The Importance of Continuing Education in the Dealership

June 2011, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Courtney Cole - Also by this author

A Culture of Being the Best

What do doctors, accountants, lawyers and dentists all have in common? Once you become one of these, you have to continue to take classes to stay up on your profession. Once doctors complete school, they aren’t done with education.

Let’s just pretend that people actually went to college for an automotive profession. I know no one actually grows up wanting to be a used-vehicle salesperson; they just one day find themselves in it. However, in our Land of Pretend, it is an honor to be an automotive professional, and people look up to you. What would the educational program look like in your dealership?

Let’s start with NADA—the convention for the industry. It would be a requirement to attend this event. I can hear what some dealers would say: “Why would I attend NADA? I don’t need to purchase any new equipment. I went one time, and it’s just a bunch of parties.”

Here is the one opportunity where almost all the vendors from the industry are sitting side-by-side so you can compare products. Have you signed up with a CRM, or Reynolds and Reynolds and wondered how well you are utilizing the product? One of my favorite things to do at NADA is to visit our current vendors, have them review our usage, and then ask them how their best customers are using this product. What do we need to do differently to utilize this product so that it will give us the best results?

How about the workshops at NADA? Do you want to grow your managers? Why not take them along and require they attend the workshops? What happens when they attend the workshops? Several of our managers attended Grant Cardone’s session where he covered the topic, “Why compete when you can dominate?” Imagine your managers being so excited to go back to the store to give salespeople additional training to not compete against other stores, but dominate them. Do you know how much more powerful an idea is when it is your manager’s rather than yours?

Let’s talk about the parties. How about going to the parties with the idea that you are going to network? There are all kinds of different vendor parties – whether it’s a bank or DealerTrack – you name it. The parties provide time to talk to your reps and work on building strong relationships. What happens when you get back to the store and there is an issue with that vendor or you need some help getting a deal bought? How easy is it to get what you want if you have built a relationship?

Now it’s time to move on to 20 groups. Here is an opportunity to learn from 19 similar-size dealers and to compare ideas and best practices. They only meet three times a year for about three days at a time. Here are the excuses I have heard for not taking advantage of 20 groups: “The group plays too much golf” or, “I can’t afford to be out of the store that much.”

Join a good group – there are plenty to choose from – whether it is NCM or NADA. Twenty groups provide a chance to learn what your peers are doing, see the benchmarks, and examine how you rank versus benchmarks or group average. There is nothing better than being in a group where fellow dealers help each other. If you’re having trouble in service or used cars, a 20 group provides the chance to ask one of the leaders in your group how to grow your business to the next level. Better yet, schedule a visit to one of the dealers in your 20 group. There is no better experience for your managers than to visit another store. Your team will see how to grow your business to the next level and will believe that it can be accomplished.

How about boot camps, seminars, etc? Worried about how you are doing on the Internet? The Digital Dealer Conference takes place twice a year and Brian Pasch holds multiple boot camps throughout the year. How about special finance? Want to get into this business? Consider attending Greg Goebel’s seminars and put processes in place so that you get funded in a timely manner, get more people financed and sell more vehicles.

Let’s look in the mirror. As operators, how can we improve? There are the sayings that “earners are learners” and “readers are leaders.” How about reading a new book every two weeks? How about requiring our managers to read one chapter per week on leadership? How about reading five industry magazines every month?

What kind of improvement would you expect if you followed these continuous education processes? Do you think you could dominate the competition instead of competing with them? Just because we are in the automotive business does not mean that we should not treat it like a profession. As Jim Rohn said, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” True professionals continue their education and have a culture of being the best!

Vol. 8, Issue 4


  1. 1. John Fuhrman [ June 28, 2011 @ 06:35AM ]

    Well said. I ahve always believed that the dealership is a reflection of the dealer. That includes everything from inventory display to the attitude on the showroom floor. Why would any salesperson value training if the dealer is never taking part for their own improvement?

    As far as readers being leaders, I can attest to that fact. In my 15 years as an author, many top companies have used my books for their people. They ask each one to read just 15 minutes per day. What they may not know is that doing just that for a lifetime is the equivilent of attaining five college educations.

    As a trainer who specializes in the auto industry, the importance of having the dealer and management participate in all training is critical. It is so frustrating when I get messages from sales people or F&I managers who enjoyed training and then when they get back, they are told to forget all that "stuff" because this is the way we do it here.

    I would love to send you a copy of one of my books as a thank you for posting such great information. Let me know where to send it.

  2. 2. Gordon Stewart [ July 05, 2011 @ 05:39PM ]

    As someone in the same 20 group with Courtney, I would tell you she is one of the top dealers in the group and one would do well to heed her advice. She definitely practices what she preaches and has an admirable ability to learn from anyone running a successful operation. Nice job here, Courtney!


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