Get In Shape for the Big Game

We are in the midst of football season. So, with help from two coaching greats, let's see what football can teach us about the retail automotive business. Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. Vince Lombardi, Coach, Green Bay Packers Just ask the New England Patriots, winners of three Super Bowls. This team, like others, practices for hours to prepare for one 60-minute

We are in the midst of football season. So, with help from two coaching greats, let's see what football can teach us about the retail automotive business.

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” — Vince Lombardi, Coach, Green Bay Packers

Just ask the New England Patriots, winners of three Super Bowls. This team, like others, practices for hours to prepare for one 60-minute game.

Practices vary from weight training to analyzing tapes, from studying plays to full-gear workouts. Why? So they execute their game plan as a team, flawlessly.

How does this compare with an average dealership? Dealerships expect their sales people to work 40, maybe 50, hours a week, and to interact with 50 to 60 customers per month. Most sales people spend a minimum of 60 minutes with each customer, so the “game” is about the same.

But, when it comes to practices, most dealerships are far from perfect. The time to practice is not when the customer arrives. Dealerships should practice — delivering training, developing skills and honing talent — a minimum of 30 minutes a day, Monday through Friday, with their teams.

“Confidence is contagious and so is lack of confidence, and a customer will recognize both.“ — Vince Lombardi

Like football teams, dealership teams must clearly understand the game plan (processes/techniques/goals) and how to execute it as a team.

Dealers are obliged to provide training in the skills needed for every job function for every employee. Training not only makes it clear that part of each team member's job is to help their teammates, it teaches them how.

Similarly, delineating the dealership's vision, processes and procedures gives every employee the same opportunity to embrace new skills and apply them in new ways as a team. Often, training uncovers star performers who emerge only after they receive the tools and information they need to succeed.

Training programs don't have to be complex, but must be comprehensive and include motivational, organizational, managerial, sales, service and leadership skills.

“Life's battles don't always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.” — Vince Lombardi

Even veteran ball players strive to get stronger and smarter so they can help the team win. These players know it's not always the biggest, fastest players that win, but the team that is better prepared and executes its game plan as a team.

Their commitment to the team develops a mind set that can overcome physical obstacles, maintain focus, and ensure the plan is executed flawlessly.

Similarly, a dealership that develops and recognizes its entire team, motivates it to execute on clearly defined processes (the game plan) and provides opportunities for growth can overcome virtually any obstacle. As a team, the dealership wins.

“On a football team, it's not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.” — Bill Belichick, Coach, New England Patriots

On Saturday, “game day” (and the shortest selling day of the week), 30 minutes should be inspirational, devoted to motivating the team.

Forget about administrative problems like who forgot to put the demo back or who left the keys in the car.

Instead, treat the team to bagels and coffee. Focus on positive aspects of the dealership and team accomplishments. Surprise everyone — not just the “stars” — with gift certificates to the movies or a coffee store.

Motivational meetings set the stage for nurturing an upbeat attitude and help sales people execute on the game plan they've practiced all week.

So practice, train, motivate, encourage teamwork and inspire to win!

It's not just a game, it's a learning experience. Every play (customer interaction) can be analyzed to determine what worked and what needs work.

Richard F. Libin heads Automotive Profit Builders Inc., which maximizes dealership satisfaction, sales and profits. He is at [email protected] or 508-626-9200.

Questions or comments about this column? Send us an e-mail at [email protected].

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