In 1994, I was excited to begin my new career as a car salesman. When the other four guys showed up for their first day, too, I realized the dealership was using the spaghetti hiring method: throw a handful at the wall and see what sticks.
Be Honest with the Customer
We were all given a quick speech, a tour of the lot, shown where the keys were, and told to turn everyone over to a manager before they leave. Then they equipped us with three tools: a desk, a phone, and a phone book. We were told to call starting from the letter A and ask for Mr. Jones. When told it was the wrong number, we were supposed to apologize and explain that we had a special offer for Mr. Jones that was only good for that day, but since we didn’t seem to have Mr. Jones’ correct phone number, we’d like to offer them the special offer on a new vehicle instead. Transparency was very lacking back then.
Set Realistic Expectations
I was hired on a Friday and promised on-the-job training. Monday, I was thrown to the wolves. Two months later, I got fired for lack of performance because of the lack in training. Three months after that, dealer number two had a GSM that liked my personality and desire to be successful, so he hired me. He promised that I’d get “real” training. Training in their mind was a stack of brochures and American Sales Television Network every morning for 14 days. Two months later, I got fired again and felt like maybe this business wasn’t for me. The lack of training, even though it was promised, was astonishing.
Equip Your Team with All the Right Tools
Dealer number three didn’t hire me on the first visit. They spent four hours interviewing me with three managers, and another four with the remaining managers the following day. They promised training but that’s nothing new, so I asked to get a clear understanding of what to expect on day one. Monday morning, I showed up 15 minutes early and ready to learn. To my surprise, they were ready to teach me the ropes of being a car salesman. I was going to have 14 days of on-the-job training that involved leadership staff every day and senior sales people.
Each morning began with training videos while one of the managers broke it down step-by-step, explaining why we were serving people this way and how to do it right so the buyer could leave with what they wanted; a new vehicle. Afternoons were spent shadowing a senior sales professional. I got to work with the top guy at the dealership. It was up to him to determine if we were ready to go on the floor and work with customers, so he made sure I was ready to rock. In 1995, I was awarded Salesperson of the Year, a trip to Vegas I was too young for, and the confidence to be a pro.
Lead Through Service
Twenty-two years later, I still see way too many salespeople and managers in the dealership who don’t care at all. Salespeople are saying that their managers don’t trust them, treat them like children, verbally abuse them in meetings and more. These types of managers clearly don’t recognize that they’re abusing themselves and their own income by demeaning their employees. They don’t realize that leaders exist to serve the ones that they are supposed to be leading; not to be served. These managers are not true leaders, and they’re causing this industry a lot of grief.
More Tech Means More Time for Human Connection
Sure, technology has changed and we’ve gone digital with mobile phones, email, and texting – making follow-up easier than ever. Now that the CRM’s follow-up process can be automated for the stuff considered menial, the challenge is that salespeople and leadership staff have become completely detached from human interaction. This detachment causes somewhat of an autopilot effect that must be changed, and changed quickly.
When Everyone Cares, Everyone Wins
Our leaders have gone from being active participants in salesperson success to hang-arounds waiting to work a deal and for a turnover. In the past, you had to actually care about your salespeople and customers in order to be successful. You still do need to care to be successful. Unfortunately, I see people showing up and expecting tools to do the job for them.
What hasn’t changed in my 22 years in this industry is this: buyers dictate the future. A lot of people are afraid of this fact, but the best part about buyers dictating the future is that they’re telling us what they want. All we have to do is care enough to listen so we can continue to move the car buying and selling experience even further.