Dealership inventories are well below normal for both new and used vehicles and it’s likely to be another year before it has some semblance of usual business, give, or take. Prices are at record highs and the customers visiting the dealership online and in person are arguably the highest-intent purchasers the auto retail industry has ever seen.
For salespeople, it’s become one of the best scenarios to close a sale: shoppers who come ready to buy, negotiation is almost non-existent, buyers jumping at unheard-of trade-in prices, and new cars selling well over retail without a problem. Although they may have fewer units to sell, each one is turning over quickly. In some cases, salespeople can just jump to the paperwork rather than go through the prescribed steps. It’s a recipe for success among salespeople and the dealership’s bottom line.
There’s a problem brewing that could rear its ugly head when the market settles back down. Once the supply exceeds demand once again, salespeople will need to go back to the standard methods of vehicle selling they have been hammered with since they were hired. Are they truly successful salespeople and product advisors, or are they just efficient order-takers?
While the industry has a lull in vehicle production and dealerships aren’t quite as busy as usual, it’s the right time to teach and practice the sales process that’s tried and true. Expect to be met with some opposition during these times when sales are easy, but your sales team will be healthier for it.
Audit your sales process
As a manager, it’s as good a time as any to review the process your dealership uses and determine if there are areas that need to be streamlined. The SWOT analysis method works well here – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats – to discover anything you need to change. Ensure you have the integrated technology in your CRM to eliminate redundancies and frustrations that can arise with both the customers and the salesperson during the process and look to stay on the leading edge.
No shortcuts in onboarding
Gone are the days when a new hire meets customers on their first day. Onboarding a salesperson should set them up for success by teaching them the processes of a sale before they ever hit the floor, answer phones, or respond to online leads.
Employ an onboarding process that emphasizes the dealership’s values in how customers are engaged, the correct steps to go about the sale, and any certifications necessary to participate as part of the sales team. Every new hire should go through the process you set out, and it’s a good idea to refresh current employees too.
Learn the product
Another more relevant name for a salesperson is ‘product expert’ or a variation on that term. Each one should know the vehicles thoroughly – not just the specs but the real-world implications and how to use the features. It’s a fundamental part of the sales process that the salesperson can demonstrate the product effectively.
At the car dealership, the product is much more than just the vehicle. Salespeople should be competent in explaining the store’s benefits as well as how to contact service, parts, or the collision center.
It’s everyone’s favorite: role-playing. Though it’s nerve-wracking and seems pointless at the time, practicing the dealership’s proven methods with the team not only ensures that every salesperson knows the right way of going through the process, but they’re able to put it into practice.
However, make it feel more natural by completing this training element in smaller groups – three or four people – so that competent but less confident team members aren’t flustered by it.
Correct bad behavior
Like any sales position, saving time by cutting corners is a constant temptation. It’s true for new hires as much as it is for experienced staff. In some cases, it’s harmless and doesn’t affect the outcome while in other situations will result in a lost sale or upset customer.
Cutting corners or ignoring the process can be willful or absent-minded and should be treated accordingly. There’s no room to tolerate someone who won’t abide by the process, and harsh correction is warranted whether they’re a longtime staff member or brand new. For those who understand the error and are willing to work on doing better, it simply proves the importance of sales process training in the first place.
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