Twenty-two years ago this month I entered the car industry. The only sales experience I had was selling cushions, redwood furniture, fireworks, and Christmas trees at flea markets. After eleven dealerships turned me down, I finally found one that gave me a chance. Here are some things I heard when I was looking for a job at dealerships that wouldn’t hire me:
Sorry kid – no experience, NO JOB!
What do you want to do this for? This is an older man’s job.
Why don’t you go to college?
Don’t call us. We’ll call you.
“We’ll let ya know!”
National Sales Recruiter & Trainer at AutoMax
That last one I l just loved to hear. Even though it was years prior to becoming a poker player, I could spot the bluff and knew that I was NEVER getting a call back. After hearing all of the above so many times, it was a huge relief when I finally heard that 3 letter word that can make or break us: YES!
Now I was a rookie in the car business. What did my initial training consist of? Two weeks of watching VHS tapes of Joe Verde. I was then asked, “Do you think you are ready to sell a car?” I replied in a very hesitant voice, “Um, I think so?” I was then told “OK Santangelo, GO TAKE AN UP!” My training eventually ended up being fantastic– I wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance and wisdom of my mentors. As a 20-year-old kid, this is how my car business career started.
The hiring/on boarding process in 2019 is obviously completely different than it was 20-plus years ago. Why are we using the processes of yesterday to find the best applicants today? Let’s break it down.
Dealerships spend tons of money every month in advertising to bring customers into their showrooms. It used to be the newspaper that made the phone ring off the hook Monday morning; today it’s digital advertising and internet leads. The same thing can be said in how you advertise to potential employees. It’s not just throwing an ad up on Indeed. It’s making that ad very welcoming to those who are considering a career change into car sales but are looking for that boost of confidence to get them to apply. One of the best practices today with regard to ad placement is to show your potential new hire that experience is not required. Be willing to train them the right way to sell cars, so they won’t feel left on an island trying to figure things out for themselves. Encourage those that are in the hospitality industries, and candidates who have served our country to apply as well. You say you want college graduates? How about implementing a College Loan Reimbursement program into your pay plan? Do you think that would be a “perk” that would get “qualified” applicants to hit the “send button”?
The next step is to reply to applicants promptly. As an Internet Manager who worked leads cradle to grave for 14 of my 19 years selling cars, it was drilled into my head EVERY internet lead needed to be reached with a phone call and personalized email within 15 minutes. Otherwise our competition would get them in the door and we would be left with nothing. The same thing should apply to incoming applications for employment. They should be going to the decision maker’s email or phone with an alert so you can respond right away.
The number one complaint from applicants is that no one gets back to them for days– or in some cases weeks. Have you ever experienced that? Now imagine that you reply immediately. What a much better first impression that would give to a potential 30-plus car a month salesperson.
You set up an interview for a day or two later, but what usually happens?
The applicant arrives for their 12:15 PM interview while you are working two deals at once. Another salesperson needs an appraisal. Behind them is your ASM looking for a $1,500 OK for a Used Car Safety Check. The salesperson you hired four weeks ago, who you haven’t had a chance to train, is about to get swept. The owner is texting, asking how many deals you have…and you still need to have your CIT meeting.
Your receptionist gives an application to the candidate, which they finish in 14 minutes and 11 seconds, but you don’t sit down with them until 29 minutes and 44 seconds later. Are you giving that applicant your full attention, or is your mind on the six or seven things you need to get done? Just like a proper greeting is important with a customer, giving your potential new hire your undivided attention is crucial. This starts with conducting the same scripted interview for everyone. During the interview it would be a best practice to look past the resume or if they are “dressed for the part”. Instead, look for the hunger and desire that is inside them. As I like to say, if something is worth doing, you will always have some type of fear. As leaders it is our responsibility to help our employees overcome that fear to become the best versions of themselves.
Congratulations – you hire them! What onboarding processes do you have in place to create employee retention? The first step is to get the New Hire onboard immediately. Yes, we have drug and background checks, but they should only take 3 days. I have seen some new hires wait two weeks to come aboard. Would you tell your customer they can’t take delivery of their car for two weeks or do you go for the “spot” right away? Of course you go for the spot, and you should be “spotting” your employees as well.
Once they start, the next 48 hours should include the following:
- Introduce the New Hire to every department in your store
- Create the logins they need for the CRM, and email
- Order them the $20 box of business cards
- Provide them a copy of their pay plan and go over it with them so they understand how to maximize it.
- Take a T.O. with your New Hire at the end of the first day and ask them for feedback. What can you do to make their transition to the car industry more efficient?
Make the decision from day one to build your store from the inside out by giving your New Hires your time. You will never have to wonder again if you hired them dead or killed them after they started. Make the commitment to not be in the car business, but the people business. This will create employee retention, get you the results you desire, and give you the workplace culture that will make your employees become the best version of themselves. This is the true definition of what it means to go ALL IN!
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