You may have worked hard to stock the right vehicles at the right price, but without sales people and a good sales process, you will fail.

Our business has been through many changes over the years, but the one thing that hasn't changed is that, sooner or later, the balances of all transactions are conducted face-to-face with our customers. Are you focused on your pre-owned sales process?

Every success begins with attention and focus. Working for NCM Associates, I have been involved with Mercedes-Benz, co-facilitating their certified pre-owned training efforts across the country.

I have been fortunate to be facilitating the classes with Paul Webb, who owns a training company called Street Smart. He shared data with me that break down the allocation of a single training dollar spent by the average dealer.

Not surprisingly, the majority went to training the new-vehicle sales people and fixed-operations personnel. What surprised me was the total expenditure on pre-owned vehicle sales training. It was only two cents of the average dealer's training dollar.

Let's put this in perspective. We have possibly millions of dollars tied up in the most volatile inventory in our store, yet we dedicate only 2% of our training budget to our pre-owned sales staff.

A common complaint from pre-owned vehicle managers is: “You just can't find good used-car guys anymore.” What is a good used-car guy?

In the early 1970s, when I first started selling cars, I knew that guy. He wore polyester pants with a white belt, a flowered tie and white shoes. The general manager felt he was too edgy to keep in the new-vehicle showroom, but when he did actually show up for work, he could sell snowballs to the Eskimos.

Do you mean that guy?

Forget it, he retired and is now selling cigars on the beach in Mexico due to some issues he had in the U.S. If you want good used-car folks today you have to cultivate them.

Look at how much training you are doing with the pre-owned vehicle staff. Are you spending as much time training them as you do your new-vehicle sales associates?

Your pre-owned vehicle training should mirror your new-vehicle training and process. Think about it. How do you train a new vehicle sales person? You train basic salesmanship:

The greeting, needs and wants assessment, product knowledge, product walk-around, product presentation, demo drives, trial closes, credit applications and commitments. Why should the pre-owned vehicle process be any different?

When was the last time the pre-owned vehicle manager ran the sales meeting in your store? What could they talk about? How about:

The inventory, the market, the selling process, overcoming common pre-owned vehicle objections, selling high miles, selling low miles, selling high cost vehicles, selling cheap vehicles, pre-owned vehicle financing, getting more down payment or the pre-owned reconditioning process.

When was the last time you had a walk-around competition on a pre-owned or certified pre-owned vehicle? Are the pre-owned sales people presenting your dealership's equity statements, pre-owned inspection process and quality guarantees?

Before they work a deal, do they present a value-building folder that contains information on the pre-owned vehicle they are selling, which might include a Carfax history report, warranty information, product information, service history, market pricing and the dealer's mission statement?

Any success begins with focus and attention. Over the years, the most common trait of new-vehicle dealers that have survived the tough times is a successful pre-owned vehicle department. If the pre-owned vehicle department were your only source of income, would you do things differently?

Tony Albertson is the executive conference moderator for NCM Associates. He can be reached at

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