The Showroom

March Madness: How to Coach Your Rookies

Behind every great sales team is a dealer who approaches training with the same skill and dedication as a winning coach.

March 2018, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Phillip Hellstrom

Great coaches know individual development is key to team success. Photo by Anthony Langley via Flickr
Great coaches know individual development is key to team success. Photo by Anthony Langley via Flickr

The industry and its players — including the next generation of dealership employees — are changing. But the millennial workforce is full of raw talent. With March Madness upon us, it’s a good time to remember that dealers and sales managers are coaches. It’s your responsibility to turn green peas into professionals.

College basketball offers a proven formula. Here are four focal points that stress the importance of individual development in building a successful team — on the court or on the showroom floor:

1. Assign and Define Roles.

Each member of your sales team must have a specific and well-defined role. Individual development comes from knowing each sales consultant’s strengths and weaknesses. You need to know each player’s level of talent per metric, including total ups, total phone ups, total digital ups, total units sold, used-to-new ratio, closing ratio, and gross profit.

Developing the skills each new player brings to your team is imperative. You wouldn’t ask a natural-born shooting guard to practice at center. Each player has to master their own role before expanding on less-evident (or nonexistent) skills for further growth.

Coach your players according to their strengths, then develop their areas of weakness. Reversing that order will produce more benchwarmers than “triple-double” sellers.

2. Have a Game Plan.

Smart sales floors have great communication from upper management on down to the sales floor. They run their “plays” flawlessly because they know they don’t always have to improvise to produce. Their game plan requires them to uncover their customers’ needs to improve their chances of success.

Train your salespeople to pay attention to your customers’ choice of words, verbal tone, body language, and the timing of their responses and reactions. Allow for critical thinking, and above all else, trust the process.

3. Call the Right Plays.

In basketball, in-game adjustments are critical. When the sales process breaks down, your team must be prepared to read and react.

Successful play-calling is all about listening and observing one’s surroundings. Sales consultants who listen well to their customers and to their managers are able to make sound judgment calls, even when they have to improvise their way through deals.

With time and experience, true pros are able to handle complex sales easily. But they can’t do it on their own. Strong management reinforces play-calling ability by observing how the consultant and the customer are interacting with each other. As a coach, you have to be willing to change or customize your process to put more points on the board.

4. Minimize Turnovers.

Some dealers are content with having their management team step in to close deals. But this loss of possession — or “turnover,” to continue the basketball analogy — does not go unnoticed by customers. Worse yet, if you keep benching your players in the final minutes, they’ll never learn how to close out a game.

Dealership coaches have to know when to let new sales consultants push through and when to pull them back. Keeping them on the floor for the more complex deals will improve their chances of closing your next customer without assistance. Limiting “turnovers” also demonstrates that you trust your sales teams and your training program. More importantly, it allows your management team to focus on their own jobs.

Focusing on these four areas should help you reduce staff turnover, minimize missed opportunities, and nail down a process that maximizes profitability and productivity. Coaching raw talent into professional sales consultants is never easy, but it is the surest way to produce greater results and more revenue for your dealership.

Phillip Hellstrom is founder of Phelcan Group LLC and a 17-year automotive retail professional with expertise in sales training and customer relations.


  1. 1. Mike Prasswell [ March 16, 2018 @ 12:42PM ]

    Solid read by a solid dude. The new "Art of the Deal" guru


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