Why 'average' employees may be profit-sucking vampires

Publish Date: 
Jul 25, 2012
By Tory Hornsby

I'VE TRAINED SALESPEOPLE across the country, and most of them at first sight seem to be doing what it takes to sell more units and make more money. However, if you look past the surface you’ll find that they’re profit-sucking vampires. They show up for work, they do what they think is expected of them, they enjoy their job and care for their dealership. They love the products, have a decent attitude, and they care about their customers.

Right now some of you are thinking, “Wait a minute, these sound like good salespeople! What’s the problem?” Nothing is wrong with people like this, except that they only manage to put up average (or below average) results each and every month, and they could be selling a lot more.

Re-read the list of attributes I mentioned above and you’ll realize that none of them has anything to do with improving selling skills. The good news is that with these attributes, you’ll have a bunch of nice people running around your store who love motorcycles, your dealership and your customers. The bad news is that they won’t really know how to sell, so they’ll be robbing your store of a ton of potential growth and much-needed gross profit.

While the above attributes are an important part of becoming a top performer, they have nothing to do with increasing closing ratios or maximizing profitability. In other words, they won’t actually improve selling skills.

I’m talking directly to dealer principals, general managers and sales managers, in that order: This is a tough pill to swallow, but the root of your dealership’s problems is you. The culture of a dealership flows down from the top. Your salespeople are average because they don’t do the things that excellent salespeople do. Why not? Because you’re not holding them accountable to get better! Before you can adequately hold your team accountable, you have to understand what you want to hold them accountable to.

Here are a few items that you (DP, GM, SM) need to work on so that you can hold your team accountable.

Focus on a sales process. Few customers will decide to buy without the help of a trusted salesperson. You need a process that guides them through buying in an easy and logical manner. Following a sales process will increase your closing ratio, gross profit and customer satisfaction — three areas every business wants to improve. Even if you have a sales process, you and your team can do better. Without accountability, your salespeople are skipping steps. If your salespeople think they’re too good to follow a sales process, they only prove they’re mediocre.

Interview and investigate. Customers care more about what they want than what your salespeople think. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the more you talk the more you’re “selling.” Too many salespeople talk themselves out of multiple sales every day.

Give better presentations. Building value is the name of the game, and it’s done by first finding out what the customer wants, and then giving it to him. Your presentation should be entirely based on what the customer wants.

Bypass negotiations. Should price be mentioned early in the process, or after the customer is fired up and ready to ride? Duh. If asked about price early, simply answer the question and immediately bypass it by changing the subject (i.e. mention a feature/benefit and then ask a question). Sales are more often missed by a few words than a few dollars. Build value, stay off price and learn how to ask good questions. This will give you the information you need to handle objections. Objections are normal, and they are not rejections. Isolate any objections by asking, Other than <objection> is there anything else that’s keeping you from riding today?

Use the phone. It’s the salesperson’s most powerful tool. Follow up with every (and I mean every) person who steps foot onto the showroom floor. Provide them with new information so they can make a new decision. New information includes a test ride, a new color or model put on the floor, or that the manager wants to see their trade-in again, etc. Also, be sure you are setting appointments by providing a couple of specific times, then improve your kept-appointment ratio by asking prospects to “pencil you in” on their calendars or schedules. When a prospect returns for a second (or more) time, the closing ratio jumps to more than 60 percent!

Sharpen the saw. This is the seventh habit in Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Too many dealers put a mental check by training because they’ve done it in the past. Just like a saw blade, every salesperson who is using their skills gets dull in at least some areas. Training is a journey, not a destination, and an untrained salesperson is an oxymoron.

Stop sitting around waiting for the economy to get better, or for the market to improve, or for the weather to bring in more prospects. You are the leader of your store. You need to get out front — lead, train and manage. You are in charge and responsible for your ship. You need to inspect what you expect because what gets inspected will get respected by your team.