Five Keys to a More Professional Sales Force

I’ll never forget Gene. Gene was a salesman at the Ford dealership where I had my first job in selling. Gene was a veteran. He’d worked at that dealership for 25 years. Gene never took an “up” at the front door. He didn’t have to. He filled his days with pre-set appointments with referrals, past customers, and family members of past customers. Gene averaged 20-25 units per month


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How did he do it? Was it product knowledge? Hardly—“ain’t she purty” was his best presentation line. Was it up-to-date sales methodologies? Again, no. Gene was old school. For Gene, his success came from longevity at the dealership, his customer friendliness, and his ability to build and keep relationships. Sadly, the Genes of the world are the exception rather than the rule in the turnover-heavy auto dealership industry, and fixing the car buying experience begins with a more professional sales force. Here are five ways to get there:

1. Change the compensation.

Straight commission is dead. Yes, I know, you probably hire on straight commission, but most of your salespeople are looking to advance their careers by getting to a “better” sales job with a salary and commission play plan. Today’s salesperson wants to be invested in, and a salary is part of that.

2. No flooding the floor.

One of the most salesperson-unfriendly habits of the car business is flooding the floor by hiring more salespeople than you need or can support, figuring “the strong ones will survive.” Reality is that the strong ones will recognize this for what it is and leave, because they have options and can get hired elsewhere.

3. Take a long term approach.

Statistics show that salespeople don’t reach profitability until somewhere between month 6 and 12, and don’t reach full productivity until year three. When you hire salespeople, don’t think about their productivity next week or next month; think about developing salespeople who can produce consistently and excellently year after year. That requires a mindset change on most “hair trigger firing” sales managers in the car business.



4. Stop the group pounce.

We’ve all seen this. A group of salespeople stand outside the dealership, waiting to run and pounce on the next defenseless customer that comes in the front door. Few things will cause customers to keep driving quite like this. Be professionals in the distribution of ups and leads. Rotate the ups, and distribute the leads on a one to one basis.

5. Change the training.

Car salespeople are still trained in the same customer-unfriendly manner that they have been for decades. Instead, it’s time to look outside the industry for training that is more modern and more respectful of the customers.

Car sales can, and should, be a fun and exciting career, as well as a rewarding one. It shouldn’t be seen as merely a stepping stone, or as a fallback. Sadly enough, in many cases, that’s what it is, but implementing the five steps above can change that. The “Genes” of the world are invaluable, and you can have more of them by following this system.

Troy Harrison is the author of “Sell Like You Mean It!” and a Speaker, Consultant, and Sales Navigator. He helps companies build more profitable and productive sales forces with his cutting-edge sales training and methodologies. For information on booking speaking/training engagements, consulting, or to sign up for his weekly E-zine, call 913-645-3603, email tharrison@dealermark.com, or visit www.troyharrison.com.

Troy Harrison

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