There are certain pillars for success that are consistent and don’t change in creating and maintaining a successful business. - IMAGE: Getty Images

There are certain pillars for success that are consistent and don’t change in creating and maintaining a successful business.

IMAGE: Getty Images


Our first pillar is employing the proper personnel. Dealers need to have a strong recruitment and onboarding process that attracts top talent. You cannot understate the value of a good hiring process, as it is the first impression of your business. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Once you identify and hire a candidate that you have confidence is the right person, you need to provide them with the training and support they need to be captivated and accelerate to their highest level.


The second pillar is training, an area wherein dealerships have a need and where you can gain true benefits against your competition. Training needs to be inclusive of all aspects of the customer experience, including the overall sales process. If your staff is well trained on executing a satisfaction-worthy customer experience, your grosses will always be higher without question. Currently, the demand for vehicles is at an all-time high, which has led to a more lackadaisical approach to selling a vehicle. Right now, ask yourself, how many test drives have been missed? How many silent appraisals have been conducted? Most importantly, when is the last time you held a training event revolving around the importance of a consistent process? The normal sales process is ever evolving, and in recent years has changed considerably. The art of being proactive versus reactive in this environment is a pivotal key to your success, and remember, training is not a one-time event, it is an ongoing occurrence.


A motivational pay plan is our third pillar. Your pay plan needs to incentivize your team to keep them engaged while also holding everyone accountable to the performance required to achieve the goals of the dealership. This can oftentimes make or break a dealership’s success in any department. The pay plan is a key factor in any organization but specifically a sales organization. If your pay plan is focused on volume, your sales team will focus on selling as many vehicles as possible. Alternatively, if your pay plan focuses on profit, your sales team will focus on accelerating profits. A good pay plan is built whereupon your top performers are rewarded and make more money than they could elsewhere. It should also allow your average sales team members to make a comfortable income with the hopes of helping them to strive for more. High turnover rates cost dealerships a lot of time, expense, and resources, so an effective pay plan is essential. If you are suffering from turnover, you need to re-evaluate your pay plan to see if it remains competitive and effective towards reaching your goals.


Our fourth pillar focuses on the right products for your customers. From the vehicle inventory you keep, the F&I products offered, all the way down to the accessories available, ensure the products you are selling are appealing to what your consumers want and need. Equally important is having a staff that is fully trained and versed on these products that can answer questions appropriately. Yes, again, this means training. Customers are savvy; they need to be provided with enough information that they are comfortable to make a buying decision. Having a well-trained sales team and product information readily available in the dealership and on your website are non-negotiables.


Management support rounds out our fifth pillar. Having an exceptional management team that works through daily activities to reach the goals of the dealership is a strong metric for success. Managers need to have a clear vision of what the dealership’s mission is and be empowered to take the necessary actions to make that possible. This should consist of a road map of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals set in place that are clearly communicated to the entire team. When selecting your management team, keep in mind not all top performers are your best candidates. They may be driven by personal success, but can they lead? Coaching your management team to be leaders is a key point often missed by organizations. Keeping open lines of communication and discussing areas of improvement through constructive criticism and team-building events are just some of the important actionable items needed to form an unstoppable management unit. If conducted correctly, managers will help your staff to develop and use their skills and abilities, keeping them engaged through interaction, and learning opportunities.


Dealers will set goals dependent of manufacturer guidelines and industry benchmarks, but many will not follow through with achieving those goals, for two simple reasons: lack of an executable action plan and support to accomplish it. Dealers can use their trusted agent partners to help create a goal structure that is realistic and flexible while also acting as an extension of your management team to hold all departments accountable.

Additionally, striving to be agile, flexible, and willing to change, when necessary, will only benefit your business. The automotive industry as a whole tends to leave things alone for too long. For example, don’t be reluctant to reassess and improve a pay plan as those industry benchmarks change. Take a proactive approach instead of reactive as we discussed earlier and re-evaluate your goals often. Whether it be sales volume and profit, F&I profits and percentages, or service profits and satisfaction ratings, reevaluate these on a consistent basis throughout the year. Make sure that your business is checking every box, every month.

If you are checking the boxes, there is no doubt that your dealership should be successful with retention of its customers, but the competition is fierce. Make sure your customers are having a great overall buying experience and ownership experience from their first look at your store, whether online or in person. A strong retention program and strategy is your best opportunity to obtain, retain, and resell. It’s a hot market, and inventory issues will drive customers to other stores, so make no mistake taking additional measures regarding customer service is not an option, it is a requirement.

To summarize, no one pillar is more important than the other. To advance in this competitive market, a strong recruiting process to find the right people to fit your organization is the first step to forming an incredible team. Consistent, effective, and ongoing training is a must. A motivational pay plan will help to effortlessly drive results and retain key players. Along with the right products and a strong vision communicated to your management team, it’s your recipe for success.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Olivia Kern-Van Schoonhoven is vice president of sales for Vanguard Dealer Services.