Shawn Hays on Personal Branding, Increasing Closing Percentages, Setting Goals and Managing Salespeople


On today’s show, we welcome back Your Car Guy Shawn Hays, co-founder of Sales Hustler and sales manager at Dan Cummins Chevrolet and Buick in St. Augustine, FL.


Jim Fitzpatrick: Welcome back to CBT News.

Shawn Hays: Hey, nice to be here again man. I always like sitting down and talking to you.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. Now you’re coming back as a best-selling author.

Shawn Hays: Well it depends which town you’re in. I’m best selling in this town.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well it’s nice to know you’re still talking to the little people. You know what I mean? Hey, before we get started in jumping into the book because I want to talk about that and some of the takeaways and the motivation behind writing it, and then you got the hustle and grind we’re going to talk about, let’s talk about some of the basic things in the business. Some of the things that dealers are still challenged with, sales managers and salespeople, and that is how do you increase your closing percentages on the showroom floor. What’s your advice to salespeople that say I need to increase my closing percentage?

Shawn Hays: Well, a lot of times I think a lot of us spend a lot of time in this business on closing and overcoming objections, word tracks, and things like that, but I always break it down to the fundamentals. I always when I’m teaching, we have 43 sales people here and we feed into these people on a daily basis. We train daily, we roll play daily, and we make it tough. It’s not easy. We throw a ball to them and wherever their thumbs land on, that objection, you have to come back right away on what to do. But I think it’s a little bit bigger than that because I think our industry does spend a lot of time on word tracks and closing, but I tell people all the time if you want to get better at closing do a couple things.

Number one, create discussions on the known objections that are going to come. Look, we’ve had the same nine objections from day one, you know price too high, trade’s too low, payments too high, all the things, I’ve got to go ask my wife, all the things that people use as objections. You know what they’re going to be, so why wait for them to come out after you present numbers knowing we’ll be backpedaling at that point. Why don’t we take these and attack them before the customer can even bring them up, and then have discussions about them before they become objections. That’s my A number one thing I always tell people.

Another thing I like to do is get confirmations along the way. When you’re building value and you’re building the rapport, you know when you’re explaining vehicles and how they can become of benefit to them, describe the vehicle or describe the feature, give them the benefit, and then say do you see a value in that. If they keep saying yes along the way, you’re going to have a better shot when you present numbers to go back and say you know those features, I know you’re saying the price is a little high, but the feature this that you really needed, this feature was really needed, you kept saying you needed these features. We have to make sure that we get confirmations along the way.

I think early manager involvement in the deal is a key and how we do a really good job of closing here is because I’m involved with every single customer that comes in this store. When they come in I am greeting them, thanking them. When they sit down I get them a drink. I ask them where they’re from, what brought them in. Then when I come back in, if I’m needed for a TO, I feel like there’s some familiarity there and I’m not the cold start manager who’s about to steal their wallet. You know what I’m saying?

I think another thing that we could tell our salespeople is if a customer is coming in on a certain car, like a used car, we’ll just say a used car, and during your investigative research you find out that they’re going to look at a couple other models, make sure that you always show them three, three cars, used cars before they go shop because people like to shop. They like to shop. If you can make them feel like they shopped without ever leaving your dealership, you’ll have a better shot at closing them that day.

I’ve seen so many salespeople over the years do a great job of investigating, finding out the perfect car for them, taking them out to that one car, doing a great demo, doing a great drive, and then coming back, presenting numbers, and even though the car was in their budget the customer says well I need to go look at a couple more. Right, because the customer never got to really shop and customers like to shop. I always teach them, show them if they’re going to go look at a Nissan, they’re going to look at a Hyundai, and they’re going to go look at a Ford, why not use our inventory to your advantage and show them those cars while they’re here so they can just cross them off their list, or they can feel like they shopped here.

Those are the tips that I usually use. Now there’s a lot more, but that’s I think that is the meat that could really really help you close.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. How many, it’s often the case where somebody will come in and you can’t get together with them on a new car. They’ll say ah it’s a little bit more than we wanted to spend, let us go home and think about it, we’ll get back to you in the morning. It’s another $50 a month, or $60 a month, or for some reason you just can’t close the gap that day at that moment and they want to go home and think about it. Do you think that before they leave that maybe you should have your salesperson or the salesperson should show them a CPO car that might get them into that budget, or do we not want to screw up the new car deal at that point?

Shawn Hays: No I absolutely want them to do that. In fact, they should have probably done that before you present numbers. I always tell them hey make sure you set yourself up. This is what I was kind of saying as my first point, you always want to have the discussions on the things that you’re going to have objections about.

If you say, if somebody says that they’re looking at a Malibu and you say, “You know what these Malibu’s are great, they’re selling good, and they’re reasonably priced, but you know what just as a backup plan have you ever thought about the certified preowned. It gives you this, this and this, and you’ll save a few thousand dollars because somebody else has already depreciated that product. Would you like to look at one of those while you’re here just so you can get an understanding of the differences?” If you do that, you always have that fallback option. It gives you more options. Customers love options.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. There’s many new car managers that are listening to us right now that have no interest in selling a used car and of course vice versa, there’s used car managers that go look my objective is to sell 150 used cars a month and I’m going to do everything I can to do it, I don’t care what the used car guy does. In fact, I don’t want him outshining me. If in the event that there’s a new car manager out there that says whoa, whoa, wait a minute. I hear what you’re saying Shawn, but it could be that that customer falls in love with that CPO car and goes wait a minute, why are we paying the increase on the new car, let’s just do business on the CPO car. Then the salesman at risk of losing their job because we switched cars on them and the new car manager is suddenly angry?

Shawn Hays: Well I don’t think so. At the end of the day we as managers all we care about is the dealership and the profits therein lie. I mean we’ve got a used car number, we’ve got a new car number, but at the end of the day I need to make sure that all the customers come in leave with a car. Really at the end of the day that’s all I care about and that’s all I want my sales person to care about. I don’t think it should be a division within the company. We’re all working to strive to make the most profits for the company.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. You know as you know salespeople, the reason I ask is salespeople do their followup call the next day and they’ll say, “You know after we left your dealership we pulled into another dealership and they showed us a CPO car, or a used vehicle, and that got right into our budget. In fact, it was $20 a month less than what we were planning on spending. So we bought it, and we own it. Thank you very much for your time. Talk to you later.” The sales person is like wow, I never thought to show them a used car, didn’t even know that they could be a used car buyer. They were so focused on their budget and the manager and the desk team were trying to work diligently to get to that budget on a new car.

Shawn Hays: Well I think that’s mismanagement by the managers to be honest with you. I think you need to be training your sales staff to have flip cars, to have cars to … Not every new car is going to fit everybody’s budget, and not everybody can we bump. At the end of the day we need to have fallback options, and a certified preowned is a great option because honestly they actually make probably more money than a new car does.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. That’s right. It’s a good point. Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk setting and completing goals at the dealership. Talk to us about that very important element that I think gets forgotten in a lot of showrooms, and that’s effective goal setting and then followup on that throughout the month with each individual sales person and of course with managers as well.

Shawn Hays: Well I think you have to have clear defined goals. A lot of times in sales, I’ve noticed this across the country, that a lot of times people don’t really even know what goals are. They just say oh I want to sell 30 cars, or I want to sell 20 cars. They never reverse engineer that and how to do it. It’s not really a goal if you just state it, it’s not really a goal if you don’t have a plan, and it’s not really a goal if you don’t know how to do it. At the end of the day those are dreams. Dreams are basically goals without a plan. At the end of the day I make sure that they have a defined goal and a defined way to hit it, and we need to reverse engineer that.

If you want to sell 30 cars, you need to figure out your closing ratio, you need to know how many people you need to speak with on a daily basis, and we need to break down these goals into not so much a month or by week, but really by the day so you can stay on top of it and understand how many people you need to talk to. You also need to get everybody on board Jim, like the salesman, the sales managers, everybody here needs to have a defined goal and we all need to be helping each other get it. But a lot of times I have noticed … I didn’t have goals a few years ago in the car business. I was just kind of going through my day and I didn’t have any leaders that showed me that. Luckily I got some mentorship along the way and I saw how important goals are, but the problem is is a lot of people have goals but they just don’t know how to get them, how to reach them. That’s our job. That’s what we need to figure out and how to push them.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah because the car business really at the end of the day, when all things are done, it’s really just a numbers game. How many people are you going to talk to, how many people are you going to demo, how many people are you going to put into a closing situation, how many people are you going to present numbers to, how many people are going to sign up, how many people are going to get turned down in finance. The net number is probably how many cars you delivered. It’s just really a complete numbers game all the way through right.

Shawn Hays: Right.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You can’t take 10 customers and sell 10 cars. It’s not going to happen, at least if you’re true to yourself. It really is, to your point, it really is sitting down and mapping out and reverse engineering. If you want to sell 20 cars in a month, how many people do you need to talk to, how many people do you need to write up, how many people do you need to demo, and so on. It’s been that way forever right?

Shawn Hays: It has been. Unfortunately we come into the first of every month and we look at the board and say, your sales manager will say how many are you going to do this month. He writes a little number up there. That person says 20. The sales manager says great job and writes 20 up there. But that guy literally has no idea how to get 20 unless it just happens. He doesn’t say well okay to get 20 I’ve got a 30% closing ration and that means I need to see this many people on a monthly basis and breaking it down per day.

We really need to do that. Managers need to make sure that they have one on ones with these sales reps, walking down through their goals, make sure they understand who they are and what they want to get to, and help them map it out.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You know experts say Shawn that 10, 15 years ago the average consumer was going to seven or eight car dealerships before they would sign on the bottom line and buy a car. Today it might be one and a half to two, although when you ask most sales people and most managers today the closing ratio is still between 10% and 20%. Why is that?

To me it doesn’t make any sense. It seems like stone cold buyers are now walking in the front door of your dealership for the most part, and yet the closing ratio is still the same it was 15 years ago in many cases.

Shawn Hays: Well maybe, I can’t speak for the industry in general, but I would think that if that is the case and those are the true numbers then people are skipping steps along the way and running to the price thinking the price is going to sell the car. They saw it online for this price, they drove over two hours to get here, they must be okay with the car, they must know what they want. We kind of skip the steps of building the value in it, and then somebody will say well I want three grand off. You’re like wait a minute, you saw the internet price and drove two and a half hours to get here, there’s no room in these cars. Getting somebody to understand that is hard because you didn’t build any value out on the lot.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s exactly right, yup. Personal branding, how to and what are the basic principles?

Shawn Hays: Well, I don’t know anything about it Jim.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, nice try.

Shawn Hays: I think the biggest thing if you’re going to start your personal brand you’ve got to know your target [inaudible 00:13:02], who you’re trying to reach, who you’re trying to contact. A lot of times, I’ve noticed when people are building their brand, if they don’t know that they’re just going out there and talking aimlessly, but you’ve got to know who your target market is first. Then you’ve got to reach your target market and you’ve got to find out what medium to that. But I always tell everybody all the time, before you can do anything you’ve go to know who you’re trying to contact, who’s your demographic that usually buys from you.

A lot of us, and some people will say well I have a wide range of demographic. Well you do, but at the end of the day you have a majority of the people that you sell to. When I lived in St. Augustine, it was wealthier, people with money that are retired, people that have great credit. Well I don’t want to go out and try to sell to the demographic of the bad credit people. That’s not who my demographic is. I knew my target market and you’ve got to cater to those people. Now, who are your target market and where are they.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Talk to us about your latest book, Build Your Brand, which is something you know a little something about. You just released it and it’s already at a thousand copies sold. Congratulations to you on that. I’m sure it’s going to hit 50,000 to 100,000. We’re more than happy to help you here at CBT. I think the content in it is something that should be shared with all salespeople out there. Talk to us about the motivation behind writing it, and then what some of the takeaways would be for the reader.

Shawn Hays: Well the motivation originally was I feel in the near future most customers, since they’re doing their shopping online, they’re going to kind of narrow down their selection of the car they want to buy, the dealership they want to buy from, and the salesman they want to buy from. If you don’t have the exposure in the marketplace, I don’t care how good at sales you are, people aren’t going to know you. The more exposure you can get in your marketplace, the more opportunities you will have to sell cars.

I did that two years ago. Basically I learned a lot, I made some mistakes, but I did a lot of good things. I documented my journey the whole way and I kind of came up with a blueprint on how people can A, get their name out there in their market, gain some [inaudible 00:15:16] fans along the way, followers. That’s what you need. You need people out in your marketplace talking about you, knowing you. When they’re ready to buy a car, they’re going to think of you. I basically, I said well I think this industry needs one. I don’t know of a book in our industry that teaches people how to actually build a brand, so I wanted to create it because I saw a need there. I’ve done really well with it because I’ve had what seven dealerships get a bunch of books, but then I’ve sold a lot individually as well. I’m really excited on the feedback so far from it.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I bet. Give us some of the takeaways. What would somebody learn from reading it?

Shawn Hays: Well you’re going to get the things to do, the things not to do, the actual blueprint along the way. I really hold your hand through this book because I’ve done it all, right I’ve actually done it. I don’t want you to make some of the mistakes that I made, but I also want to have you get some of the wins that I got and some of the shortcuts, or hacks, that some people are not familiar with. Look, it took me a long time and I did a, I worked so consistently with it and building my brand, and I just want to give you my knowledge. I’m not even charging for the book. It’s actually free.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s great.

Shawn Hays: That’s the greatest part. I’m just giving back to my industry, that’s it.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You sure are. If you took the time to write a book and you’re giving it away and showing other people how to succeed in the industry, that’s very nice of you. What’s the motivation there? Just to help others?

Shawn Hays: Well from day one Jim all my videos that I’ve ever done have been free. Everybody that’s followed me, I think that’s why I’ve gained so much following with the sales people out there is because I don’t want anything from them. I just want to help this industry. I want to help the people in it. There’s a lot of people out there that need to make more income that are broke sitting in our dealerships across the country, and I want them to be self-sufficient. The problem is so many sales people across the country are sitting waiting for things to happen instead of creating their own opportunities. I believe this book will help them create a name, create the more opportunities for them to make money and have a great living.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I agree. I agree. Well I think congratulations again to you on the book. It’s phenomenal and I think everybody should get their hands on it. We’ll make it available here on the CBT homepage as well. Talk to us about the second annual Hustle and Grind, which is a two day automotive conference that’s coming up I know in Orlando April 4th and 5th. Tell us about that event.

Shawn Hays: Oh man, this is the second year. Basically last year was our first year. Basically what we wanted to do was create motivation, inspiration, but actual real tangible teaching on how people, sales people as well as managers and GMs, can just do better, grow as a person, grow as a sales person. I feel like there’s nothing in our industry that’s actually put on for the salesman.

There’s more to get the GMs and the owners in there so people can pitch products and sell things to them. I believe, I wanted to hit the salesmen because I’m a salesman at heart. I’ve been a salesman forever. I don’t think there’s really anything for the salesman out there, so we created this. We had such a great experience last year and everybody had such a good time that we did it this year. We have a greater lineup this year than we did last year. We’ve got from Brian Benstock to Eric Thomas to Danelle Delgado, Eric Gayle, you know Eric. Shaka Dyson, Alan Dickey, Jonathan Dawson, and the list goes on and on and on.

Jim Fitzpatrick: We know all those guys, yup.

Shawn Hays: These people are going to be there just pouring into these people. I just love the feeling of the camaraderie that we have there.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You also have Lisa Copeland?

Shawn Hays: Oh yeah, Lisa Copeland. I didn’t even mention her. She’ll be there on stage doing what she does.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Awesome. That’s awesome.

Shawn Hays: She’s amazing.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, again that’s April 4th and 5th in Orlando. People need to sign up now. I mean it’s right around the corner.

Shawn Hays: It’s right around the corner. We have 14 days. It’s

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay we’ll show it on the screen here. I want to thank you Shawn Hays. Thank you so much for joining us on our show today. Our viewers get such great insight from you and we appreciate all that you do for the industry. Again, what you’re doing out there, I know you’ve got your full time job as a sales manager at Dan Cummins Chevrolet, and to be able to provide all of these great videos and a great service to everyone in the industry, we thank you for that. It just makes everyone better.

Shawn Hays: Well I want to thank you because-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay go ahead.

Shawn Hays: From day one when I got in this industry I watched you. I did. I watched your Saturday morning meetings. I watched, so I appreciate what you do for this industry too, so thank you very much and I appreciate the feedback.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Good. Well we’ve got to have you in the studio here to knock out a couple of Saturday morning sales meetings for our viewers. I think that would be a great idea.

Shawn Hays: Oh I can’t wait. I’ll bring the fire, I promise.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That will be great. All right, we’ll set it up with you. I’m going to hold you to it. All right until then, thanks again Shawn. I really appreciate it and much continued success.

Shawn Hays: My pleasure man, my pleasure.

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