Re-energize Your Sales Staff

Working with car dealerships nationwide, APB found sales people's performance down by about 25%, more than double the dip in traffic. This makes little sense. With less traffic, sales people have more time to focus on the customers they have, customers who today purposefully go to dealerships and are highly qualified. Case in point: A dealer that APB recently visited showed us his traffic in 2008

Working with car dealerships nationwide, APB found sales people's performance down by about 25%, more than double the dip in traffic.

This makes little sense. With less traffic, sales people have more time to focus on the customers they have, customers who today purposefully go to dealerships and are highly qualified.

Case in point: A dealer that APB recently visited showed us his traffic in 2008 was down 17% compared with 2007, but his sales were up by 25%. The only change he made was to go back to the basics, to work every prospect and find a way to put a customer in a vehicle. The choice is clear.

We know business is down, but are your sales people down, too? Salespersons and sales managers can subscribe to what we call “CNN paralysis” — an emotional condition brought on by exposure to a lot of bad news — or they can actively sell cars.

What we've seen unfortunately on a widespread basis is that sales people have stopped selling, managers have stopped managing and dealerships have stopped thriving.

In essence, they've abandoned the basics and let the bad news become self-fulfilling.

Selling cars today is like a football team facing a seemingly insurmountable competitor. If your team relies on the basics, it will find a way to score and potentially end up with the upset win.

The winning formula is simple: the coach studies the video to understand the opponent and find weaknesses. He then puts together a solid game plan built around an aggressive offense, runs practices using that plan daily, and expects the team to show up and play on game day. If they don't, they get benched.

Selling in the automotive business today is no different. The opponent is the recession and low vehicle sales. This does not mean all sales have stopped.

First, a dealership has many avenues of making money, including used cars, parts, accessories and service.

Second, customers today plan to go to dealerships; they don't just drop in. So even though traffic may be off, it is traffic of a better quality.

The successful sales manager sees opportunities, puts together a game plan strong on offense, gets out of his office, trains his team rigorously and chases the sale every day.

Sales people have to show up and play with confidence. They need to approach every day with a positive attitude, execute on the basics and avoid paralysis.

So every sales manager should ask: “Have my salespeople stopped selling? Have we lost sight of the basics?” More than likely, the answer is yes. One thing is certain: people who go to dealerships today come to buy, not just to look.

The way people shop today has changed. With less time, steep fuel costs, tight budgets and the pervasiveness of the Internet, customers now do their “window shopping” and research at home.

This makes stores and dealerships a destination point — a place to where pre-disposed customers go to transact business.

Sales managers must develop a game plan that helps sales people establish rapport, help customers select the right car (or other product) and close the sale as pleasantly and efficiently as possible.

We work in a new information-intensive world and a dynamically changing economy that requires new techniques or changing back to old game basics, excessively positive attitudes, and knowledge about a new type of customer.

By developing and sticking to a game plan that follows the basics, dealerships will thrive. The bottom line: even when sales are down, individual performance can and should be increasing. It's more important now than ever to train for success and score the upset.

Richard F. Libin is the president of APB (Automotive Profit Builders, Inc.), a firm that focuses on dealership sales, service, customer satisfaction and maximizing gross profits. He is at [email protected] or 508-626-9200.

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