Training: The Missing Ingredient in Modern Retail

Modern retail training involves walking through your current process and examining how your steps to a sale match up with how customers want to shop today.

Tiffany Peeler

June 27, 2023

3 Min Read
Dealer-car salesman, customer with Maybach (Getty)
Dealing with today’s customers involves sharing information, not “selling.”Getty Images

Retail technology software promises that it will make car buying easier and smoother, leaving employees happier and customers satisfied. But that’s not always how it plays out.

A digital retail solution is simply a tool to facilitate conversations, not sell cars. Without proper team training from the top down, retail technology is simply another conduit for the race to the bottom.

Resistance to new technology and training is common. I think we can all agree that nobody likes change – especially when the business model dealers have been using has been so successful for the past 90 years or so. Yet, the couch-surfing ease of internet shopping is here to stay.

The idea of an “internet lead” is obsolete. Every customer has been online. Every lead is simply a customer who has questions. Once those questions have been answered completely and transparently, then the customer will feel confident coming in for a test drive.

Adapting to this new reality requires a culture change where employees provide a sales experience that combines transparency and convenience to engender trust and confidence in the dealership. In other words, it requires training for modern retail.

Modern retail training isn’t about throwing out what your sales team is doing now – far from it. It’s about walking through your current process and examining how your steps to a sale match up with how customers want to shop today. Then it’s about adjusting the process where needed to meet better the needs of today’s informed customers who want to be advised, not sold.

Pushback from managers and sales staff is to be expected. After all, their commission checks are on the line. What must be understood is that this new sales model does not come at the expense of money. You can tell staff this until you’re blue in the face, or you can model new behavior and prove it.

Modeling is most effective side-by-side with a sales associate in a real-world situation. For example, let’s say a customer submits a question about pricing through your digital retail tool. The classic response would be to pressure the customer to come into the store immediately. When the customer pushes back, the next response would be to fall back on the classic sales line of: “If I could…would you…?”  At this point, the customer gets frustrated or simply disengages because your dealership is playing games instead of providing helpful information.

Play out the same scenario with a trainer modeling new behavior. The classic line becomes: “I’m looking forward to helping you make the best vehicle decision for you and your family. Here’s some pricing information. I’m also including information for similar makes and models to help you make the most informed decision.” Now you’re advising, not selling, and the customer experience, and your closing rate, soar.

Tiffany Peeler headshot CROPPED.png

Tiffany Peeler headshot CROPPED

Equally as important, your managers and sales associates are happier because the experience is better for them too. Instead of chasing every third-party lead they are advising low-funnel shoppers who want to buy. They’re incentivized to maintain new processes because they work, and their paychecks will prove it.

Consumer preference for online processes continues to grow and shows no signs of stopping. Yet it’s the dealership process behind the online tools that leads to satisfied customers and happier employees. Train for modern retail and adapt to this new paradigm today for long-term success.

Tiffany Peeler (pictured, above left) is vice president of sales and operations at Proactive Dealer Solutions, a provider of training, software and BDC solutions for the automotive industry.

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