Forget hibernating this winter. There’s absolutely not a moment to waste. While most motorcycle dealerships across the country are enjoying a well-deserved breather, now is the time to get busy. Your success in the season depends on what you do right now.
Far too often, we talk about our people and say that they are our most valuable resource and then treat them with all of the care of a used pair of sneakers. If you’ve got people on staff who were worthy of you hiring them, it’s important for you to spend the time, energy, effort and … wait for it … dollars to develop them.
A dealer principal once told me he couldn’t send someone to a workshop because he’d already spent his training budget (which was less for his 175-person staff than I spent on myself that year). I know a salesperson who wouldn’t spend $25 on a valuable audio program that would have significantly helped him; others who won’t invest $15 in a book, or even the time to go to the library to check it out and read it on their own time.
The whole idea here is wrapped up in this quote from Ben Franklin: “If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
Here are some ways that you and your people can invest in professional development.
Self Study: With the preponderance of high quality information available today either at low or no cost, there’s simply no reason you’re not investing time in professional development. Find reputable sources in topics that are immediately of value. If I’m a finance person, I might listen to the free daily podcasts of Dave Ramsey. If I’m a dealer principal, perhaps the daily podcasts of the Wall Street Journal. Get a Kindle device or other e-reader and download sales books, goal-setting books or time management stuff (email me and I’ll give a few recommendations). Or go to your library and check out a few books. There is simply no excuse for you not to be putting effort into your own self-development.
Training: Learning on your own can only go so far. There really is something to getting in a room with peers who are seeking to develop similar skill sets. A talented facilitator and a high-quality program can enable you to leap frog your results. It does this because of the divergence of skills and perspective as well as the sense of community you’ll develop.
Practice: Just because you’ve read something, listened to something or tried it a bit in a workshop doesn’t mean you’ve mastered a skill. It takes many, high-quality repetitions to translate a new skill in to what’s known as unconscious competence.
Coaching: A person told me once that if his people needed coaching, he didn’t hire the right folks. I quickly pointed out that even Peyton Manning has a quarterback coach. No matter the talent you’ve brought on, they will need reinforcement when they perform well, correction when they veer off course and a push to acquire new skills.
Mentoring: In my view, mentoring is really career guidance for the longer term. Where coaching may focus on a specific skill set, mentoring helps to develop what your life and career may look like in three years. Both coaching and mentoring are keys to professional development.
Exemplars: The definition of this is “an ideal example of something; being worthy of being copied or imitated.” Not that you would copy someone else’s career, per se, but rather, you and your team could strive to emulate someone who has had a terrific impact on the dealership. Exemplars serve as our North Star.
Peter Drucker once said, “The goal of marketing is to make selling irrelevant.” Meaning the purpose of a marketing initiative was to deliver a buyer to your business who is already determined to buy. I don’t know if that’s always possible, but it’s certainly a worthy ideal.
I do know that there are really three timeless components to putting together any marketing initiative (these were taught to me years ago by my mentor Alan Weiss):
1. Articulate specifically what you are selling.
2. Identify who can actually buy it.
3. Create a method to effectively communicate with them.
For example, if you are selling used entry-level motorcycles, heated gear or performance work, these are separate and distinct offers. Your targets will be different, and your methods and message will need to be specific.
This is why information is now the key to effective marketing. Frequent shopping programs that capture this information are key to your marketing success. If you’re not currently able to sort your customers by specific model motorcycle purchased, size or accessory purchase, you should create the means and methods for you to do so … fast.
Improve Management Skills
My last pillar of business success to shore up your business for the coming busy season is to improve management skills. Here are a few keys to keep in mind.
Set the tone: I can spend about five minutes with a sales crew and give you a fairly decent portrait of the management. Your team takes on the characteristics of your management team. Your team is always watching you. How you answer the phone, how you receive bad news, how you work with a disgruntled customer. Make sure you are creating the right culture.
Be willing to not know it all: There is an age-old misnomer that managers must know how to do everything their direct report must do. This couldn’t be further from the truth, but it is dogged in its persistence and often relates in feeling of insecurity in managers, who then often react badly in situations. Be willing to not know it all and see how it transforms your relationships.
Make weaknesses irrelevant: One important component of managers is to make people’s weaknesses irrelevant. Why make the person who has a flare for displays work the cash wrap? Why make the gregarious counter person spend hours on end in inventory? Match the person and their skills to the team and the task, and big things can happen.
Get high quality feedback: As managers, especially dealer principals, you need to find people who will tell you the truth. Far too often, your staff will tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear.
Think ipsative (self) versus normative (group): You should compare yourself to yourself and only occasionally compare yourself to others. Often, when you do, it’s a cop-out. “Hey, we’re at $550 a copy in our F&I department! More than anyone else in our performance group.” Really, you have the talent and the market to be at $1,000, and massaging your ego by comparing yourself to others in this example won’t help you.
Management does not consider trifles: The Roman senate used to have this great statement. You should follow it. You don’t need to crowd your day with, “Sally took my customer!” or “What do you think we should serve for refreshments at the open house?” You have larger issues at hand.
Any average Joe can use the excitement of the busy season to achieve business success. But as soon as that momentum is gone, “Joes” and “Pros” soon part ways. These “Six Pillars to Business Success” — increasing revenue, containing costs, improving processes, developing talent, mastering your marketing and dramatically improving your management efforts — will help you be more “pro” and less “Joe” during this time of year and help make your slow season fast.
An award-winning author, top-rated trainer and founder of Peak Dealership Performance, Mark Rodgers holds a master’s degree in adult education and the National Speakers Association Certified Speaking Professional designation — only 500 people in the world have this coveted recognition. Contact [email protected] to improve your performance.