3 Ways to Get Personal

General sales manager explains how facility tours, trade walks and common courtesy can restore the human touch to an increasingly digitized transaction.

March 2016, Auto Dealer Today - Feature

by Jason Heard

Many things have changed in our business over the last decade or so. We get information instantaneously through the Internet. We train and track on response time, click-throughs and vehicle description pages. The advantages of these new tools are clear, but as we continue to utilize and embrace all the technology our chosen industry now offers, we too often forget the human element.

With most of the year ahead of us, this is a good time to train our people on the in-person items that can make or break a sale. Here are three to start with:

1. Facility tours: Customers want the total package when they purchase a vehicle. They want to build a relationship, so you need to show them why they should choose your dealership. When a friend visits your home for the first time, what do you do? You welcome them and show them around. You offer them a beverage and tell them how to find the bathroom.

Your dealership is your second home, so give your customers the full tour! Make sure you get them to the lounge area. Show them the TVs, the couches and the coffee machine. Mention the free Wi-Fi, shuttle service and loaner cars. Introduce them to the service writer and the parts counterperson. In short, show them all you have to offer.

2. Trade walk: This is where the salesperson gives the customer a chance to “sell” their car to us. Walk the trade with them. Measure the tread on the tires, touch the scratch on the bumper, turn the ignition and crank the A/C. Pop the trunk and look under the hood.

In most cases, the customer won’t need much prompting to tell you everything they know about the car, good and bad, and it’s a great opportunity for the salesperson to build a rapport and get more information. What better time to ask if they have invested in an extended warranty, paint-and-fabric protection or a windshield product?

3. Common courtesy: Do your salespeople smile? That may seem like a strange question, but do they? Do they use “Mr.” and “Mrs.” or “sir” and “madam”? Do they greet everyone they come within 10 feet of? Do they shake hands? Have they spit their gum out? Are they dressed appropriately? If the answer to any of the above is “No,” your work is cut out for you.

Another common problem is a little more difficult to tackle: grammar, both spoken and written. Your salespeople are most likely emailing and texting your customers, and you need to check their work. Are they using “text speak”? If they are, is it appropriate? Are they using coherent sentences in their emails? Are they able to express themselves in a way that is easy to read and comprehend? You don’t need to become an English professor, but you do need to know what is going out in your dealership’s name.

I am aware of the demands new technology places on us, and I know all the old responsibilities — reports, tracking, ordering, dealer trading — are still part of our job. But you have to keep time in your schedule for improvement. You owe it to your salespeople. Don’t get caught up in busy-ness when you should be working on your business.

If you need help, bring in a trainer. You’ll find plenty in the pages of this magazine, and they’ll be happy to give you and your team a refresher. Chances are the session will pay for itself on a handful of deals and give you a great position to lead from. Use a trainer as a springboard for more accountability. Get everyone on the same page. Get your verbiage down and agree on a process.

Remember, we all have a toolbelt. We use some tools every day and others only for special jobs. But you have to know how to use them all, and you must keep them in good working order. Best of luck for a record 2016!

Jason Heard is the general sales manager at Gerald Jones Honda in Martinez, Ga. He is a 20-year industry veteran with extensive sales and sales management experience.

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