Fleming Ford

Head of Strategy | Quantum⁵

Fleming is Head of Strategy for Quantum⁵, the first training platform to transform dealership training and bridge the gap between the traditional and digital customer Quantum5. Fleming cares deeply about creating progressive automotive leaders who can embrace challenges because they have the tools, mindsets and emotional skills to grow and engage all-star teams that achieve remarkable results.

A dynamic speaker and certified performance coach, Fleming believes dealership culture is the most paramount asset to a dealership’s financial success as we navigate today’s constant-changing digital retail environment. With 20+ years of experience coaching retail automotive leaders and HR Execs, she ignites positive transformational change with concrete ways for leaders to enhance the employee experience and drive better business outcomes.

Embrace Change as a Leader for Your Dealership to Thrive

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If we have learned anything during the pandemic, it’s time we get comfortable with being uncomfortable ! The good news is leaders that embrace and encourage change have a dynamic team with a stronger and healthier culture, whereas dealerships that aren’t open to change tend to BE stagnant and vulnerable to failure. In other words, if you’re not willing to change, you’re not ready to lead. One of the biggest reasons that embracing change leads to success is because when we try new things, we learn from the new experiences, and we innovate new improved ideas. Whether the outcome is good or bad, every time we navigate through the unfamiliar, we undergo processes that will allow us to grow.   “The world as we have created it, is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ― Albert Einstein Whether it is new digital retailing technology or implementing a new DMS, when leaders frame change in the right way and take action to support that change, team members are way more likely to embrace it. And guess what? The need for change exists everywhere, no matter how successful the company or dealership, and yours is no different. As a leader, you should constantly be asking yourself how to improve and be willing to test the waters when needed. Once you do identify the need for change, reflect with your team about how to address that change. How does your team feel about the change? How can you support them? Do they have any questions? Next, you must understand that people will be naturally resistant to change, and even if everyone appears to be on the same page at first, it’s going to be your job to usher people past the disruption and create a new status quo. Effective leaders are able to communicate change in a way that takes into account their team’s perspective, including their emotional well-being. In times of change make it a point to check in with emotions and concerns whenever possible. Strong leaders are able to see the change through the lens of their team, always consider how will this change impact the service technician, the valent, or the new sales consultants and understand how to best connect value to each individual. There is always a question of value when we make significant change. This is when it is time to tune in to my favorite radio station, WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) Remember, you are asking people to change from the comfortable, “the way we have always done it around here”, to a new way in how we do business so always understand the shift you may be excited about, can feel overwhelming to some Most people won’t buy-in 100% until the either recognize the individual positive consequence it entails. The more you can communicate and cast a vision that connect with their individual “Why”, the more they feel trust you, the more you commit to helping them, the more they will invest their hearts and their time. Make sure everyone has a clear role they feel good about. The whole team should be crystal clear about what everyone’s role is so that things can run as smoothly as possible, with minimal confusion about who is responsible for what. Understanding where they fit in to the new change initiative, will help them feel less anxious about the change.   We know that dealerships must change in order to thrive in an always-changing market. In order to help your team (and yourself) stomach change in a manageable way, break down each step of that change into small steps. Do your best to map out any major hurdles and plan solutions for dealing with them. This eliminates an enormous amount of stress, burnout, or disengagement.  The more that you map out your path, the easier the road will be! “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ― Rob Siltanen
Embracing Change As a Leader - Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

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Leaders who embrace change have a dynamic team with a stronger and healthier culture, whereas dealerships that aren’t open to change tend to BE stagnant and vulnerable to failure. In other words, if you’re not willing to change, you’re not ready to lead. One of the biggest reasons that embracing change leads to success is because when we try new things, we learn from the new experiences, and we innovate new improved ideas. Whether the outcome is good or bad, every time we navigate through the unfamiliar, we undergo processes that will allow us to grow.    “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ― Albert Einstein When leaders frame change in the right way and take action to support that change, team members are way more likely to embrace it. And guess what? The need for change exists everywhere, no matter how successful the company or dealership, and yours is no different. As a leader, you should constantly be asking yourself how to improve and be willing to test the waters when needed. Once you do identify the need for change, reflect with your team about how to address that change. How does your team feel about the change? How can you support them? Do they have any questions? Next, you must understand that people will be naturally resistant to change, and even if everyone appears to be on the same page at first, it’s going to be your job to usher people past the disruption and create a new status quo. Effective leaders are able to communicate change in a way that takes into account their team’s perspective, including their emotional well-being. In times of change make it a point to check in with emotions and concerns whenever possible.  . Strong leaders are able to see the change through the lens of their team, always consider how will this change impact the service technician, the valent or the new sales consultants and understand how to best connect value to each individual. There is always a question of value when we make significant change. This is when it is time to tune in to my favorite radio station, WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) Remember, you are asking people to change from the comfortable, “the way we have always done it around here”, to a new way in how we do business so always understand the shift you may be excited about, can feel overwhelming to some Most people won’t buy-in 100% until the either recognize the individual positive consequence it entails. The more you can communicate and cast a vision that connects with their individual “Why”, the more they feel trust you, the more you commit to helping them, the more they will invest their hearts and their time.  Make sure everyone has a clear role they feel good about. The whole team should be crystal clear about what everyone’s role is so that things can run as smoothly as possible, with minimal confusion about who is responsible for what. Understanding where they fit into the new change initiative will help them feel less anxious about the change.  We know that dealerships must change in order to thrive in an always-changing market. In order to help your team (and yourself) stomach change in a manageable way, break down each step of that change into small steps. Do your best to map out any major hurdles and plan solutions for dealing with them. This eliminates an enormous amount of stress, burnout, or disengagement.   The more that you map out your path, the easier the road will be! “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ― Rob Siltanen
Cultivating a Winning Sales Team

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When your dealership hits its sales goals, profitability and morale run high. Life at your dealership is energized, employees are engaged and looking forward for the future. Success like this doesn’t just happen by accident. It occurs through intentionally hiring and developing a top-notch sales team. It happens when you have the right salespeople in the right roles with the aptitude and propensity to perform in the fast-paced retail environment in a thriving culture that supports their success. Let’s explore how to cultivate the sales team you need for your store to enjoy lasting prosperity. The Cost of an Ineffective Sales Team Before we dive into the strategy to assemble a winning sales team, we need to face a hard truth. An ineffective sales team will keep you from reaching revenue targets and could ultimately devastate the dealership financially. Failing to sell enough vehicles or RO’s obviously hurts the bottom line - and is, sadly, more common than you may think. According to HubSpot, two-thirds of sales associates miss the mark. But did you also know that your company will spend an average of $65,000 and six months on replacing each sales consultants or advisors that leaves the dealership? In general, most sales representatives wash out of your dealership because they lacked one (or more) of several things: motivation, connection, sales skills, training, recognition, guidance, or product knowledge. Here’s what you can do about it. Establish a Sales Culture There’s a lot of literature out there that supports the benefits of a good dealership culture. Your sales team should have its own. It doesn’t have to be fancy. A short statement of the values your team shares works just fine. Be sure it’s not just words on the training room wall. Engage your sales team in identifying and agreeing upon which values matter most to them and what behaviors support them. You’ll want to all agree and uphold the values with standards and expectations that differentiate your dealership’s brand, the client experience and ultimately support the vision of your future success. Your sales culture will help align everyone on the team and keep members motivated. The shared values and defined standards will ensure a more consistent experience for your customers. You and your team should do everything in accordance with the sales culture you establish, and members of the sales team should share openly and hold each other accountable to your established values. When stress piles up, and numbers are hard to hit, values are often pushed aside; especially if they’re viewed as just words on paper. As the leader, set the tone to make it OK for all to hold each other accountable for upholding these values and speaking up when things go off track. Hire Intentionally Using your sales culture, think about the ideal sales representative. Write your job description and advertisement based on that ideal. Of course, you may need to be flexible so that you’re not endlessly chasing unicorns, (you know the one – that twenty-car guy that is miraculously available). Hire with intention and with a plan, so there’s a greater chance of culture fit and sales success. As you consider what your next hires need to look like, take a close look at your existing sales team and your customers to determine what gaps you need to fill. What personality traits or specific skills will take your team to the next level? I encourage all my dealerships to use a hiring assessment to accurately gauge fit and get a look under the hood. I recommend The Omnia Group’s hiring assessment. They have a suite of automotive job profiles that assess candidate fit and help you avoid bad hires.  John F. Kennedy once said a rising tide lifts all boats. He was speaking about the economy. I believe this applies to sales teams too. Every person you hire should bring something new to your mix that takes the whole team up a notch, this may mean giving up on what I affectionately call the “Retreads” and the crazy flooding of the floor. Let’s all recall the famous Albert Einstein quote about the definition of insanity and stop doing it the way you’ve always done—it’s time for some innovative hiring strategies. Onboard Thoroughly Your new sales consultants will need lots of personal attention early on to set them up for success, especially in today’s market. Customers are coming to the dealership wielding a ton of knowledge, so don’t send your sales rep to the gunfight with a just butter knife. Equip them with the skills and confidence to best represent your store. Besides the typical HR steps, your onboarding should include: A review of the sales culture, values, and standards and how it impacts the sales process In-depth training on the brand, vehicles, CRM, DMS and processes A discussion about their individual goals and clarity around the proactive daily activities that will help them achieve results Introductions and personal connections to ensure they feel comfortable and part of the team A cadence of scheduled check-ins with their manager to provide on-going support once they are active on the floor A thorough onboarding helps new sales associates feel welcome and engaged. It also gets them familiar with what they’re selling and how they’re expected to sell it. Provide Ongoing Training and Mentorship All that time you spend onboarding your new hires can quickly go out the door if you don’t provide an on-going method for training, skill development and coaching.  84% of sales training is forgotten in the first 3 months . Robust onboarding lays a solid foundation, but it’s not enough. You must provide ongoing training and mentorship to keep your sales team growing. Your training and development plan should include: Group training to reiterate basic but essential sales skills - and introduce new ones.   Improve learning with DAILY simulation practice of inbound and outbound calls and sales situations to ensure the word tracks are natural and you are not losing any opportunities. (Bonus: Drastically increase conversions!) Private 1:1 coaching to work on specific sales situations and issues and provide feedback.  Mentorship opportunities for seasoned players to share best practices with new members of the team, make this a part of the career path to management.  Encouragement to seek development opportunities outside of the dealership, either through your manufacturer, vendor partners, workshops, or many of the online courses available. Establish a cadence of daily sales huddles to share wins, discuss challenges, and set short term goals and focus points. Also, take the time to hold regular cross-functional meetings with sales, BDC and service advisors to discuss upcoming customer appointments, how to optimize the experience and acquired more trade-ins to support inventory deficits. Providing an environment of on-going communication and cross development gives everyone an opportunity to grow in their role, while building a team climate of shared goals and focus and eliminate our infamous department silos. Give Regular, Detailed Feedback Your sales associates need to know what they’re doing right so they can do more of it - and what they’re doing wrong so they change it. That insight comes from your regular, detailed feedback. Make it a point to speak to each sales representative on a set schedule of one-on-one's and build plenty of opportunity for sales call observation and review. Build out time in one-on-one's that goes beyond reviewing deals and pipeline health. Use these meetings to also establish and review development goals – both personal and professional. This is your time to get to know what inspires and motivates every sales rep and can also help uncover what’s getting in their way whether it be a skill or mindset gap. Recognize Accomplishments When an individual sales associate or the entire team does well, celebrate it. Show them that you're proud of them and appreciate their contribution. Recognition will make them feel good and motivate them to replicate that feeling by achieving more success. Be sure to understand what type of recognition motivates each individual. Some reps are motivated by group praise and all-company recognition while others would rather shrink under a rug if that happened to them. Sending a personal handwritten note can go just as far with one individual as a shout out during the morning meeting Final Thoughts Your sales team drives the financial success of your dealership. To have an effective selling machine, you must identify the right talent, put it where it will thrive, continue to develop it and engage their very best performance. The leader is the thermostat that sets the climate for the sales team, cultivates the growth of the team and the inspires the success of each sales rep. Commitment to establishing these practices creates the soil and foundation for your team to hit goals and thrive together now and far into the future.
8 Management Techniques to Maximize Employee Engagement

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Is Your Team Engaged?  Employee engagement is a critical issue for most dealerships. Engagement is the level of involvement, enthusiasm and commitment and employee feels toward their job and workplace. Today’s atmosphere offers so many distractions that can keep your team from focusing on the works that is before them.  There are three types of employees – the engaged, the unengaged, and the discontented. According to our last poll of 130,000 dealership employees, about 24% of employees are engaged in their work, meaning that they’re emotionally committed to getting the job done well and putting in the full effort.  That same poll shows that about 38% of employees are unengaged, meaning that they are satisfied with their positions, but aren’t really invested in the dealership’s vision or goals. These employees do just enough to meet the minimum requirements of their job. The remaining 38% of the workforce is discontented and disengaged, meaning they may be sabotaging your success.   To ensure that their team is happy and challenged, my best advice is to keep an open mind, an empathetic ear, and clear channels of communication. The level of engagement that an individual exhibits is often tied to how much they feel empowered, trusted, inspired and valued by their leader.   Let’s look at eight techniques for maximizing engagement:  1) Set challenging but realistic goals Allowing people to work within their comfort zone leads to complacency that kills engagement. Get creative and inspire them to take on new projects, set new goals, or learn new skills. More importantly, get them to let go of “the way we always did it”.  Leaders must challenge individuals and teams to see a new vision and push them whenever possible to do and be better Employees who are challenged with new projects, new goals and new skills need more coaching and cheerleading to make them realize they are truly capable of achieving more! 2) Everyone wants to be recognized for what they bring to the table! Recognize good work and praise people in front of the rest of the team with a shoutout in a team meeting, text, email, or on your dealership Facebook or LinkedIn page. A pat on the back makes individuals feel good about themselves and encourages others to step up if they know they’ll be rewarded with social recognition. BONUS – It also promotes your employment brand, helping recruit new candidates.   3) Track productivity but empower employees and avoid micromanaging Empowering individuals tells them you trust them, which increases engagement and performance. It is a powerful thing when employees believe in their manager, it is even more powerful when a manager believes in their people. Trust is the core of all high-performance cultures.   4) Make it easy and comfortable for your team to communicate Keep lines of communication open and encourage team members to come to you with concerns or roadblocks. When team members don’t feel comfortable speaking openly and honestly with one another, issues don’t get resolved and tension can lead to problematic outcomes. A sobering discussion I have when coaching leaders is when they score poorly on our employee engagement question “Departments in this dealership communicate well and work together as a team”. Avoid all of this by checking in with your employees regularly and giving them an outlet to voice their issues. 5) Prove that employees have a voice   It’s one thing to talk the talk, but when claiming that their feedback is important, you have to walk the walk, too! Send out anonymous surveys and polls. To get a better idea of how your team is responding to company culture, workload, and the direction that you’re headed. This allow employees to voice concerns without fear of retribution.  I also encourage you to ask for feedback from small groups or one-on-one. I provide my managers with a list of questions that we use for “Coffee and Convos” to start meaningful conversations and uncover new solutions and ideas to improve both culture and processes. 6) Respect that different people have different learning styles Not everyone can sit through online manufacturer training and get the information they need to work with our customers with confidence. Some people need one-on-one instruction; others need visuals; others need to just jump in and get started. Provide a hybrid of learning opportunities and upgrade your skills at coaching and teaching. 7) Take time to really check-in Workdays get hectic in the dealership and everyone has a tight schedule. It’s critical that teams make time to catch up and check-in with one another. Even if it’s just a quick five-minute huddle to share progress, learn a new skill or tip, or review a company value. Communication fuels connectivity and fosters a sense of togetherness, so don’t let it slip! 8) Embrace change If this last year has taught us anything, you must foster a team culture prepared to roll with the punches by being open to change. If someone leaves your team, how will you move forward? If a customer wants to take delivery at home, how will you make that happen? If anyone is too invested in how things should be, you might be missing out on how great things could be! Employee engagement is built on growth, communication, purpose, relationships, integrity, two-way commitment and trust. When done well, it improves the dealership and individual performance, increases the chance of success for managers, drives retention, and dramatically increases productivity.