Turn Your Order-Takers Back Into Sales Pros
Let’s be honest. Since about August or September 2020, your salespeople have had it pretty easy. Your cars, trucks, and SUVs have been selling themselves… often at prices above MSRP for new cars and at historically elevated prices for used.
Most salespeople became order-takers. They quit making calls, they stopped responding quickly to new leads, they abandoned the road-to-the-sale with their floor ups, and they treated every phone up like a suspect until the up proved themselves worthy of buying the vehicle they were inquiring about.
Times were great for your salespeople… until those pesky consumers started worrying about how much they’ve been paying for gas and groceries. For some markets, this started in the second quarter of this year. Many dealers have seen a noticeable decline in foot and phone traffic that started (depending on your Make and market) sometime between June and last week.
If you’re paying attention, this slowdown means it’s probably time to turn your order-takers back into sales professionals.
The State of Automotive Retail
While we don’t know with certainty what the market will look like in three months, we do know that industry grosses will decline as inventory grows, and we know that recruiting and hiring great salespeople has never been harder.
This means that if we cannot change our order-takers back into salespeople, we’re going to be struggling if inventories grow and we enter a recession. (Not that it matters, but I believe we’re already in a recession; one that will last at least another year.)
“Okay, but what If we change nothing?”
There were plenty of dealers who changed nothing about their processes, rules, or sales activities as the market tanked during the last recession, so why should we expect everyone to change on the way down this time? For these sales teams, they were and are content with letting the market decide their fate. If you choose to change nothing as the industry slows down, rest assured, it won’t be the end of the world. And while you likely won’t be closing the doors, your sales managers:
- Will need to fight harder to make deals.
- Will be chasing numbers at the end of every month.
- Will constantly be recruiting, hiring, & training.
Plus, your costs will go up as your grosses decline.
The great news is that if you’d rather mitigate that kind of unpleasantness, turning your order-takers back into sales professionals is not only cost-effective, it’s actually ridiculously simple.
Create Your Own Superstars
I’ve always struggled to understand why there are so many dealers looking to hire superstar salespeople. If we examine the history of this strategy, we know these salespeople generally disrupt the organization while they’re employed with you, and they rarely stay at any one place very long. Not surprisingly, the dealers who win over the long term (building market share, improving grosses, improving CSI) create and nurture their own superstars.
The secret to creating your team of superstar salespeople depends on your managers ability to get 100% from your salespeople every day. So, I’ll ask you, “On a scale of 0-100, how much is your average salesperson giving you today?” If you’re being honest, you probably answered with a number somewhere south of 50. This begs the question: How can we get 100 every day?
There are a few simple (ridiculously simple, actually) behaviors your managers can change about how they approach their team and their job to get 100 every day from every salesperson:
Their Success is My Success – Simply put, your sales managers need to care about and be invested in the individual success of each salesperson. Too many desk managers in automotive today still believe in “sink or swim” when it comes to salespeople. People either make it or they don’t. Of course, those managers spend most of their recruiting and hiring… and chasing numbers when the market gets tough.
Their Failure is My Failure – Whenever a salesperson blows a deal, misses an important task, or fails to reach their quota, it’s as much their manager’s fault as it is the salesperson’s. I understand this is radical thinking, but before you think I’m referring to coddling salespeople or giving everyone a trophy, you’re dead wrong. Implementing the next change ensures your entire sales team will individually reach their full potential.
Salespeople Must be Pushed to Act – Most salespeople know what to do. They have a CRM that tells them when to complete most tasks, and they’ve attended training classes, bought sales books, and/or watched sales training videos. Their problem is not that they don’t know, their problem is that they’re human beings. Left to themselves, most human beings settle on the easy instead of the effective or profitable. By driving activities and pushing them to sell one today, you’ll guarantee they’re giving 100 every day.
Good News – Great News
I’ve written this before, but it bears repeating here. The good news is that if salespeople always did what we wanted them to do, we never would’ve invented sales managers.
The great news is this means you only need to train and reinforce best practices every single day for the rest of your working life.
Throughout much of the ongoing inventory shortage, most managers simply stopped training and reinforcing best practices because, well, it didn’t really matter, did it? Every dealer was selling every vehicle they could source. Why did it matter if our salespeople answered leads quickly, worked their databases, or followed a strict road-to-the-sale?
It didn’t then… but it does now.
Automotive Sales Books by Steve Stauning: