The Relevancy of Sales Training in Today’s Digital Space – Doug Christiansen & Eric Edwards, Joe Verde Group

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Doug Christiansen and Eric Edwards, both trainers with Joe Verde Sales & Management Training, joined Jim Fitzpatrick on the CBT Stage at NADA 2020 in Las Vegas to discuss the relevancy and importance of sales training today, incorporating training into digital retailing, and the customer experience.

Video Transcript:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Let’s kind of drill down here and talk a little bit about the relevancy of sales training today in the digital space. There’s some dealers out there that say, “Well, I don’t know if sales training is as important as it was 10 years ago, 15 years ago, when the sales person really had to sell the car.” Right? I don’t know what they mean by that.

Doug Christiansen:
Don’t they still have to sell the car?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s what I’m saying. Talk to us about that.

Doug Christiansen:
Well, when we talk about customers and salespeople today, I mean, after all the customer still at some point has to show up to the store.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Doug Christiansen:
So, we’ve got to train the sales people how to get the customer there in the first place …

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Doug Christiansen:
… and then the customer experience, once they show up, because we’ve got to ask a question, do we want our sales people to sell our cars for the cheapest or the best?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Doug Christiansen:
And I would say the best is a better answer than the cheapest.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, there’s no question about it.

Doug Christiansen:
But doesn’t that take real skill?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I know, I know.

Eric Edwards:
And it’s one of the biggest problems at the dealership is sales training is going on every single day at every dealership in the country. It just, who do you want training the sales people?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Exactly.

Doug Christiansen:
What’s being trained, right?

Eric Edwards:
Exactly. They’re either getting trained by an eight car sales guy that started a year ago that’s barely getting by or you’re going in and having a structured training program. But, training’s happening whether you want it to or not.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s a very good point.

Doug Christiansen:
That’s true. That’s true. It’s always the director of training that has more time.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, it’s exactly right. And it’s five car Fred, as Joe says, right?

Eric Edwards:
Exactly right.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. But it’s still relevant, because even though we live in a digital world and people are buying, not buying cars per se, but they’re clicking through the websites and they make contact with the dealership, but they’re still coming into the dealership and the question is, when they do, when that pavement, when that rubber meets the road at the showroom and they get that introduction from the salesperson, either it can all happen or it can all fall apart depending on what happens next with that salesperson.

Eric Edwards:
Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think one of the biggest thing is it goes back to what is selling in the first place. I mean, it’s really just getting somebody excited about your product.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Eric Edwards:
I mean, I want to get someone so excited about my product that they want to buy it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Eric Edwards:
And there’s a process to make that happen.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Eric Edwards:
And it doesn’t just happen because the car is sitting there on the lot. There’s things that the salesperson has to do to create that excitement to get a customer that wants to take it home today, right now.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right.

Doug Christiansen:
Absolutely, while they have a choice to either talk price or go ahead and build value. Find out what the customer wants to spend or find out what’s important to them.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Doug Christiansen:
And it’s a choice on whether or not the salesperson follows the path of least resistance or actually shows the customer that they care about their wants to needs.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. Yeah, for sure. So, let me ask you this. How many customers that go into a dealership actually buy that particular car that they looked at online?

Eric Edwards:
Not a lot.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Not a lot, right?

Eric Edwards:
Exactly.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
It rarely happens.

Eric Edwards:
And it happens with all products. I mean, it’s not just cars.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
No, that’s right.

Eric Edwards:
I mean, think about every one of us. I went out last week to go buy … I love to fish. I went out to buy a new fly rod. I knew exactly what I wanted and spent twice as much when I got there, because I saw something I wanted even more.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right, and you met a salesperson.

Eric Edwards:
And, I met a salesperson.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right.

Eric Edwards:
He put something in my hand and I was like, “Whoa.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
How many times …

Eric Edwards:
Got excited about it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
… have you seen where a good, well-trained salesperson will take that customer that came in on a car that you’ve already negotiated or they saw online and had no gross profit built in it, and they drive out in a different car and it’s a five pound deal?

Eric Edwards:
Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right?

Doug Christiansen:
Here’s the other thing, though. With the advances in technologies in today’s cars, sometimes the customer doesn’t even know whether or not they want a particular feature.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s a good point.

Doug Christiansen:
Listen, my wife got a brand new car not long ago and her favorite feature is a massaging seat and she didn’t even know about it until we sat in the car.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Isn’t that amazing?

Doug Christiansen:
Exactly right, so how would we have known online whether or not that’s a feature we wanted or not?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Doug Christiansen:
Once we sat in it, she drove it, she fell in love. She owns the car.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
She owns the car. Yeah.

Doug Christiansen:
I mean, that doesn’t change.

Eric Edwards:
Yeah, and so much of it with something like a car, a car is a very personal item. We spend a lot of time in our vehicles.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. Yeah.

Eric Edwards:
You can’t tell from an internet website whether the seat’s comfortable.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Eric Edwards:
The color doesn’t look exactly like it does online as it does when you to get it on the lot. I’ve had so many customers come to the dealership and see a color that they hated on the internet, but they see it on a car, sitting on the lot, and it’s amazing.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Isn’t it crazy?

Eric Edwards:
They fall in love with it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right.

Eric Edwards:
They want to take it home. So-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And that’s all being handled by a salesperson that’s with that customer to show them that.

Eric Edwards:
Absolutely.

Doug Christiansen:
Here’s a different take on the same thing. The car that my wife ended up getting wasn’t her favorite color, but she loved the seats.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Isn’t that something? Yeah.

Doug Christiansen:
So, the color wasn’t as important once she found the one hot button that she really did like.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. Let’s talk a little bit about sales training. Who should do it? How many times a week should it be done? For the dealers that are watching right now, they may say, “Oh yeah, we send everybody to a two-day course.” Or maybe they have somebody come in for two days. “We’re good. That guy’s trained.”

Doug Christiansen:
Is training supposed to be a one-time thing or lifetime? Are we supposed to just get a little better or keep getting better?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Doug Christiansen:
And so Joe recommends that we train three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Doug Christiansen:
And what we have to do is hold interesting, informative and valuable training. But if that’s the case, how many managers have been trained on how to hold interesting, informative and valuable trainings, right? Because as a manager, I never was.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I know, neither was I.

Doug Christiansen:
So, what’s easier for an average manager, to train or just to let it go?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. Or what happens in that training? Because that average manager comes in and he goes, “How many of you got out? How many of you got out? You didn’t put your demo back. How come you left your keys out there?” That’s not training.

Doug Christiansen:
That’s housekeeping.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s housekeeping. It’s exactly right.

Eric Edwards:
There’s so many people that should be involved at the dealership. I mean, we have a variety of managers at the store and it shouldn’t fall all to one manager to be his job to train all the salespeople.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Eric Edwards:
When you can involve FNI managers to be able to come in and train salespeople on how they want the paperwork to come to the office, what they need to come to the office, the parts manager can come in and do some training on, here’s what we need when you need accessories on the vehicle, here’s what we want. The service manager can come in and do a little training with salespeople, but there’s so much training we can do around the dealership that everybody needs to be involved.

Doug Christiansen:
In our Train the Trainer Workshop, I always ask this question, how many of all of the managers need to be involved in training? And it’s very simple, because when it’s only one manager, it’s easy to blame that one person why everything else doesn’t go well.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right.

Doug Christiansen:
Once we get all of our managers involved, we’ve all got to grow and get better together.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And, that one manager that’s doing that, the other managers don’t know what he’s training them. So, there’s a huge disconnect when that salesperson does something and the person that you left out of training or didn’t participate in training, he goes, “What are you doing?” “This is what we were trained to do, right?”

Doug Christiansen:
One manager can un-train a salesperson with one quick question from their desk, where do they want to be on trade, kid? And you’re done.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s exactly right.

Doug Christiansen:
Right? You’re done.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Oh, my God. That’s so true.

Doug Christiansen:
I just spent two weeks training him how to stay off price.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Doug Christiansen:
And one question from the other manager unwound that whole process.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Isn’t that crazy?

Doug Christiansen:
It is.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And it’s just, you don’t, what does Joe say? You don’t lose a deal based on a few dollars. You lose it based on a few words.

Doug Christiansen:
A few words.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right? And that’s so true. That is crazy.

Doug Christiansen:
Absolutely right.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So, if it was your dealership today, let’s say that it’s the the Eric and Doug Toyota.

Doug Christiansen:
Good product.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
It’s a Toyota store.

Doug Christiansen:
I’m an old type Toyota guy.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay. Me too, me too. So, let’s pick a Toyota store. What are you doing with your managers? Are you sending them to a training school to learn how to be a manager? Are you getting them online? Talk to me a little bit about the products that Joe Verde offers dealers, because I’m not so sure every dealer knows the entire suite of products.

Eric Edwards:
Absolutely. I mean, we’ve got six different workshops, three for sales people, three for managers.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And is that every month?

Eric Edwards:
Well, I mean, some of them are done … Our sales class and team leadership workshop are done every month. Those are done quite a bit.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Eric Edwards:
We have a few other classes that are done more once a month, every other, like our Train the Trainer Workshop, business development workshops, closing desk-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And how long are those workshops?

Eric Edwards:
All of our workshops are two days.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Eric Edwards:
Two-day workshops. And it is, it’s getting all the managers, because the problem is most sales managers at a car dealership, or just good salespeople-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s exactly right.

Eric Edwards:
They were successful sales people that sold some cars, made money, and they said, “Hey, we think we want to move you to management.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I know.

Eric Edwards:
But then we don’t spend any time teaching that great salesperson how to manage salespeople.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right.

Eric Edwards:
And that’s what we kind of help dealerships do. You know, let us do the heavy lifting. We’ve got a host of different classes that’ll really give them a game plan when they go back to the dealership.

Doug Christiansen:
Getting all the managers on the same page is the first key. Because ask any salesperson, which manager do you work if you want to get more on the trade? Which manager do you want to work if you want to work a deal backwards?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I was the master at that.

Doug Christiansen:
Right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Because it was so easy.

Doug Christiansen:
We all did it, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Exactly.

Doug Christiansen:
And so if a dealer gets all the managers all training and all involved in the process, then it should be the same process no matter which manager it is.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Doug Christiansen:
But if we don’t all get them together on the same page, they all got their own way of doing it, just like sales people.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. And they’re going to skirt around and they’re going to eat our lunch as managers, because we don’t stand united.

Doug Christiansen:
Well, good sales people sell managers as well as customers.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Oh, I know they do.

Eric Edwards:
Some better than customers.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. Yeah, because they’re easier sometimes.

Eric Edwards:
Absolutely.

Doug Christiansen:
Exactly, yes.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So, where is the industry now? I mean, do you see from your perspective more dealers reaching out to say, “Hey, we want to make more money on the showroom floor,” so your businesses is increasing because of that? Or do you see dealers that are saying, “Hey, we don’t do as much training as we used to?”

Eric Edwards:
Well, we get both sides of that coin. You get dealerships that come through … We were talking about this yesterday with Joe, but it seems to be cyclical with a lot of dealerships as they’ll come in, they’ll focus on doing our training for a couple of years, did that, and now they move on to kind of do something else.

Eric Edwards:
But some of our most successful dealers have been with Joe for decades. We’ve got dealerships that have been with Joe since Joe started training. We were just up in Canada talking about a dealership up there. I think he said he started doing training with Joe 27 years ago.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Oh my gosh.

Eric Edwards:
And we still have their sales people sitting in our workshops …

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Isn’t that great?

Eric Edwards:
… and every time we go up there …

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Eric Edwards:
… and everybody working towards the same common goal.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right, and I’ll show you a dealership in that case with great CSI, with decent-

Eric Edwards:
Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Strong gross profits with-

Eric Edwards:
Long term sales people.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Good culture and long term sales people. [crosstalk 00:10:02].

Eric Edwards:
Sales people that have been there a long time.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
We still suffer from 70% turnover on the showroom floor. That’s crazy. And that all comes back down to training, right?

Eric Edwards:
Yes.

Doug Christiansen:
Well, I had someone asking me about this earlier today and I was saying, “Listen, words change, customers change a little bit, but human nature overall? Still the same.” They’re looking for somebody they can like, trust, respect to do business with and it doesn’t just happen. It’s a skill.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, for sure. For sure. And you know, the industry still needs to change. I’m a big advocate of doing a little bit more for, not a little bit more, a lot more, for the sales department in dealerships. 30 years ago, the mini deal paid $100. If you ask other dealers, it still pays $100 today.

Doug Christiansen:
It does.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
You know, the cost of the car has quadrupled. Dealerships are now 15 million, not five million, and yet that salesperson still makes 100 bucks on a mini deal if he sells a $60,000 product. How are you ever going to attract good talent into the industry if that’s what we’re doing? Right?

Doug Christiansen:
It’s tough. It’s tough. It’s hard to find really good sales people. So, can we find them or do we have to build them?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Doug Christiansen:
They’re not out there. We’ve got to build them …

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s a good point.

Doug Christiansen:
… if we want a 20, 30, 40 car month sales person. We’ve got to start from the ground up and show him the right way to go through the process …

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Doug Christiansen:
… and the more we do that, the happier the customers are, and the better the salesperson gets.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. What do you say to the dealer watching that says, “Hey, it is a 70% turnover rate and we’re going to take that salesperson in, Doug, and we’re going to spend a lot of money on training them. We’re going to do what we’ve got to do, and then they blow out on me in 60 days.”

Doug Christiansen:
Well, the worst part is what if they stay?

Eric Edwards:
How much is it going to cost you then?

Doug Christiansen:
If you don’t train them and they stay, what’s that costing you? And I don’t think anybody ever looks at that, because if we don’t train them, who is? We discussed it earlier today. It’s up to us to lead the way. That’s what leaders are supposed to do, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Doug Christiansen:
So, we’ve got to lead the way, show them how to get better, and make it make sense. And that’s going to help the store. It helps the customers. Overall, the business, all together.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
We, from my days in marketing … I own a marketing company and we would talk to dealers and they’d say, “I want to spend $100,000 in marketing, advertising.” And my smart ass comment would always be, “Great. How much do you spend in training this month?”

Eric Edwards:
Right?

Doug Christiansen:
Oh, we don’t train them.

Eric Edwards:
Yeah, yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Oh, my God. And it was usually like, first of all, I’d get looked like I had three heads. Training? What are you talking about? If you’re going to spend $100,000 this month to try to get new customers into the dealership, how much are we spending on training to keep the customers coming back that we-

Eric Edwards:
And the bigger problem in that situation is you’re spending all that money to bring these customers in and most of them are talking to an untrained sales person that was hired a few weeks, a few months ago.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I know.

Eric Edwards:
Because your best sales people, your good salespeople-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Eric Edwards:
They’re in there dealing with their customers. They’ve got appointments coming in. They’re not relying on that floor traffic that we just spent 100,000 to bring in. So, they’re talking to an untrained salesperson that’s costing them a lot of money.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. What one piece of advice would you have for dealers in the training area for 2020?

Eric Edwards:
It’s so funny to me. It’s a question that the guy … I worked for the same dealer for 13 years at a Dodge store. Awesome guy. I love him to death, but that’s a question he asked me. A few years ago, sitting in his office, he’s like, “Eric, you’ve been out working, training for Joe for all this time. If you came back to the dealership, what’s the biggest thing you do?” I said, “I would train every day. I would take a little bit of time every day, whether it’s 10 minutes, whether it’s 15 minutes, whatever it is. Guys, hey, let’s get together real quick. Let’s talk about,” whatever it is we need to work on at that time. But just, it doesn’t have to be an all day process. It doesn’t have to take a long time. Training can be five minutes, it can be 30 minutes, depending upon what it is that you want to cover. But the importance is that consistency.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, for sure.

Eric Edwards:
It’s just got to happen. Like Joe says, “Not an option. It’s not an option.” It just has to happen. It has to create that consistency.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Doug, what about you?

Doug Christiansen:
I think one of the things we have to do is motivate salespeople to want to get better. And, it’s harder and harder to motivate. So, I like to ask this. So, how often does an average customer buy a car? Three, four, five years?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Doug Christiansen:
Okay. How often are we suppose to sell them? Wouldn’t that be every day?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Doug Christiansen:
So, who should be better at this? Part-time buyers are full-time sales professionals such as ourselves?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I love it. I’m using that one.

Doug Christiansen:
Let’s get motivated to get out there and do the right thing. Come on. It takes time, energy, and effort to become a professional athlete. You want to be a professional salesperson? It takes time, energy, and effort.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s exactly right. Dealers that are listening, the Joe Verde group. These are the guys. You saw Sean earlier. I mean, the energy level. We still believe that salespeople need to be trained. You have a gross problem? Train your salespeople. You got a CSI problem? Train your salespeople. You have a turnover problem? Train your salespeople.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
It all comes back to taking good care your sales department by training them and cultivating a good staff.

Eric Edwards:
Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Gentleman, I want to thank you so much for joining us. It is always a pleasure here at NADA to catch up with you guys, because I’m a former trainer myself and I get so frustrated over it. I know you do, too.

Eric Edwards:
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having us.

Doug Christiansen:
Thanks for having us.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Dealers make it 2020 and put it on the list.

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