Green peas are more likely to hit the ground running when managers provide a framework for success, including written policies and procedures. 
 - Photo by Nastasic via Getty Images

Green peas are more likely to hit the ground running when managers provide a framework for success, including written policies and procedures.

Photo by Nastasic via Getty Images

Few topics cause more anxiety for dealership owners and leaders than training and retaining the next generation of sales associates. In an industry that persistently struggles with employee turnover, dealers may wonder whether the expense of training these budding professionals is worth it.

The short answer is “Yes,” but the reasons may be surprising. Well-trained professionals of course promote better customer service — and more sales. However, training your new sales staff also can help reduce turnover. Before your newly hired sales associates start working with customers, ask yourself these three key questions:

Question No. 1: Do I Have a Training Process?

According to a Cox Automotive survey, two-thirds of dealerships admitted to having no staffing strategy in place. By developing a strategy for new hires, you are already setting yourself apart.

A solid staffing strategy should start with hiring the right people. Do your candidates act professionally? Are they curious and willing to be coached? Are they serious about the opportunity?

Once you’ve made your hiring decisions, map out these candidates’ first few weeks. This roadmap should be uniform for every candidate at each of your locations. The process should include introducing new hires to your dealership’s culture, and the skills it will take for them to succeed on the sales floor.

Question No. 2: What Culture Will I Impart on New Hires?

Your new hires will get a sense of your culture within two days. What sort of first impression are you giving them?

Make it clear to your new hires that you care about their learning and development. Tell them they have a future at your company if they do well. This may seem self-evident, but according to the Cox survey, only 54% of dealership employees said they had received enough training to do their jobs effectively.

I always recommend that dealers assign mentors for new staff — and to choose those mentors carefully. It may not be the person who sells the most cars. It should be an experienced sales manager who is willing to be patient and devote time to helping new hires learn what it takes to succeed at the dealership.

Question No. 3: Do My New Hires Know How to Close a Sale?

Have your new hires walk through the full sales process with their mentors:

• What happens when a customer walks through the door? Your dealership should have a uniform greeting for all customers.

• What brought the customer to your dealership today? With so much information available online, most customers have done their research and have a specific vehicle in mind.

• How can you bring an interested customer from test drive to commitment to sale?

Each of these processes should be written out, and every new hire should have the chance to practice them in a controlled setting. Only when they feel fully prepared should they be out on the sales floor with real customers.

The good news is that your new employees are already more likely to stay: According to HR software provider Bridge, providing career training and development would keep 86% of millennials from leaving their current position.

There are more than 16,000 franchised dealerships in the U.S., so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to onboarding new staff. What’s most important is to make sure that at your dealership, there is a defined and consistent process to set up all your new employees for success. Not only will this keep your customers walking in, it will help keep your next generation of sales leaders from walking out.

Jim Whiteford is the executive director of learning and development at Ally and leads Ally Academy, which provides comprehensive training and development programs for dealers nationwide. Contact him at [email protected]

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