Ten Rules to Determine How Committed You Are to Automotive Sales

This is a real question you have to ask yourself if you want to survive the automotive industry. Are you willing to do what it takes to be successful each and every day to not just work a job, but to build a career? There are many people who started in the automotive industry as a crutch until they found a “better” job. Only a small percentage, however, end up succeeding. National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) studies show that there is as much as a 70 percent turnover rate in sales. That being said, if you apply yourself, a career in car sales can be more lucrative than any other profession – even doctors and lawyers – if you make an effort. Yes, the hours are long and you will be asking yourself whether this occupation is the right one for you. If you stick to your guns and learn, you will see that you are able to make more money in this industry than you ever could with that degree – and not have the student loan debt that comes with it.

Here are ten lessons from my life in the automotive industry that I want to share. I hope these lessons motivate and inspire you to be the best you can be each and every day and you end up with a successful career:

Rule #1

Tough bosses will be hard on you, but never let them break you. I have had some tough a#$hole bosses in my automotive retailing life, but I made a conscious decision to learn something from each of them. Even if it was exactly how not to treat someone. Recognize that you need the same focus on your long game. Sometimes managers aren’t leaders. At the start of your career, it is highly probable that someone simply tells you to “Go get an up!” but offers no training outside of, perhaps, manufacturer-mandated product certifications. Is this fair? No! But not all dealerships are like this and, just as you would select a company outside the auto industry to hang your hat on, the retail automotive industry is no different. Many dealerships simply want warm bodies since they don’t really expect anyone to last long. If you want to be successful and make a great living selling cars, it is important to know not only what your support system is but also what training will be provided by the dealership.

Rule #2

Stop listening to people and be proud of what you do every single day. Selling cars doesn’t seem like a great career choice on the outside, but when you look inside the box you will learn an incredibly diverse set of skills. Through time you can develop amazing people insights that just can’t be learned anyplace else. Some of the overall best salespeople I have ever met all started by selling cars. Don’t buy into the stereotype of “car salesperson.” The fact is that most dealerships and salespeople are ethical and honest. Yes, dealerships need to make a profit just like any other business but most aren’t trying to gouge their customers. In fact, customers are worth more after the sale than they are at the sale. Treat them right and they will keep coming back. There are many examples of customers who love their salesperson, had a great experience and have become brand advocates. I can attest that I have had amazing customers. One that I always fondly remember is Mrs McCook who single handedly was responsible for helping me sell cars to 17 other people through her trust and evangelist effort. Don’t let the perception that many people have jade you into believing that selling cars is a dishonorable profession.

Rule #3

Never stop learning. The second you stop listening and learning, you start dying. If that’s the path you choose, Home Depot is hiring for a cashier. The foundation of success in any industry is evolution. You have to commit to the profession and seek to better yourself. You cannot rely on others giving you those training opportunities. If they do, that’s awesome. But to truly be a success, constantly striving to better yourself is key. You need to take the attitude of Cortez the famous explorer and “Burn your boats” giving you only one path to success.

Rule #4

If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you WILL get fired. And nobody will blink an eye. Being great at sales requires fast adaptation to your environment. Just because it worked the last time doesn’t mean it will work that way in the future. Creating an adaptive framework for how you interact with people will enable you to read people better, communicate more effectively and create a better experience for the shopper while, at the same time, being favored in the eyes of your managers.

Rule #5

Selling is about listening first. If you are doing all of the talking with a shopper, how are you listening and how on earth are you selling? To get this down right, you have to find out what they need! Why do they want third row seats? Why is gas mileage important to them? Is safety a concern for them? What is their current payment? Did they feel that they got a good deal when they bought it? Seriously, ask questions and let them talk the entire time. If you follow this rule, the customer will sell themselves on the vehicle and all you will have to do is talk to them about how it will fit into their budget.

Rule #6

If you are waiting for opportunities to come your way (Standing on the point), you are missing 90 percent of the business you could be developing by working your existing customer network, the service drive and inbound dealership leads. Successful salespeople create their own opportunities. They don’t stand in front of the dealership with everyone else waiting for one to come to them.

Rule #7

Sales is about extending your network of connections through trust and friendships. It isn’t about trying to sell everyone a car all the time. In fact, oftentimes, sales are earned through being helpful by answering questions that consumers have. There are billions of people on social media asking questions all of the time. You don’t have to be in “selling mode” to sell cars. Help people and the sales and referrals will come to you.

Rule #8

If you want to be great at sales, you need to set up the entire interaction with every single customer like a play before they even arrive. This means everything is orchestrated from the second they walk into the door until long after they take delivery. This doesn’t mean you forgot they are coming and are now scrambling to make them feel special. Being prepared delivers trust and credibility instantly as well as providing a roadmap to a successful vehicle sale. Even if plans need to change, you are prepared. Sales is about control. Learn how to control the customer and you will win.

Rule #9

If you are afraid to call and find yourself emailing shoppers instead, STOP! You will not achieve your sales goals. I am not saying you can’t be successful but what I am saying is that if you want to sell a lot of cars you will need to master the phone. Most car shoppers are receiving emails from not only multiple dealerships but also third-parties. Yes, it can get frustrating calling customers who never pick up the phone or call you back. This is the car industry, however. And, not only that, it’s a sales industry. I’m pretty sure that you get frequent calls from other industries trying to sell you stuff like timeshares and whatever. Car shoppers are no different. Make sure that you find a way to set yourself apart from your competition, deliver a different customer experience and, most of all, be able to show the shopper your personality and they will choose you over the million e-mail templates and scripted voicemails they are certain to receive. One last thing here. Stop calling shopper and asking if they are still interested. This is a terrible opening for any conversation. Get creative.

Rule #10

Appointment setting and confirmation calls are your life blood. You want to create a sense of obligation with customers. Some will undoubtedly tell you that they are coming in just to get you off the phone. By setting appointments with them, you can start the process of solidifying that they will come in. That being said, confirming those set appointments (whether that is by you or a manager), is just as important. Customers want to feel special. They are about to spend thousands of dollars on a vehicle. We know that they want a new vehicle because, if they were not in the market, you wouldn’t know that they exist. Don’t just leave it as “Ask for me when you come in,” because they won’t. Radio ads say that a person needs to hear the information at least three times before the information sinks in. If you can build rapport with the customer, get them to commit to an appointment and follow up to confirm, they are exponentially more likely to show up. Send them driving directions, send them your picture, send them what other people have said about doing business with you. Build Trust.

In conclusion if you have found yourself in the automotive industry, take a minute and be thankful. You are in an industry that has no ceiling for success. Your drive and ambition will determine everything. Today is not only about honing your craft but also recognizing the opportunity in front of you and continuously improving every aspect of your personal success by continuing to learn and better yourself. I promise that if you do these things, you will find yourself so far ahead of many of your co-workers that you will not only reap the financial benefits but also discover that you’ve made a decision to enter an industry that offers you unlimited potential.

Businessman holds the model of business, made from wood blocks. Alternative risk concept, business plan and business strategy. Insurance concept.

Is Your Dealership’s Technology Stack Hurting Your Sales and Destroying Your Profits?

This question was posed by a great dealer friend of mine, Todd Caputo from Sun Chevrolet the other day. Are dealers spending so much money and time on technology, implementation and the management of all these tools that it is distracting them from the fundamentals of the business of selling cars at a profit and managing the customer relationship.

With industry-wide disconnect and fragmented technology providers, dealers are forced to use many systems that all cost money, have over lapping functionality and don’t communicate very effectively. This nightmare scenario wastes countless hours and delivers a poor return on time investment. All while technology vendors create confusing metrics to protect their business at the cost of dealership efficiency.

Let’s focus on one part of this discussion today. The human capital part. This is an often-overlooked part of our business as we are usually just focused on our typical KPIs:

  • Leads converted to appointments.
  • Appointments to showroom visits.
  • Showroom visits to test drives.
  • Test drives to write ups.
  • Write ups to sold units.

Let’s think different and ask some fun questions. How are your people using their time? Maybe you have ten salespeople and two managers… a total of twelve people in your variable sales department. This translates to a 40-hour work week per employee which would give you a total of 480-unit hours of work time for the week. How are these hours allocated? Does each team member have a plan for time utilization?

We can dive into so many areas here:

  • Product education training
  • Sales process training
  • CRM updating and maintenance
  • Lead follow up
  • Vehicle demonstrations and delivery

When we can create activity work buckets, we can see much more clearly how our people are using their time. Don’t be surprised if you find a ton of wasted time. I do this experiment for myself every few months to get a reality check on my time and effort and where it is being directed. I write down everything have done for the week in fifteen-minute block increments like an attorney does for billable time management. It is an eye-opening exercise to see how much time is being wasted doing nonproductive things that aren’t align to with business goals.

What I am getting at here is that your “People Capital” is crucial to your success, but sometimes we are so focused on the technology that we miss the hidden cause of missing our goals, which are lack of effective time management for ourselves and our team.

You may discover that your current technology is a huge time suck because it is creating inefficient processes that are eating up your most valuable currency. You may also discover that it takes five clicks to do a task when it should only take one or two, yet this task needs to be done 100 times per day.

Opportunity is all around in order to figure out how to leverage your technology in a way that maximizes your return-on-time. One this is for certain, all of us only have 24 hours per day and that is the one currency that nobody can get back, slow down or alter.

Here are two different ways you can apply this at your dealership to better understand how time is being utilized (or underutilized) at your dealership.

  • Observation– Observation requires sitting and watching your team at work and really understanding what they are doing at a granular level. This means down to the amount of clicks it takes to accomplish repetitive tasks. An example of this could be observing that your CRM requires three clicks to find a customer profile. After that, the salesperson has to reach over and dial the phone number on the desktop phone then has to click into a notes field to update the customer record followed by clicking two more times to create the next task.
  • Self-Observation– Empower your team to write down and track exactly what they are doing down to the most mundane detail of their processes. This may take a little explanation to sink in to for them and I have found you will need to explain it multiple times to your team until they start giving you the feedback that you need. This can be highly effective and a fast method towards finding some real time sucking activities and inefficiencies in your processes that are costing you money and results. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can accomplish when you start to understand the precious asset of time and its impact on your dealership’s success. “Return-on-Time” should become a staple of what you are tracking which will maximize your team’s performance on the variable side of your dealership.

The funny thing is that we have been tracking this stuff forever in fixed operations with our understanding of job labor hours, shop-load time etc. Now is a great time to start applying it to the variable side of the business.

I would love your comments and thoughts and thanks for taking the time to read and share this article.