Dealing with today's informed customers is as challenging as any time in history. Information is readily available as dealerships around the country lean on the Internet to compete for market share.
Third-party Websites acting as consumer advocates continue to compete for the attention of the Web-savvy customer. As information is passed through social media sites, chat rooms and emails it becomes distorted and confusing. Product comparisons and trim levels are easily obtained as a plethora of information is accumulated. Price obtainment is easier today than it was before, and the shopper has more options than driving dealer to dealer.
The consumers' destination is determined by several elements up to and including dealership customer service ratings and customer-written reviews. Once the dealership becomes a destination, the dealership experience, and not just price indicators alone, will be the final denominator.
Sales managers have to educate, train and prepare their staff for handling today's consumer, or they will lose more than a sale. The loss won't merely result in existing business; it will lead to the loss of future business, as well. The productivity of the sales department and, ultimately, the sales associates is in direct proportion to the direction of the sales managers. There are several key areas that the sales manager is responsible for that should be completed on a regular basis. These five elements serve as essential strategies to sustaining a productive sales department. These five elements are training, monitoring, measuring and performance standards, prospecting and follow up and inspiration.
Strategy 1 — Training: Every day, the sales management team should be performing 15 minutes of content-related training. Training relates to "teaching a specific skill" or "enhancing a skill." Training is not gathering for a 15-minute rant on unrelated topics. Each meeting should consist of a single topic focused on improving or enhancing a specific sales process. The training should always end with a short test on the topics discussed. The point for testing is retention of the material. Rehearsal and practice of the learned skills should be routine.
Strategy 2 — Monitoring: The sales manager's responsibility is centered on the production of his or her sales associates. Therefore, monitoring the activities of those associates is paramount. What are the sales associates doing when they come in for their shift? Providing the staff with action items throughout the day will keep the mind in motion.
Strategy 3 — Setting and Measuring Performance Standards: Establishing minimum performance guidelines are essential for creating a win-win atmosphere. A detailed job description should highlight specific requirements of the position. Here are a few of thestandards that should be presented when it comes to gross revenue production:
• Sales volume expectations — minimum of 12 units or store average over 90 days • Accurate customer information collection (i.e. email collection at 80 percent) • Proper follow-up guidelines • Product penetration expectations (new cars vs. used cars and aged inventory) • What the specific measurement standards will be, and how the standards will be utilized in the decision-making process
Strategy 4 — Prospecting and Follow up: Timely follow up done in an exact manner produces more effective return customers more frequently. Consistent follow up at regular intervals is the only activity that will ensure steady results leading to endurance and success.
An NADA questionnaire of consumers showed data that nearly 90 percent of those customers surveyed who didn't buy on the spot said they were never contacted by the salesperson they talked to. The purchase was made somewhere — just not from the original sales associate.
Strategy 5 — Inspiring: The most important ingredient in the sales process is motivating and inspiring the sales associates. Since the productivity is driven by how successful each sales associate is, it's imperative that the team stays inspired. Sales manager(s) needs to inspire performance, production and motion. The motivated associate should be regularly recognized, energized and reinforced.