Article

To Train Or Not To... Is That Really A Question?

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Dan Henderson - Also by this author

Do you remember when Jeffrey Dahmer had to have a jury of his peers decide if he was insane? Although he had three human heads in his freezer and other body parts in his refrigerator, believe it or not, there was still a process to determine whether or not he might be insane. I don’t recall his insanity ever being a question in anyone’s mind at the time. There is a correlation—we, the managers and dealers, sit every day in our management meetings talking about our numbers. We stare at the low closing ratios, the low demos, low write up percentages and then try to decide whether or not our staff needs more training or if they need to be fired.

I’ve never been known for my political correctness so let me just tell you … perhaps the individual doing all the firing of the salespeople he never trained, maybe he should be fired. It’s just a thought. Whose responsibility is it to train in your dealership? I’m not using this space to beat you up or brag about our dealership, but I do want to share the most profitable thing we have ever done for our dealer group.

First, here is a bit of background so you can understand our story. We opened our dealership a little less than two years ago. We immediately focused on the training that is so often ignored in other dealerships. We train every single day for one hour. Training is mandatory; even on your day off you train for one hour. Since opening, we have consistently recorded over a four thousand ($4000) average gross profit per unit and maintain a 30 day inventory turn.

We have grown, in a year and a half, from a small used car dealership to owning a Thrifty Car Sales franchise, a Suzuki franchise as well as a traveling sales team that travels throughout the state. We also have plans for our third dealership to open in January of 2005 and are now known as one of the top special finance dealerships in the country.

We have had our struggles like everyone else, but one thing that has remained constant is our desire for more and continuous training. I honestly hope there is someone reading this article that makes a living at the Seaside California auto mall where we have conducted training. No, we are not located in the auto mall, but it has been a great place to take our salespeople during training. From these trips we teach them what not to do. One experience was memorable. Four of us walked the inventory of four different dealerships before ever being acknowledged. When we were finally confronted (notice greeted or welcomed was not used) at a local Chevrolet dealership where the cars were absolutely filthy and not reconditioned at all, I asked the salesperson who was dressed in a dirty white collared shirt, no tie or undershirt, why there were so many dents and problems with a used Tahoe we were looking at he promised: “Oh, we will fix all that once you buy it.”

Moving on from there we stopped at the local Ford dealership where we actually went on a test drive (alone) in a used Navigator with practically no fuel. When we returned to the dealership, the original salesperson was busy with someone else but the manager (that’s right, the manager) immediately offered a $4000 discount while we were standing on the lot. A successful training effort to show our salespeople what not to do happened at local dealerships in a couple of hours.

For those who say it is too hard to institute a training program, or it is too expensive, I refer to a DJ Harrington quote: “If you think it is too expensive to train someone and have them leave then try not training them and having them stay.” Before we instituted our daily training programs, which include closing tips, overcoming objections, and how to effectively create value in what you are selling, we were running below ten percent closing ratio. We instituted our training program and we immediately began seeing results. Within one month, we began closing half of all the customers we got through our doors, we were setting appointments on a regular basis … and they were showing up!!

Start with the basics, staying off price on the lot, how to close, how to do a proper walk around that builds value not interest. I have been asked, “What do you do when you have trained on everything already?” That’s easy. We start over and train it all again. If you cannot find anyone in your dealership to train, then go to some training seminars yourself, get the materials, listen, learn, absorb and bring it back to your dealership. It’s not near as hard as we try to make it out to be. If you don’t train your salespeople there is one guarantee: you lose sales and gross profit. For those dealerships in my backyard that choose not to train, I thank you for it.

Vol 1, Issue 6

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