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Using the Awful “T” Word

According to Webster's dictionary, the definition for osmosis is: [noun] A gradual, often unconscious process of assimilation or absorption. If Goebel authored a dictionary, the definition would read: [noun] The process relied on by most automobile dealers to transfer their desired processes by which they conduct business; also known as the absence of structured training.
There I go again using that awful “T” word. Training: The thing everyone needs, but few seem able to find time to deliver.

This is especially true in the Special Finance (SF) world. First of all, SF isn’t a one-size-fits-all world. Depending on whether or not your are a franchise or independent store, a single point or part of a large dealer group, and whether your store is selling 50 or 500 units per month, there are different ways the eight essential elements of SF needs to be incorporated into your environment. A stand alone independent store that specializes in SF will operate significantly different than a Honda store retailing 400 new and used Hondas per month.

What is important to note is that while SF works well in both scenarios: a) the sales process certainly differs, and b) each type of operation has it own set of challenges and obstacles. If a person moved from one store to the other trying to operate using the same process that they had grown accustomed to in the previous setting, they would certainly face some challenges (especially when working with their new team). Training is the only solution to the problem – and I am not talking about the kind that you have to pack your people up and send them off to.

“Yeah, but…” is typically the start of the response when I ask if a dealer or department feels that training should be daily. Sometimes, along the way, there is even a comment that the dealer has a team of veterans. Great, [tongue in cheek] just what the doctor ordered in the SF department: a collection of “experienced” car people, all with their set beliefs on how a department should function around them.

Let’s look at veterans in another perspective. Baseball – my favorite sport. I am a die-hard Yankees fan and have been since 1957 – hate me or love me, that’s the scoop. Let’s look at one of their veterans. The highest priced veteran in the game, maybe of all sports, is Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod makes a cool $25M per year. That equates to about $45,000 for each at bat. Over the past five years, his performance has been virtually unparalleled. As accomplished as A-Rod is, do you think you’d find him at batting practice every day? You are darn straight you would. If one of the best hitters in the history of the game attends daily batting practice, why shouldn’t your people attend daily SF training as well?

OK, most dealers will not say, “We over-train.” Most will admit they need to do more. What amazes me is that I have trained countless people in seminars who all shake their head in agreement when I say they need to return to their stores and re-commit to the training process. Rarely, however, when I visit the stores do I find that has occurred. Dealers and managers just sheepishly shrug their shoulders. So, why don’t they take the advice they so readily agreed with?

Basically, it comes down to two reasons. First, some just don’t make it a priority. Something is always more important. They even use the excuse of not having their entire sales team present except for a day or two each week. What, training stops because we don’t have everyone present?! What a pitiful excuse. I know classes never stopped at my schools just because people were absent. You have a team of professionals. No different than school, they are expected to catch up from the days they miss.

The second reason training doesn’t continually take place is that people don’t know how or what to train. For some, it is just overwhelming. Trying to create something new to cover every day seems to be a daunting task. Where do they go to fill all that time (20 – 45 minutes a day)?

Again, SF isn’t brain surgery. For the most part, we are talking about the basics, and the same person doesn’t even have to do the training every day. You can call on other managers or even some of your sales team to lead a training session. Finally, this isn’t a sales meeting where you’re are updating inventory, talking about programs or upcoming sales promotions – this is training. You are teaching. You want your team to work the processes and systems of SF.

The one-day SF workshop that I have conducted the past four years covers all eight of the essential elements of SF. A SF manager, GM, GSM, sales manager or F&I manager could break down each element, spending two weeks on each. For example, topics such as how to take a complete credit statement or qualifying the customer (green balloon or red balloon), or OFAC could be an entire session

The materials are very simple. My preference is to give everyone a three-ring binder – their training manual. Each day the training leader starts with a single sheet of paper. It contains the date, the title of the general topic of that day’s training and three to five related bullet points spread out on the page so that your team can write notes underneath each point for future reference. Everyday at the conclusion of the session, everyone three-hole punches the page and inserts it into their binder for future reference. If someone isn’t present, it is that person’s obligation to get the page the next day and make sure that they cover the missed material with the trainer or manager. How difficult is that?

A trainer long before me once commented that another reason dealers didn’t train their teams was that they were afraid that they would spend the time and money on training, and their people would leave. The trainer posed the question, “Which is worse, training your people and taking the chance they might leave, or not training them and taking the chance that they might stay?”

SF boils down to sound systems, processes and being able to execute them consistently every time. The better trained your team is, the more consistent and the more successful it will be. If you aren’t already, make a plan and start today. Turn that awful “T” word into something Terrific. You will be glad you did.

Until next month,
Train well and sell well!

Vol 3, Issue 8


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