Certification & Training

Read the Instructions!

Success requires dealers to read the proverbial instruction manual for compliance, transparency, and customer service.

April 2017, Auto Dealer Today - Feature

by Ronald J. Reahard - Also by this author

Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy founded his highly successful fast-food chain on a pledge to be active in the communities his restaurants serve. Photo by Mark Turnauckas
Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy founded his highly successful fast-food chain on a pledge to be active in the communities his restaurants serve. Photo by Mark Turnauckas

In the past month, my grandson turned 16, got his driver’s license, and became a genius. There is not a question he can’t answer and there is nothing he can’t do. In fact, my new nickname for him is I.G.T., because his favorite expression is, “I got this.” It doesn’t matter what the question is or what I ask him to do, he has the answer and already knows how to do it.

When you’re 16 and already know everything there is to know, instructions are for old people. Listening to someone explain how or why something needs to be done a particular way or in a particular order is a waste of his time. Whether it’s filling the leaf blower from the right can with gas and oil mix, how to hook up a trailer, or making sure the hose he used is no longer connected to the faucet when it gets below freezing, assuming a 16-year old has “got this” can be a very expensive lesson … for me.

Unfortunately, my grandson reminds me of someone else I used to know. My father received his PhD from Purdue University, and was one of the wisest men I’ve ever known. But when I was 16, I too was a genius, and he was an idiot. Fortunately, he got a lot smarter by the time I was 25. The older I get, the more I realize how little I know, and how much I have yet to learn. Sooner or later, most of us learn that reading the instructions will save you a lot of time, stress, worry, money and wasted effort.

Is That a Problem?

In the past few months, I’ve received multiple calls and emails with questions from dealers and agents about major issues they’re having at their dealerships. A dealer called concerned he may have a problem at his dealership. He was proud to say his F&I department was running $1,500 per copy, which he thought was a good job. I assured him it was.

However, he then informed me he had discovered one of his F&I people was selling a year of free car washes with a retail price of $199 for $3,000. Did I think he had a problem? Yes, he had a huge problem! Somebody at that dealership either didn’t get or didn’t read — and certainly didn’t follow — the instructions!

An agent recently asked if I would be willing to testify on behalf of one of his dealers, for whom we had trained numerous F&I people over the years. This dealer was being sued by a former employee who claimed the dealership was packing payments. I would be shocked if this particular dealer allowed this deceptive practice to occur, but as any business owner knows, you can’t be everywhere at once. And sometimes, when an employee has to be terminated, they try to get even.

There is a well-established and proven discipline that every successful dealer has studied for much of their life, a discipline that helps them understand human nature. It’s called selling. At its core, selling is a matter of showing someone how a particular product, service, or action fulfills one or more of their needs. Of course, that only scratches the surface. The psychology of selling and motivating people is a lifelong course of study.

Most automobile dealers are pretty darned good at both selling and motivation, or they would never have been able to put their name on the front of a building. The fact is, employees and customers both see the world in terms of how it relates to, and impacts them, personally. We all do.

Whether it’s selling cars or buying a car, it always comes down to that all-important question; “What’s in it for me?” When you’re a dealer with dozens of employees the daily question becomes, “How do I motivate this person to do what I want or need them to do?

Customers expect to receive real value for their time or money. Yes, you must demonstrate the value is equal to or greater than the asking price. And, yes, the greater the value compared to the price, the more likely people are to buy. But you can’t force people to buy or do anything they don’t want to do. If selling is nothing more than making people want what you have, leadership is nothing more than making others want to do what you need them to do. The question is, how?

Read the instructions.

Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby

S. Truett Cathy founded a fast food restaurant chain called Chick-fil-A. Cathy began the chain in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville in 1946 with a restaurant called the Dwarf Grill, named because of its small size. It was there that he, along with his brother created the chicken sandwich that later became the signature menu item for Chick-fil-A.

Today, Chick-fil-A has more than 2,000 restaurants, mainly in the United States. Why was Cathy so successful? Maybe because he firmly believed, “We should be about more than just selling chicken. We should be a part of our customers’ lives and the communities in which we serve.”

David Green founded Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts and crafts stores. In 1970, David and Barbara Green took out a $600 loan to begin making and selling miniature picture frames. Two years later, the fledgling enterprise opened a 300-square-foot store in Oklahoma City, and Hobby Lobby was born. Today, with almost 750 stores, Hobby Lobby is the largest privately owned arts-and-crafts retailer in the world with approximately 32,000 employees in 47 states.

What do these two men have in common? They read the instructions!

People may say they hate salespeople, but they still love to buy. And they really love a company, business or dealer who provides them with a simple, easy and hassle-free way to do it. Improving your dealership’s results requires providing your team with a clear and concise set of instructions, then implementing and following those same instructions yourself.

Sell quality products at a fair price, treat your customers and employees the way you want to be treated, hold them accountable to ensure they also do that, and you’ll make more money than you can spend.

Fortunately for those of us in the automobile business, people continue to want what they do not have: love, wealth, fame, glory, safety, luxury, comfort, and maybe even a new car. As human beings, we are by nature constantly dissatisfied and spend our lives searching for what will finally make us feel happy and complete.

The good news is there is a really good book on psychology and human nature that can help all us understand who we are, how to handle our problems, our daily challenges and how to get along with, manage and motivate people. Hey, it might even help us sell a few more cars. When all else fails, read the instructions!

Ronald J. Reahard ranks among the industry’s leading trainers, authors, consultants and speakers and is president of Reahard & Associates Inc., winner of a 2016 Dealers’ Choice Award for F&I Training. Contact him at [email protected].

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