How can I reduce staff turnover at our dealership?



One of the issues I hear about frequently from my client dealerships is that of sales staff retention. Let me venture out onto the limb to suggest that, just perhaps, the requirements for a sales position in your organization need to be reviewed.

The sales people, the floor staff, the lizards, studs, newbie, - whatever name you apply to them - are incredibly important to your dealership's ongoing success. They need to be happy with the sales opportunities that can enable them to earn a decent wage. They need to feel that they are supported by you, their dealer. Most important: They need to benefit from the incentive of compensation for performance.

If your showroom has a problem with a continuously changing roster of sales staff, maybe it is time to look at how you qualify prospective personnel.

A sales person has to offer more than a pulse and the ability to remain vertical. Remember the task: The goal of each salesperson you place on the showroom floor is to lead prospects to the decision to buy a vehicle from your dealership, and hopefully, to set-up aftermarket product sales like window etching, clear bra, upholstery protection, etc. Such a purchase represents a substantial cash outlay or financing arrangement for most customers, and is not usually made without some resistance.

To assemble a sales team that can excel in overcoming sales resistance, closing deals, moving inventory, and ensuring a continuing inventory of attractive product, look for the person who exhibits the following traits:

The ideal sales staffer:

  • Projects a professional demeanor. Does your prospective sales person demonstrate friendliness, intelligence, helpfulness, and sincerity? Is he or she dressed in a professional manner? Would you mind spending several hours in this person's presence at close quarters? Bear in mind that your sales person will create a nearly indelible impression of your dealership in the customer's mind. The issue is nothing less than credibility. When a customer is contemplating a considerable purchase, he or she wants to have a connection with the person doing the selling, and wants to enjoy confidence that he or she is being well cared for by the sales person, and, by extension, the organization he or she represents.

  • Has bullet-proof product knowledge. A prospective sales person who comes into your store with no familiarity with your store's brand(s) means that he or she won't be effective on the sales floor for several months after the hire.

  • Recognizes that the sales process is, well... a process. It is rarely the result of one encounter in a showroom. Typically, it follows several visits to the showroom, with intervening visits by the prospective buyers who have visited other stores. The effective sales person needs to understand this dynamic, and, more important, must be have the situation awareness to: solicit the counsel of his or her Sales Manager to support the sales effort; and maintain contact with the prospective buyer.

  • Is a team player. Any business endeavor involving more than one person has to be a team effort. Sales staff working in the same showroom must recognize that they are a team, that they need to support each other, and that the competition is the other stores, not the rest of the people on the showroom floor.

  • Will go "above and beyond". You need a sales staff that embraces a straightforward notion: Selling a product should not simply satisfy a customer; it should delight him or her. A well-executed sale has the prospect of generating repeat sales from the same customer. More important, however, it is likely to produce leads to other prospects who will very likely be predisposed to buy from your store.

As the dealer or manager you need to ensure continuity in your sales staff, because most sales are conducted over a period of weeks, or even months. Your sales staff needs to know that you are aware of this process, and that you support the sales staff in their protracted efforts to close sales.

These observations come from my own experience, as well as anecdotal accounts from dealership managers who I trust implicitly. Consider these observations as you evaluate new hires to your sales staff... and as you evaluate your current sales force. Remember - your near term objective is to sell units, but over the long term, you have to build a customer base that will generate repeat business as well as generate quality leads.


Please comment on this post :)

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Comment by Leonard Buchholz on June 1, 2011 at 9:09pm

I really like your observations and recommendations Don. I might add that true Professionals appreciate and expect continuous Training. If your Dealership suffers from high turnover one area you might look at is how often you actually promote and conduct Training. Look forward to hearing more from your point of view Don.


Comment by Marsh Buice on May 31, 2011 at 8:06pm

Don, I totally agree; we have to stop "the mirror" test. The better job we qualify and get the right canidates, the more long term success we will have. In our business we recruit for "today" and deal with the consequences later. Thanks for the post, Don.

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