As the auto industry continues to change daily, dealership strengths and weaknesses become apparent throughout. When the internet age was born, a shift in the management talent of store occurred. A manager’s job, that used to only go to the strongest closer in the store, became a job that instead could be filled by someone with a lot less talent. If a new hire understood how to use a computer and were willing to work for less than the previous manager, they got the job, creating a new breed of desk and finance managers. By placing people who were better organized, computer literate, and in many cases more educated than the previous manager in management roles, dealers saved on compensation and loved it. At that time, what they didn’t see was that these perceived high value qualities, while appealing, weren’t enough because they lost the most important talent of all among dealership management. They lost the talent of making deals. Dealerships today need to work hard to bring back the Deal Makers.
As I travel the country working with dealers in an effort to improve their operations, deal making talent is without question the most prevalent missing talent in today’s management teams. It’s not that managers can’t be Deal Makers; they just have never been asked be one or shown how. In many cases, today’s managers were groomed in a time when the auto industry was red hot, it wasn’t difficult to get deals done. If you were fortunate enough to have worked in a Honda or Toyota store, your day may have completely consisted of sitting at a desk and taking deals brought to you by the salespeople. Long gone are the days of multiple trips back to the sales desk getting coached by an expert on overcoming the customer’s objections. Those trips today usually include a copy of an invoice or an used vehicle market value printout in an effort to document the price that is presented. Usually after the first pencil, if not the first. If the customer is convinced of legitimacy, he may buy. If not, he leaves. All the while the sales manager is waiting back at the desk to sign the buyers order. He has become a Deal Taker not a Deal Maker
Today’s managers have talent. They are better educated, and have technology on their side. What they need is daily guidance and direction, just like sales people. Everyone can be a Deal Maker by following a few simple rules:
Introduce yourself to the customer at the start of the sales process, not the end.
For years we learned to make sure the customer meets a manager before they leave, that’s a Deal Taker. Today, Deal Makers meet the customer’s when they arrive. This will allow the customer to feel welcome, appreciated, and that their purchase is very important to the management of the store. Breaking down mental barriers is critical to the sales process succeeding. By making the customer feel important right away, you begin to chip away at the defense mechanisms they installed before arriving.
Track your data and know what it means!
It stuns me to meet dealers who not only don’t know what their data means, some don’t even track it. Deal Makers track data and monitor it regularly. How can you effectively manage your marketing, productivity, and opportunities without knowing who is coming to your store, how they are getting there, and what is happening when they do? By becoming a student of your data, you begin to know everything you need to in these areas by simply looking at the daily reports. Leads, appointments set, appointment shows, sales, and credit scores are all items that should be tracked daily. When you understand your data you can react to trends and make adjustments immediately.
Train your salespeople, daily!
Remember when you conducted sales training once a month, maybe once a week if you were good? Today’s Deal Makers do it daily. Fifteen to twenty minutes every day focused on a specific topic to help increase your sales. Everyone wants to be trained, but in the auto industry, we tend to pay someone else to do it. Rather than sit your team in front of a video for 1 hour, take 20 minutes each day and effectively attack current problems within your selling system. From customer qualification to handling a phone up, all are great topics that need addressed over and over again.
Hold everyone accountable, including yourself!
Deal Makers do not make special allowances for the top salespeople. Do some employees get favorable treatment and are not held to the same standard? If you do this, you are creating an environment of discontent. If you have a salesperson that is so good that they don’t need to be trained, have those salespeople help train instead. Many employees will learn by teaching as well as listening. Only Deal Takers make excuses for the top performers or even for themselves. Set some standard operating procedures and make them culture within your store. Your employees will respect the fact that everyone is on a level playing field.
Get out from your desk and go make it happen!
Make your presence known on the showroom, all day long. Deal Takers wait for the salesperson to come tell you he has lost control. Deal Makers already know it and are there to catch the ball when it gets fumbled on the showroom floor. Show your people and your customers why you are in charge. By making yourself available at all times to the sales force, you will become their backstop. Once you have shown they can count on you, they will be loyal to a fault.
Deal Makers are on the way up, Deal Takers are on the way out! Which are you?
Shawn Foster is an Executive Trainer for DealerStrong, specializing in Special Finance and Inventory. Previously, for nearly 25 years, Shawn owned and operated multiple new and used car dealerships which focused on meeting the needs of the Special Finance customer.