What It Takes to Win the Race

Thousand of individuals compete in the annual Camp Pendleton Mud Run, a 10K run on the California U.S. Marine base. The course includes the kind of obstacles you'd encounter in basic training a 30-ft. mud pit, 5-ft. high walls, tires, river crossings, sand, tunnels and tough terrain. This year, the first- and third-place finishers were teams comprised of five high school boys. These teen runners,

Thousand of individuals compete in the annual Camp Pendleton Mud Run, a 10K run on the California U.S. Marine base.

The course includes the kind of obstacles you'd encounter in basic training — a 30-ft. mud pit, 5-ft. high walls, tires, river crossings, sand, tunnels and tough terrain.

This year, the first- and third-place finishers were teams comprised of five high school boys. These teen runners, who beat highly conditioned military competitors, didn't simply show up and decide to run.

They spent months training for the event, often running routes that replicated the obstacles the course would hold. Through this, they learned a formula to help them face the upcoming obstacles.

What can we as automotive professionals learn from this event and these teenagers? First, nothing stops an individual from reaching a goal except his or her own attitude and lack of preparation.

Second, the formula these teens learned embodies the three absolute necessities to achieving success: know the goal; know the obstacles; and train, train, train.

Let's look at these in a selling context.

Know the Goal

Without understanding the goal, it will never be achieved. For the teens, the goal was to win the obstacle race and come out unhurt and unscathed.

For the dealership, the ultimate goal is to sell cars and nurture clientele — people who will buy from you repeatedly and refer other prospects to your dealership. This goal, and others unique to each dealership and individual, must be clearly and consistently communicated to each salesperson.

Know the obstacles.

In the Mud Run, the obstacles are similar, but can change year-to-year. This includes mental and physical obstacles unique to each athlete.

The same is true in the automotive industry. Obvious obstacles constantly change, but are similar and often cyclical. These can include the gas prices, the push for green cars, the fluctuating economy, a changing political environment, the housing crisis and changes in the weather.

Less apparent obstacles are unique to each salesperson. They include attitude; prospecting skills; understanding and using the dealership's procedures; helping customers find the right car; moving to the test drive; and closing the sale.

It's critical for managers to understand both types of obstacles and their impact on individual sales professional.

Otherwise, this lack of understanding becomes an obstacle in itself. The challenge for sales managers is to identify the obstacles and get sales people to overcome them. The answer lies in the third lesson we can learn from the mud runners: training.

Train, Train, Train

In the Mud Run, the teenagers trained for a full year for this one event. Likewise, sales managers must constantly train their sales people to face the challenges presented by the prospective clients they face every day.

Training must be goal-based and address obstacles faced both by teams and individuals. It should help sales people learn to build clientele that relies on the dealership for car, service, and accessory purchases repeatedly and who refer friends, family, and colleagues.

It's not just about selling cars. Training must teach sales people to “sell” three things: themselves, the vehicle, and the dealership. Without proper training, every salesperson runs the risk of turning prospects into shoppers.

Perhaps every dealer and sales manager should look more closely at these teens. Managers must clearly communicate the goal, help salespeople identify obstacles, and train them to overcome all types of barriers to win the race.

One more lesson from these teens. What do you suppose they're doing? They are training for next year's race so they can get past new obstacles and continue to improve their performance.

Richard F. Libin is president of Automotive Profit Builders Inc. that works with dealerships on customer satisfaction and maximizing sales and gross profits. He is at [email protected] or 508-626-9200.

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