September 2012, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive
The challenge for many dealerships today is how to achieve high levels of productivity from every department while keeping cost of operations in check. The classic performance model typically incorporates a series of carrots and sticks to encourage employee engagement and proper focus on business outcomes.
This approach, while popular, has some real limitations with today’s workforce. Imagine, if you could, the need to produce high levels of output from your team (F&I, sales, etc.) while being restricted from utilizing the incentive of money and/or the consequence of termination. How much harder would it be to run your dealership?
Fundamentally, it would mean gaining cooperation based on your team executing a plan not because they have to but because they want to. This is a tall order in anyone’s book, yet represents an accurate reflection of your store’s culture and business philosophy.
Influence is, after all, the ability to gain voluntary cooperation versus the use of coercion or manipulation. Yet our industry is filled with messages that say, “Well, just do so because I said so,” rather than taking the time explain the “why” behind the purpose of executing the plan in a particular way.
The interesting thing about developing a strategy to become a more influential person is that it will positively impact all aspects of your operation.
When an F&I manager is trying to gain the cooperation of the salesperson to support the turnover to F&I and set up the sale of aftermarket products, he or she must influence the salesperson in order to effectively increase penetrations. The same holds true for the interaction with the desk manager and ultimately the customer.
The idea that all coverage and protection programs are optional is fundamental to the success of presenting any F&I menu. The moment customers feel excessive pressure, they will either resist by digging in their heels, or worse, they will simply disengage completely by retreating from the purchase of the vehicle altogether.
So how can influence be increased and thus cooperation gained? In a word, relationship.
In order to achieve greater influence and thus cooperation, a connection between both parties must be present. The need to make a human connection with sincere rapport that communicates, “I want to serve you at the highest level,” is paramount.
The customer interview must then become the foundation of establishing this rapport to tailor the protection packages on the menu and build a bridge of trust before entering the F&I office. Presenting the menu not from the perspective that customers don’t have to buy these protection packages, but rather by explaining why they would want to reduce risks by protecting their investment, is significantly more effective.
The conversation between the business manager (F&I) and the salesperson/desk manager should be the same. It starts first with a relationship (investing the time to get to know them personally), and follows with the reasons why these protection packages will benefit the customer. The increased retention that results from the customer purchasing the VSC or prepaid maintenance program may be obvious to the dealership, but not so obvious to each salesperson.
After all, when the customer does return to purchase the next vehicle from the dealership, who will receive the commission?
The disappointing aspect for many within the automotive industry is that they were often subjected to a philosophy of persuasion that thinks it’s somehow OK if the person in charge walks around with a hammer in their hands, since everything and everyone is simply a nail! A heavy-handed approach has limitations in that your people will only do what they have to. Delivering the type of inspired performance that you or customers desire will mean connecting on a much deeper level both internally (with staff) and externally (with customers).
One suggestion for achieving a real connection with your staff is to order a set of Values Cards for each of your managers from JohnMaxwell.com. The instructions for how to use the cards are included in the package. If you would like to discuss how to best introduce this tool at your store(s), please feel free to email me.
Good luck and good selling!
Vol. 9, Issue 7