good with customers and your fellow salespeople respect you and admire you and now you’re a manager, but what training did you go through to become a manager and to be in charge of a 10 or 15 or 20 person sales staff and be selling literally millions, tens of millions of dollars in product per year? Where did you get the training for that? And all too often we’ll hear, well, I just kind of watched the guy before me that had the job or the girl that was before me that had that position kind of put my own spin on it. And there seems to be a huge lack of leadership training in the retail environment. Would you agree with that? And if so, what can we do about it?

Josh:
One hundred percent. You know, typically what happens in most stores is you promote the number one salesperson, put him or her on the desk, and kind of like what we started 20 years ago. All right, figure it out and the strong survive and the weak don’t. But it’s unfortunate for them. And the problem with that is typically your number one salesperson is a very individualistic person. They’re all about themselves. They’re not nearly as much about the team because their pay plan dictates that they’re all about themselves.

Josh:
Now all of a sudden you throw them in a leadership role and it’s much less about you and much more about the 10 or 15 salespeople around you. So the leadership, absolutely leadership is lacking very much in the dealership. I used to do leadership training once a week. We’d do it at 6:30 in the morning on Fridays before the dealership even got going, really for anybody who wanted it. I might have salespeople, potential managers in there, obviously sales managers. I’d even have a couple of technicians come in there, but it’s something that as a dealer group as a whole, we’ve really got to do a much better job on because they’re leading those salespeople, and our turnover is, I think NADA says 70% on the sales force.

Jim:
That’s right.

Josh:
It’s atrocious. And it all starts with, hey, can we get them integrated into the store and can we get a good solid leader around them so that they’ll stay a little longer than three months?

Jim:
That’s right. There’s some dealers out there that have decided to go the route of paying a salary to employees with a small unit bonus if they sell 10, 15, 20 cars a month, they can earn themselves another $1500 or $2,000 a month over and above their salary. What is your take on that?

Josh:
It depends on the store really. I mean, if you’ve got a store with some really solid car people that are used to bumping and selling for gross, you’re going to lose those people.

Jim:
Right.

Josh:
And it might not work well for your store. You know, if you’ve got an inexperienced sales staff or sometimes that younger generation sales staff, it really might work better for them. So it really depends on that store. I’ve done it both way. I’ve done it gross, I’ve done it hourly, and then also the flats, and like I said, just really depends on that store and the staff that you have. So I think some sort of hybrid system in the middle is probably beneficial for most stores.

Jim:
Sure.

Josh:
What I don’t like seeing is some stores who have they’ve got their one 20 car guy or two 20 car people that are on the showroom floor and they dictate how the whole process and pay plan is based on those two people rather than if they’ve got 20 people on the showroom floor, it doesn’t quite work out that way because those two people are going to chase out some of the younger ones, some of the green peas and that sort of thing, so that they can keep working that pay plan, keep getting those halfs and doing things like that. So some sort of hybrid where we’re really trying to make a better team atmosphere I think is what most dealerships are probably going to go to here in the future.

Jim:
Yeah, that’s for sure. Talk to me a little bit about your training business. Do you go into the dealership or is it online or how does that work? If a dealer that’s listening to us right now says, “Hey, we need Josh in our store,” how does that work?

Josh:
So I do go in, I do consulting for anybody from management all the way up to dealer principles. I can look at a financial statement, unlike a lot of trainers out there. Really pushing the online platform, because I do have that. The problem with any in store stuff and any conference you go to or a book you read is there’s a thing called the forgetfulness curve and after a month you’ve forgotten like 85% of what you just learned.

Jim:
Sure.

Josh:
So the in person stuff is great, the energy level is definitely different, but the online platform allows you to train every single day and in small manageable pieces versus just an absolute dump into your brain where you’ve forgotten 85% of what you just learned three days later. So that’s not what we want to do. It’s all about repetition.

Josh:
So I really do push the online piece because that’s something they can use everyday at their convenience. Also, it’s not me coming and going, all right from noon to 3:00 we’re all training today and the dealership loses some productivity. They can do it the morning, in the afternoon, they can do it on their own time, you know, that sort of thing.

Jim:
If you had to give one or two tips to salespeople that are listening to us and/or managers for that matter, what would those tips be in the area of training in sales?

Josh:
Do it every day. That’s the big thing that most people don’t do, and I use a lot of athlete analogies, but they’re practicing every single day and it’s just one of those things where you want it to get to the point where when a customer gives you some sort of objection or a certain situation happens, you just respond instantly. I call it conversational to the point when somebody says, “Hey, I’ve got got to talk to my wife,” boom, this is what you say every single time and you don’t even have to think about it and when you get to that point where it’s unconscious and competence, that’s when you’re going to see a much higher level of success.

Josh:
Then you can start going for the referrals as you fill your pipeline and increase your, your own personal customer database and you start getting those referrals. And then what happens is once you start getting a decent referral base, you don’t have to close anybody anymore. You don’t have to use word tracks and closing tools because they go, “Hey Josh, man, my friend Bobby was just here and he says you’re the best salesman in the world. You treated him great. I just want to buy from you.” They don’t even shop around.

Josh:
So when you get to that point where you don’t have to use your word tracks and closing tools, that’s when you know you’ve reached the pinnacle, but you still have to train on certain things again every single day. So now you’re training on a little bit different things. How do I do a better job getting referrals? How do I do a better job closing those referrals without being a pushy salesperson? So there’s always something to train on.

Jim:
Well, Josh Letsis thank you so much for joining us on CBT News. This has been very enlightening. I wish the best of luck to you and your new company, Closing Big, which I love the name and hopefully we can have you back on CBT News to give us more tips and continue this kind of conversation about training and the importance of it for dealers.

Josh:
I love it. Thank you, Jim. I really appreciate it.

Jim:
Thank you.

CBT automotive network. The number one most-watched network in retail automotive. This has been a JBF Business Media production.

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