The most frustrating words the head of any organization can hear are “I quit.” You have taken the time to find and hire the right person and teach them your process and culture, only to be put in the position of starting all over again with someone you haven’t even found yet.

Why do you think employees leave their positions? The No. 1 reason is that they are not making the kind of wages they expected. To ensure your employees’ success is on the same trajectory as your own, you must have a consistent and regimented training program. Training is not a sometime thing; it’s an everyday thing.

This fall, millions of NFL and college football fans will cheer for their favorite players and teams. Every one of those players is training every single day to stay at the top of their game. Success has a prescription, and it’s called work. When the season begins, the physical part of training does not end; in fact, it intensifies. And when they’re not working out, they are watching game film. Two win a championship, a football team needs a strong coach and veteran players who have learned the value of practice and preparation to win championships. When your salespeople wait on the front line to greet customers, they are representing your business, your culture and your philosophy. So are they just playing out the schedule or fighting to win it all?

Go Long
Sales training is more than just “sales training.” I have met hundreds of professionals who have attended sales training in the past. Most say they had a good experience. But the problem is that it wasn’t supported on an ongoing basis to ensure constant success. Granted, we are all responsible for our own success, and seeking out information for improvement is what separates a successful professional from the average one throughout his or her career. However, as an employer, we are also responsible for the success of the business, and we should be doing everything possible to guarantee its success.

It is a proven fact that well-trained personnel earn more income and stay with dealers longer. Tenured salespeople bring more repeat and referral business into the store. Their income levels are elevated as a result of their continued education. So equipping your sales force with practical tools that enable them to extract information from customers — and build credibility as a result — is the key to ensuring greater profits and higher employee retention.

It all starts with the meet-and-greet. We assess people as they approach us, whether we realize it or not. It’s a built-in defense mechanism. The old expression is as true now as the day we first heard it: “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” How often have you observed a salesperson greeting a customer in a manner that is less than proper and professional? It sets the tone of their entire visit in seconds. Technology has created a lot of options for today’s consumers that require little, if any, travel from location to location. We can’t afford to allow anything negative to enter into the buying experience, and it starts with the first handshake.

Scrimmage Constantly
Our industry seems to view role-playing as a fun activity for training sessions. The fact is, your salespeople are role-playing with your customers every single day. When the time comes for the sales professional to perform an important job for the customer, unfortunately, few are ready because role-playing has become somewhat of a turn off in their daily regimen. However, some of the top sales organizations in America today — inside and outside of the retail automotive industry — role-play with their employees every day.

Preparation creates opportunity, and opportunity creates sales and profits. When sales and profits happen, everybody is happy. That’s the recipe for a lasting, positive culture. But having a daily training agenda shouldn’t be a burden to management. It is impossible for one or two individuals to train on everything there is to know and do.

Draw up an agenda with topics and scenarios that can be facilitated by managers or senior sales staff. Assign the task of a daily training topic to the salespeople, and watch how involved they become in preparation and accountability among their peers. When everyone is involved, the entire team will benefit. Training is an all-the-time thing, and the opportunities to do so don’t always have to be planned and scheduled — though your program should include scheduled training.

Stay in Bounds
Our industry is regulated more and more each year. How are you delivering federal and state compliance updates and alerts to your salespeople? … or, for that matter, to your entire business organization? Federal and state regulations govern business as we know it. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Department of Justice and state attorneys general all have an eye on your business. How you train and educate your staff plays a role in how you safeguard your customers’ vital information and prevent legal trouble.

Unfortunately, it would appear that regulations are not going to diminish. Having a compliance program included in your training is not only wise, it is required under the Red Flags Rule and other areas that regulate this business.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Compliance requires sales and F&I managers to follow a strict process, which can have a very positive effect on sales, as well as CSI and employee retention. All that is possible (and likely probable) if you invest enough time to create a constant and consistent training agenda that becomes part of your business’ culture. Your ability to plug new hires into a system that enables them to have the best chance for success will help you meet your own goals.

There are no secret formulas. Take a moment to think of how sales training can impact your fixed operations. Simply put, find the need and build value so you can close the sale. A commitment to training will make the path far less treacherous.

Four Downs

Here are four steps you can take today to put your dealership on the path to regulatory compliance and a spirit of teamwork:

  • Designate a team captain. This person needs to be able to communicate to the staff the importance of customer privacy, banking regulations that govern the business, manage your Red Flags program and ensure full compliance throughout your business. 
  • Know the rulebook. Have a clear and understandable sales training agenda in which everyone is involved. Encourage your vendors to get involved by asking them to provide topics and learning materials. 
  • Set standards. Establish a process that your salespeople understand and adhere to. They can’t improve unless you help them improve.
  • Encourage teamwork. Sales managers are not always available to help close a sale. Prepare your salespeople to help each other close more sales.

John Vecchioni is national sales director for United Car Care Inc. He has expertise in sales and F&I training and is a frequent speaker at industry events. [email protected]