Times are finally changing in the retail automotive industry, from the consumer to how dealerships operate. Dealers and their staffs are recognizing that modern car buyers are more demanding, better informed and less tolerant of past sales practices.
The environment a dealership creates and portrays helps determine whether consumers will trust the store and eventually the product.
As co-founder of an automotive training company, I've witnessed this transformation and its challenges firsthand. Continuous education and accountability are necessary for dealerships to stay current.
Achieving sales quotas, retaining good personnel and keeping clients for future business are not easy. Adjusting attitudes, improving communication skills, adapting selling practices and committing to change are even tougher.
I was fortunate to come across a good example of modern business practices while visiting a large multi-franchise dealer in Florida.
It was refreshing to visit a dealership where everyone had a great attitude. It was great to see a market leader so focused on providing continuous education.
When I asked the dealer how he was able to maintain such a feat, he was quick to credit his management team. Later, when I asked the management team the same question, they were quick to credit the sales team. I soon realized that this feeling of gratitude was widespread at this dealership and flowed up and down the chain of command.
I also noticed that the sales staff ranges from people with less than a week of job experience to 20-year veterans. Every employee seemed to maintain the same positive outlook on dealership goals and philosophies.
Everyone at this dealership had talent and despite their days or years in the industry, they displayed a willingness to continue the learning process and improve upon their practices.
In today's fast-paced and information-rich society, there is much knowledge and insight to be gained from websites, dealer publications, newspapers and dealer groups. By utilizing and embracing up-to-date information, dealers can stay abreast of the current market and find solutions they feel comfortable supporting.
All successful stores have something in common. They are facilitators of change. Here are some suggestions to achieve that:
First, help worthwhile people develop and free yourself of those individuals who choose not to be progressive.
Adapting and responding to change is essential in the automotive retail industry and having a flexible sales force is key in aiding this process. This does not mean replacing the good for the perfect. Just maintain healthy thinking individuals. Try not to diffuse their spirit with stress.
Next, build the kind of place where people want to belong. Aim to provide a healthy environment with open lines of communication. Revitalizing the mental energy from the bottom up and providing healthy philosophies from the top down is a great way to start.
Finally, complement this environment by providing clear, attainable goals. The smoothest-running stores have clear plans. Most plans include dealer standards, time-management, organizational direction and mission statements.
A clear plan can provide focus and allow each team member to be consistent in his or her approach.
When you combine a flexible sales force, a positive environment and a clear plan you are on your way to a successful and profitable enterprise. Most importantly, be happy, positive and enthusiastic during the process.
As a leader, make your staff and customers proud of your store. Strive to exceed the expectations of your customers and staff, and change for the better will be inevitable.
David Martin is the president of the Mar-Kee Group. He is at 1-888-300-4629