Make Them Students for Life

How do most dealership managers rate in educating their teams on core skills? Not well. Most have cut funds for education to the bone. Others send their people to seminars promising to triple sales in just one week! Essentially, most managers are either doing nothing or looking for the quick fix. Let's look at the real world (what we typically find at dealerships) vs. the ideal world (what is really

How do most dealership managers rate in educating their teams on core skills? Not well.

Most have cut funds for education to the bone. Others send their people to “quickie” seminars promising to “triple sales in just one week!” Essentially, most managers are either doing nothing or looking for the quick fix.

Let's look at the real world (what we typically find at dealerships) vs. the ideal world (what is really needed).

Many managers spend hundreds even thousands of dollars recruiting the “best” candidates and put them to work with high expectations. As new hires they are provided with a quick training which usually includes a tour and introductions, getting supplies, an order pad, and being shown to a desk.

The assumption is that since they are experienced, successful sales people, they need little training and no education. The reality is that the new hire may be good, but lacks education on the processes that make the dealership successful.

Education changes behavior by giving developing people knowledge and skills they need to be successful. It is a process that must be led by and participated in by managers. It cannot be done alone.

Effective change is not something you do to people; it's something you do with them. Our job as managers is to help people win. If our sales people win, our customers win, we win and the dealership wins. When everyone wins, management is an enjoyable and profitable experience.

Think about how students learn to drive. First they are educated in the classroom and given knowledge of the laws, cars, safety, and other topics. Then they are taken into the field with an instructor where the education continues behind the wheel.

Parents or other licensed drivers continue the education until the student takes and passes a test. If drivers forget some of what they learned (i.e. gets a ticket) they are sent back to school. In some states, every few years drivers are required to take a new test based on new information and laws they should have learned, ensuring that the education continues.

Do sales managers follow the same format with their employees? Most do not. If anything they have their teams memorize a bunch of information the customer cares little about and tells them they are ready.

Here's what they should do:

Get involved. Managers must actively participate in their team's education. They should model behavior, observe, coach, and continue to provide new information on a daily basis. They have to involve their teams so they understand the goals, and gain the information and processes needed to attain them.

Never stray from the basics. Most businesses don't suffer from a lack of new ideas. They suffer because they lack the understanding that many of the old ideas still work but are under-utilized. Education does not necessarily mean finding something new — the latest trend. Start with and stick to the basics.

Keep it relevant. If someone wants to work in construction, should you teach them how to paint a mural or to build a wall? Learning that is functional and meaningful most likely occurs when the problem, issue or topic is tied to the salesperson's job responsibilities and goals.

Include a series of experiences, conversations, and activities that allow salespeople to learn in the context of answering the question, “Why is this relevant or important for me in my job now and in the future?”

Make it practical. If the content is not linked to the salesperson's day-to-day tasks, the return on investment will be low.

Education includes four distinct elements: gaining knowledge, practicing or applying the knowledge, integrating feedback, and coaching to enhance performance.

There is no future in any job; the future is in the person who holds the job.

Richard F. Libin is president of APB-Automotive Profit Builders, Inc., a firm with more than 30 years experience working with both sales and service on customer satisfaction and maximizing gross profits through personnel development and technology. 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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