Opinion: Hire Right, Train Right

A picture of Jered Sobel from Sobel University speaking by headphone

Over the years, I have written about the value of each opportunity that walks through your door or calls your dealership. I have addressed how attracting a purchasing customer could easily cost more than $750 in advertising.

I have also covered marketing costs, negative reviews and poor word of mouth via social media, and how damaging each poorly helped customer can be to a dealership’s long-term health. Even with recent market conditions, we cannot expect customers to return or refer friends to a place where they received subpar service.

Unfortunately, most customers interacting with your dealership are not meeting your trusted sales veterans. Because of their skill set, knowledge base and customer base, trusted sales staff spend more time with each customer by providing quality service and helping consumers make a purchasing decision.

New salespeople, however, lack these skills and will talk to multiple new customers in the same amount of time your veteran is working with one.

If most customers are talking to newer salespeople, how can you be confident those customers will be treated the way they deserve and the way your high-quality dealership demands?

With a dire need to hire knowledgeable salespeople leading into the spring and summer, the first possible solution is to make sure every new salesperson hired is experienced. How dealers come to this conclusion is simple: If you want customers to work with someone who knows their stuff, hire someone who knows their stuff.

Experienced salespeople immediately will be able to talk to customers. Experienced salespeople will do exactly what they know how to do, from the various, previous sales jobs they did not keep.

Experienced salespeople have knowledge to pull from, please remember, it may not be good knowledge. If they were so good, they would have built a loyal customer base and likely would not have left their last position.

The best salespeople will seldom be on the market because their dealerships do well, and they will not leave a job where they are needed and successful. The people who leave are often those on the bottom who are not doing well or those in the middle who have outgrown the dealership.

These experienced salespeople will go out with the customer and say whatever they believe they should, but how that salesperson behaves might not have a place in your business. In “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” Gene Wilder explains this better than I ever could: “So who can I trust to run the factory when I leave and take care of the Oompa Loompas for me? Not a grown up. A grown up would want to do everything his own way, not mine. So that is why I decided a long time ago that I had to find a child. A very honest, loving child, to whom I could tell all my most precious candy-making secrets.”

A salesperson new to the industry would be equivalent to Willy Wonka’s honest child. Someone who has not been trained incorrectly can be trained to do business the way you desire.

Now, picture the new salesperson moving through the steps on your road to the sale. The customer gets an emergency phone call. Their kid just fell off the swing at school and needs to be picked up right away. Once the emergency is handled, would the customer return to finish hearing the presentation, or would they say, “Well, we have seen that one and heard what that salesperson has to say, so let us look at another dealership”?

If your customers are not being serviced correctly, bringing them back is difficult.

You may have completed the first step by hiring someone you can train your way, but you still have a new, unknowledgeable salesperson who will talk to more customers than your veterans. It is easy for this new person to misrepresent the product and the dealership to the customer. Even worse, the new salesperson could unwittingly endanger the customer because they do not understand the intricacies of towing, putting the dealership in a liability situation.

If you want top-producing salespeople fast, you must follow the next five steps without exception.

  1. Hire the right people. The average salesperson compensation is typically two to four times the average individual income in your county. If you are paying above average, you should get above-average employees. The people you hire must be quality individuals and have the capacity and desire to learn “all your most precious candy-making secrets,” because the next four steps start with “Train.”
  2. Train on principles. To protect your business and our industry, you must include selling principles in your core training. What you say determines whether a customer returns to your dealership and whether they stay in our industry. Principles are what guide our actions when no one else is looking. For example, never speak unless what you are saying is of direct benefit to your customer. If you truly follow this principle, you will stop running into the same customer objections and complaints.
  3. Train on the product. Say you sell 40 of your top model units in a year, and each of your 10 salespeople may sell four of those units in that year. This means that when the next customer walks through the door, your salespeople must be ready to give that customer their best presentation on a product they might not have shown in three months. Product training must be done at least two or three times a week with real-time, interactive presentations—and sales meetings do not count, the training must be on the product.
  4. Train on the process. Have you overheard a salesperson stalling while talking to a customer because they have no idea what to do next? Your selling-process steps must be clearly defined and reinforced frequently. They also must be divided into easy-to-learn compartments that transition smoothly for the salesperson and customer.
  5. Train on word tracks. The word tracks we used 20 years ago not only sound bad today, but they do not work, and they make us look terrible.

“If I could, would you,” feature/benefit selling, slick lines and pressure tactics are not appropriate for today’s customers. Customers today demand a “consultative style.” With the internet and other resources available to customers, they demand quality service and are willing to pay. They do not want a pitch. One example would be asking for down payments. Today, we must explain that the more a customer pays up front on the loan the lower their payments will be, rather than just saying we need a down payment to get their paper bought.

Hiring the right person is just the start to having a continually successful team. Training must become your culture. You must schedule training and give it productive time, with no interruptions or exceptions.

If you genuinely want to make new employees produce quickly, initial training must be concentrated so employees can see the whole picture before they interact with customers. Then the training must be broken down, prioritized and ongoing.

Remember, if you do not give your salespeople modern and continued skills, you cannot expect an increase in productivity or trust they will help your customers. We can expect market shifts next year. Your staff needs to fit the culture you are building, with the skills needed and the ability to effectively help your customers now.

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