Automotive sales are never about the car, never about the truck, never about the mini-van or the SUV.
It’s about the relationships that the staff develops with the customer. Every good sales manager knows that and every good salesperson does it. Unfortunately in too many dealerships that’s where the knowledge stops. The salespeople know this mantra but no one else does.
In all but the smallest dealerships there will always be someone that does something other than sales. Ranging from a single receptionist in an office of a half dozen salespeople to twenty automotive technicians in a major service department, all of these people contribute to the well being of a dealership. All of them should be taught how to sell. No, I’m not saying that everyone needs to know how to sell a car. They all should, however, be taught how to sell the company.
The first question asked will be “Why does our [insert position] need to know about customer service? They never see the customers anyway. In response I can only say, “Never?” There is always a time when a customer comes in contact with some non-sales staff. Maybe it’s the Title Clerk coming back from lunch break. Maybe it’s the Car Washer on the lot checking for scratches on cars. Maybe it’s a Lube Technician trying to find his keys that he’s dropped. Regardless of what the situation is, they are employees of your dealership, out on the lot, and a customer shows up. How your employee reacts can make a lasting impression on that potential customer.
As I said before, we’re not trying to teach your accountant to sell a car; we’re trying to teach them to sell the company. We want to teach every employee how to convince any customer that your business is the place they want to be. We will do that by establishing a relationship.
The method of training I advocate focuses on two steps that should be familiar to just about every automotive dealer out there, though possibly under different names; the Meet & Greet and the Sit-Down. Pulling these two areas out to focus on is easy and quick because every Manager should be able to teach it.
The Meet & Greet is a time-honored first step in the sales process. Every salesperson, regardless of the industry, does it even if they don’t know the name. But these are salespeople; non-sales staff may not know what to do. It’s a simple thing, but only if you know to do it. You need to instruct your non-sales staff in this first step. I’ll give an example of what they need to learn that I myself run into on occasion.
I’m standing in the showroom, waiting to talk to the General Manager about a staffing issue. I happen to notice that a potential customer has walked in and is standing around. All the sales staff are engaged with other customers because our business is thriving, like I’m sure yours is, so I walk up to the potential customer. I introduce myself, “Good morning, my name is Justin and I’m in the Human Resources department. Is there something I could help you with?” The customer replies, “I was wondering if I could talk to someone about that car over there.” I respond, “Well, I can’t tell you too much about it but lets see if we can’t find someone who can. What was your name?” “John Q. Buyer,” he tells me.
There you go, Meet & Greet. Simple and effective. I’ve established that I’m with the company, determined what the customer wants to do, and elicited his name. Now I can hand him off to a salesperson, introduce them by name and point the salesperson in the direction of what John Q. Buyer wants to look at. I’ve also shown the customer that all of our staff is polite and helpful.
But like I said before, all of our Salespeople are busy. What do I, not being in sales, do now? I move right into the Sit-Down. Despite the name, I don’t necessarily sit the customer down, though that’s one way to go with it. I may offer them a cup of coffee, show them awards we have on our walls, hand them a brochure about the car they are interested in. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, just that I’m being attentive and making the customer feel comfortable until a Salesperson can get to them. I don’t have to sell the car; I have to sell the company. I have to start making that relationship immediately.
A key point also is that all of your employees know about your business. If they are going to chat about it, then they need to have something to chat about. They should know other employees names, especially the sales staff, know how large the company is, know when it was started and know many awards you’ve won. The little things that point out your company’s best features and show the customer they should be there. Remember you are teaching them to sell the company, which everyone can do.
There you have it, two simple steps, pulled right out of sales training that can go a long way. Sales managers and salespersons may scoff at the idea of this because, to them, it’s intuitive. But to administrative and service staff, this is new ground and something they need to be trained in.
The training could be formal, with a sample script and role-playing games to help learn the process. Or it could be more informal with the sales manager pulling the staff member in while greeting a customer to get them in the thick or it. Always remember that training is ongoing. You can not tell them once and leave it at that. You have to make sure they use it. Regular training updates, practice, and recognition for a job well done help the employees learn.
You might be surprised to find a good salesperson hidden in your non-selling staff.
Vol 2, Issue 6
AUL Corp.’s Bryan Nieves offers advice for dealers who are in the market for a new agent, including what to look for in an F&I training program.