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In my lifetime I have visited hundreds of dealerships. I have seen sales teams that are crushing it and sales teams that are performing dismally. Over time, I have noticed common denominators in both groups. I won't bother sharing what those are for the latter group because a dismal performance is not something you want to emulate.
However, for the first group--the ones crushing it--the common denominator boils down to empowerment. The most successful dealerships empower their salespeople with these three tactics:
Coaching, not managing
Providing salespeople with technology for communicating effectively and transacting deals in a customer-centric manner
First, let's address coaching vs. managing. A traditional management style in many dealerships I see is 'managing down.' When a new salesperson is hired, the manager tells them how many phone calls to make every day, how many people to talk to every day, how many appointments to make every week, and presumably a dozen other "cans" and "can'ts."
Then, before the sales meeting, the manager runs a report and looks at the numbers. If something's off, they call out the salesperson during the meeting.
Remedies to problems are typically given with advice like "You shouldn't have said that. You should say it this way," or "You did that wrong. You need to go back and do it this way."
There are a couple of problems with this approach. First, these remedies manage the deal, not the person. Managing a person requires coaching, and telling someone what to do and how to do it is not coaching. Managing down makes the salesperson feel like they have no say in how they do their job, which can lead to frustration.
I realize some of you out there may be saying, "But we've managed this way for 30 years! What's wrong with that?"
Your dealership has had to adapt to many changes in the last decade. The Internet and technology have changed the way you sell cars. Now, a generational change is requiring a new style of managing, which I really believe is more like coaching.
Thirty years ago a young salesperson was willing to sacrifice much to be successful. They were willing to work long hours, weekends, holidays and miss family events for years to become successful. Today, not as many people are motivated by money, and they are not willing to sacrifice as much to get it.
Instead, they are motivated by feeling that they're a part of something and what they do matters. They value their time, and they want to feel valued by their employer. They want to be heard and understood.
Enter the coach. Coaching and counseling are really a lost art, but it's a very successful management technique. Instead of managing down, coaching relies on managing up. That is, let the salesperson set their own goals, report their own KPIs and come up with solutions to their own problems. Getting the entire team involved gives the individual a sense of purpose and motivates them to be accountable, not to the manager, but to their team members.
Before a meeting, the manager still prints a report, but it's just to verify the numbers given by the salesperson. If there's a problem, don't tell the salesperson how to say or do something. Instead, offer feedback that prompts the salesperson to come up with a solution. An example might be: "So you didn't get the outcome you wanted. What do you think you should do differently?"
This approach forces the salesperson to become involved and acknowledge the consequences of failing to do something, like making those phone calls.
A coach offers ideas and a knowledge base of what works based on real-world experience. Ultimately, it's up to the salesperson whether they decide to listen or take your advice. But here's the thing: when you empower your salespeople to make their own decisions, they have to own the results of those decisions.
Another common denominator I have noticed in many dealerships is that successful salespeople are empowered with the use of technology. Specifically, mobile technology and multi-channel communication tools that allow them to transact deals in a customer-centric manner.
This means that your salesperson should be able to transact deals anywhere. With mobile tablets, they can look up information, make offers and transact deals wherever the customer is most comfortable --whether that's in the showroom, on the lot or even at the customer's house.
Additionally, salespeople need to be empowered with appropriate communications tools. You already know half your customers prefer to communicate with text. Do you have an integrated texting system yet? Many car shoppers prefer watching videos over reading text. Do you have inventory videos and virtual test-drive videos to send to these customers?
If your salespeople can't communicate with customers in the way those customers want or expect, your salespeople are not empowered. The ability to build rapport with customers is an important part of the sales process. The more emails, texts, phone calls and videos you send, the more likely the customer will connect, engage and buy.
The most successful sales teams I have seen are empowered. They are empowered with new styles of management and with technology. They streamline their processes to remove as many unnecessary steps and people as possible. The end result is a better experience for your customers, which translates to a better bottom line for your dealership.