Most automotive dealers face the same age old problem; how do you get and keep good salespeople? Because of the lack of expertise, time and the more efficient use of time, many dealerships continually find themselves hiring new salespeople and then putting them on the floor with the hope of success and the reality of failure.
Human nature is to avoid the same negative experience that we have just experienced, called RNE - Recent Negative Experience. However, I find many dealerships repeat the same process for getting and keeping salespeople over and over with the same high degree of pain.
What are the common mistakes made in the process of getting and molding new people for success and how can we fix those mistakes?
1) Lacking a predetermined game plan - every dealership management team should sit down and ask themselves what kind of candidate they are looking for? I call this the Ideal Candidate Process . Once you have determined what kind of person you are looking for, stick to your guns and don't settle for less. Don't try to create heroes out of less than desirable candidates.
2) Using only newspaper ads to recruit salespeople - Pick a non-traditional way to recruit, instead of running the same ad as everyone else in town. Use booths at job fairs, run ads on internet job placement boards, use flyers as newspaper inserts, recruit from colleges, recruit from good retail establishments.
3) Weak Interview Process - Ask at least 50 questions of each candidate. Make the questions mostly open-ended to allow longer and more in-depth responses. The more a candidate talks, the more you can listen and observe. A good rule of thumb, should be to let the candidate talk 80% of the time. Always ask for examples of their answers or how they have or can demonstrate what they have talked about. Don't allow canned answers such as "I like people."
4) Not testing or profiling - Test and or profile everyone that seems like a good candidate. Remove the emotions of the interviewing process by using personality profiles with predictive indicators for sales aptitude. People, whose personality and sales aptitude do not fit the criteria, usually fail. Don't be caught in the trap of great interviewee, bad salesperson.
5) Not giving initial and on-going training - Putting people to work without in-depth training on what they should do is like giving them a loaded gun and telling them to greet your customers with it. For people to succeed they must know what to do, how to do it, what their expectations are and what the consequences are if they don't. Every salesperson should have a detailed job description and routing procedures for the process flow that describes all details of their jobs, as well as other jobs that affect them. Giving initial training to salespeople can reduce turnover by more than 70%.
6) Not having an on-going process of recruiting - The time to start recruiting people is when you don't necessarily need them. Start a weekly process for recruitment of people. If the dealership works from a position of want instead of need, you will always fare better.
The results of a detailed and on-going recruitment and training process are immediate and enormous. Great locations, great facilities, great advertising and great economies will not guarantee your success as a dealer without great people.
Although all successful salespeople are driven by an overwhelming need to win, not all salespeople can sell everything. Different salespeople excel when it comes to selling different types of products to different type of prospects.
They can be persuasive, aggressive, fast-paced, independent and networkers.
These men and women sell through persuasion, charm and convincing the customer of a need. Highly competitive, they play only to win, dress to impress and are born "people persons," viewing every prospect as a future friend and every friend as a potential sale.
Poised, warm, outgoing, articulate and fun, persuasive salespeople rely on their superior people skills to "read" the prospect, establish rapport, and seal the sale.
Like all "true salespeople," they are willing to work hard, will sacrifice to win and want their pay directly linked to their performance.
Polished, enterprising and quick on their feet, they are "silver tongued" salespeople who use their communications skills and contagious enthusiasm to convince prospects they've got the perfect product at the price of a lifetime. And not afraid of risk, the Persuasive Salesperson always asks for the sale, even in hard sell situations.
Long on persuasion and enthusiasm and short on logic, facts and problem solving skills, persuasive salespeople tend to be most successful selling to other verbal people. Big picture, "I don't do detail" salespeople, they generally do not do well selling to more skeptical, fact-based prospects who want to know exactly how your widget is going to improve sales, not how many other clients have ordered your widget and just love it.
The Persuasive Salesperson does best selling new or used cars, real estate, health/life insurance, advertising, promotional products, PR products/services and consumer products to socio-verbal prospects, who, like them, live, dress, and love to impress.
They are not likely, however, to be very successful selling to serious, analytical prospects like CPA's, lawyers or doctors, who want the facts, without hype, and may view the Persuasive Salesperson as silly and/or insincere.
That's why every dealership probably needs at least one analytical salesperson.
Like the Persuasive Salesperson, the other two true sales personalities, the Problem Solver Salesperson and Persistent Salesperson are motivated by the need to win. And just like the Persuasive Salesperson, they are both aggressive enough to ask for the sale.
Skeptical, logical, practical, reserved and fact-based, both sell by asking questions, gathering necessary facts and then making a highly tailored, fact-based, no nonsense pitch. Although Persuasive Salespeople may view both as unfriendly, too task-oriented, blunt or tough, both consistently put sales on the board and money in the bank.
The big difference between the Problem Solver Salesperson and the Persistent Salesperson is patience - the Problem Solver doesn't have much, and needs almost immediate goal achievement. The Persistent Salesperson, on the other hand, believes time is on his side and that each visit or call to an undecided prospect moves him one step closer to making the sale.
Another difference between the two analytical salespeople is their attention to detail - the Problem Solver has plenty, the Persistent Salesperson has little. Like the Persuasive Salesperson, the Persistent Salesperson is independent and big picture and may ignore detail and/or prove resistant to anything vaguely resembling "hands-on" management.
Both the Problem-Solver Salesperson and the Persistent Salesperson do well selling expensive, complicated products and/or programs to practical, skeptical prospects, like purchasing agents, broker agents or top management. They succeed in situations where servicing an existing need and helping prospects effectively address their need, not the ability to persuade is what counts.
Assuming you already know an applicant can sell (they have provided you with W-2's proving they can) how do you know what type of customer they will be most effective selling to? Although profiling is the quickest, easiest, cheapest and most accurate way to tell, how the candidate looks and talks can also provide valuable clues.
The applicant in the Armani suit, wearing a Rolex, with perfect hair, who answers your questions with long, articulate, frequently funny answers is probably a Persuasive Salesperson who will do best selling low cost, high volume or "me, too" items to people-based prospects like company PR, marketing, or advertising execs who prefer to buy unique or impressive products or services from someone they like.
The sales candidate in the practical, timeless blue suit, sensible Seiko and easy to care for hair, who seems a little shy and answers only what you ask, factually, without much emotion, is an analytical salesperson who will probably excel at helping clients solve their company's operations, financial, administrative, paperwork, computer or transportation problems without a bunch of hype.
Mary Ruth Austin is with the Omnia Group, an employee selection and management consulting firm based in Tampa, FL.