What defines a great sales professional?
Great sales professionals consistently meet or exceed their sales targets, generate substantial profits, and develop a huge customer following. Great sales professionals believe in themselves and act in a confident manner, thereby instilling confidence in their customers. They know how to build immediate rapport with prospective buyers, qualify them, and make a great presentation after discovering their needs, desires, and financial constraints. They understand the importance of taking the customer out on a test drive, so they can strengthen their relationship and address the customer’s “hot buttons.” They are very good at negotiating and closing deals, but they also know that selling doesn’t end with the sale. They take great pains to ensure a perfect delivery, and they follow-up frequently with their buyers to ensure customer satisfaction, generate repeat business, and solicit referrals.
You know these sales professionals when you see them. They are the ones that are highly motivated and never stop learning, even after they reach the top. They sell not only the product, but the dealership and themselves. They don’t sit around waiting for their “ups,” but are always prospecting for new customers. They are the people you can’t afford to lose because they not only sell 20, 25, or 30 vehicles a month, but also take their customers with them when they go.
Great sales professionals are not just born, they can be developed
A common assumption is that all it takes is a great personality and basic product knowledge. Yet, most great sales performers like Joe Verde and Brian Tracy didn’t just emerge full-blown—they perfected their craft through years of training, self-improvement, and practice. With the right training, ongoing monitoring and development, and a positive and supportive work environment, the “Average Joe” can become a good sales person, and a good sales person can go from good to great.
Take George, for example, a great sales professional at a large, successful dealership. George consistently sells 30 vehicles a month, and his office displays many sales awards and glowing testimonials from customers. To become a top performer, George has completed many sales training programs over the years, yet he continues to attend every seminar he can. And, every morning as he drives to work, he listens to top motivational and sales experts like Brian Tracy, Anthony Robins, and Dale Carnegie. He understands that staying on top of his game requires continuous learning and hard work.
Three strategies for developing great sales people
Most dealerships are too busy dealing with the day-to-day business of selling vehicles to invest in the initial and long-term development of their greatest resource—their sales professionals. Yet, this investment is the most cost-effective way to develop great sales people—period. Even if each of your sales people increased sales by just two to four units a month, how many more units you would sell over the course of a year? Now what if each salesperson were to increase his or her productivity from eight or ten vehicles a month to 15, 20, or 25? Your sales and profits would grow exponentially. This is very doable. Here are three basic strategies for hiring, training, and developing great sales people like George.
Strategy 1: Eliminate “hit-or-miss” hiring practices.
Hiring is a complex process that requires a lot of skill and time to get right. Most automotive dealerships are extremely busy, so they often take short-cuts, but making mistakes can be costly. In the long run, outsourcing advertising, screening, and reference checking can save you a lot of time and money. It can help you find the right people and stop the revolving door in your dealership. The increased productivity and longevity of your new hires will provide a quick return on investment—even with the first couple of sales. If you do your own hiring, here are a few tips to avoid wasting time, hiring weak performers, or mistaking “professional interviewers” for the real deal: Create attention-grabbing adds and post them on-line to attract strong candidates; set up formal screening criteria and have a couple of staff members review them to identify promising individuals and frame follow-up questions; use 20-minute phone calls to refine the candidate pool (if they don’t impress over the phone, they won’t in person); make sure you control the interview by asking effective questions and listening at least 20 percent of the time; and be sure to check out references as looks can be deceiving.
Strategy 2: Step up training for new hires.
Too many dealerships hire someone new, tell them to read the manufacturer’s product manual or view their video-tapes, give them a couple of hours of training, and send them out on the floor. “Newbies” need intensive training before they are ready to meet their first customer and represent your dealership. A few hours of training simply won’t prepare a new automotive sales person for the demands of the being on the floor. They need at least three days of intensive training before they are ready to meet prospective buyers, and this is above and beyond product knowledge. For the training to be effective, it should cover the psychology of sales, building personal relationships, the key steps to a sale, how to add value throughout the sales process, and strategies and resources for continuous learning and improvement.
Strategy 3: Provide advanced training for your seasoned sales personnel.
Most dealerships assume that their existing sales professionals have the knowledge, skills, and motivation they need to do a good job. According to market research, however, nine out of ten sales people don’t follow the key steps to a sale. That means even experienced sales people can benefit from additional training. Although most sales managers run weekly sales meetings aimed at improving productivity, few were trained as sales trainers, and even fewer have the time it takes to provide intensive and ongoing training and support. Sports teams have multiple coaches on staff, and even Fortune 500 companies bring in outside management consultants to enhance profitability. Don’t your sales managers deserve a TO as well? An outside trainer can offer new ideas, see things from a different angle, present a different face, and offer a distinctive point of view. What’s more, the right trainer can motivate and inspire your sales team, helping them boost their performance so that they dramatically improve your bottom line.
These three strategies will help you unleash the potential of your sales force, but they won’t necessarily prevent your great sales people from “jumping ship.” To further support and retain members of your sales team, you need to set up innovative performance management systems that reward excellent performance, encourage those who are making progress, and provide positive and constructive feedback to those who still need improvement. You also need to create a positive work environment in which employees feel respected and valued and collaboration, not competition, is the norm. By following all these strategies, you’ll avoid costly hiring mistakes, accelerate sales and profits, and stop the revolving door at your dealership.
Fred G. Slabine is the president of Automotive Training & Development. For additional information, download our free guide “How You Can Develop a GREAT Sales Team, Avoid Costly Turnover, and Accelerate Sales and Profits” at www.automotivetraining.us.
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