Great question Bob and one that every dealer approached with a training proposal asks him or herself. A potential dealer client should answer one question prior to making a decision regarding any worthwhile training initiative. “How many members of your sales team have exhibited a passion for the auto business and exhibited a commitment to your organization?” The dealer should invest in these people. Unfortunately, this dramatically reduces the potential number of qualified prospects, but for these clients, training dollars are an investment with a terrific ROI, not a cost.
As one who sells training I find it necessary to bring it up, otherwise it can be the "unspoken" objection that kills any potential deal. I believe in training, am passionate about training, and aggressively sell training. However, I am the first one to admit that most automotive training dollars are not just a "cost" but also a "waste" and I am not afraid to say this to clients or potential clients. Most training dollars are wasted on the wrong people and even more often, the wrong training.
Training new sales people is a crapshoot and the dealer should spend as little money as possible on this endeavor. Spending nothing early on makes the most sense. The factories provide all the necessary product information for a "song". New people that can't master the product quickly aren't making the required effort. Having been to multiple "hiring schools", "interviewing seminars", and "testing certification" courses, here is what I know; it is impossible to determine whether the candidate I'm interviewing will make it as an automobile sales person. The ONE absolute requirement for an individual to succeed in our business is they must LIKE it (certainly there are other qualities necessary, but without LIKING the business, no makes it). They must like the hours, relish the uncertainty of a commission based pay plan, tolerate the ancient sales culture, understand the importance of working nights and holidays, forgive management teams who are well-intentioned but poorly trained, and smile at consumers who feel the right to abuse them, not because of who they are, but because of their title – car salesman or woman.
No interviewing technique can discover the key to success because the candidates themselves don’t know if they will LIKE the business. They are interviewing for a job at a car dealership because whatever they meant to do in life didn’t work out, not because “car sales” is sexy, prestigious, or profitable (for most).
I agree with Steve -- much of the training dollars are wasted. There's usually no process, no plan and no tools. And importantly, no sustainment. But accepting the fact that doing more of the same and "taking your chances" is just inefficient. It doesn't acknowledge that today's technology can increase the likihood of success of a salesperson -- thereby decreasing the dealer's risk and ultimate investment. A great example of this is IntellaCar, a mobile platform for Sales Consultants that has a real impact on sales and efficiency. As one respected GM has said, it “greatly reduces amount for time that it takes for a sales person to learn the products,” has proven to sell more cars at higher gross, and provides many more benefits as well.
The dealers who are willing to make THESE kinds of investments, will be the ones who reap the rewards. I'm a believer that just doing more of the same is not going to win the game. Today's dealers need to continue evolving and investing in ways to move ahead. So the difference between a cost and an investment? The true investment has a return that's measured in results.
I agree with Steve about the need to hire the personality vs. the resume since you can't build on a bad foundation. However, there are soultions that can help in that process such as the online HR services that are provided by http://hirethewinners.com and of course any well integrated HR department that values their people as much as they do their customers.
Of course I also agree with Bruce about the value of IntellaCar as a sales training solution -- I better since they are a friend and client of Ad Agency Online -- for the reasons that he stated plus a few that he didn't.
Training solutions that work are those that exist before, during and after the hire. They must integrate into the day to day activities of the sales consultant to become a habit. IntellaCar, for example, constantly exposes the sales consultant to new information about his and competing products when they access the mobile sales presentation platform to answer customer's questions. Best practices are also injected into the suggested feature/benefit explanations that constitute the IntellaCar driven sales process. Couple that with IntellaCar's pending CRM integration, appraisal tool, credit application and other processes that already exist in the virtual and real world sales process and you "accidentally" become trained while you are using it!
The point is that training is part of a never ending process that is best handled as part of the more comprehensive processes that govern the day to day activities at the dealership.