The practices that are absolutely essential to the operation of a successful sales department.

I want my business to continue to grow and prosper. I know I need to develop effective written processes for the operation of my dealership, but how do I go about designing the structure for these processes?

Written processes are about managing people. You really can’t hold your people accountable for their actions unless there are specific written guidelines for them to follow. Recently, some of the Best Operators Club members decided to address this very issue. This group included dealer principals like Robert Hintz (Englehart Center, Madison, Wisconsin), Jerry Lenz (GM of Beaverton Honda/Yamaha/Suzuki, Beaverton, Oregon) Chris McCarty (S&S Powersports, Clarksville, Indiana) and Curtis Sloan (Sloan’s Motorcycle & ATV Supercenter, Murfreesboro, Tennessee), among others, so we are talking some serious brain power!

The group wanted to outline the basic process and create guidelines for each department in their dealerships. Although most of these dealers already had written processes in place, they were not necessarily totally satisfied with the results. They all agreed that they would benefit from sharing ideas on the structure for
these processes.

This month, we will address their findings on the basis for the processes for the operation of the sales department. In future articles, we will examine their ideas for the structure of other departments.

Where do you start when you want to develop a written structure for the operation of a given
department in a dealership?

The Best Operators Club members decided that they first needed to determine the nonnegotiable practices for the
sales department.

What are "nonnegotiable practices?"

These are the practices that are absolutely essential to the operation of a successful sales department. While a long list of these potential practices was developed during the BOC group discussion, we have distilled them into the top ten nonnegotiable practices for the sales department:

1: Provide An Enthusiastic Welcome
Provide each customer with a prompt, friendly acknowledgement. Establish a walk-in greeting policy such as the "15/15 Rule" — all customers are greeted within 15 feet or 15 seconds of entering the dealership. The telephone policy should include how many rings (typically, three or less) and the standard store greeting. An effective example of this phone etiquette is: "Thank you for calling Big City Powersports. This is Bill in sales, how may I help you today?" The dealership’s Internet and e-mail policy should include a standardized greeting as well. Note that these cyber-customers expect very prompt responses — if you tell them to browse a bit (either literally or figuratively by the lack of an immediate response), you will lose them, period.

2: Escort The Customer
Escort the customer to another department instead of
just pointing them in the right direction. Interview
them while you are escorting them (i.e. what are you
riding now, how old is your helmet, etc.). Try to
establish rapport.

3: Maintain Professional Standards
Never eat, smoke or chew gum or tobacco on the
showroom floor or in front of customers. Avoid sitting on
bikes and leaning on counters. Eliminate idle time and
“bullring” conversations in all public areas.

4: Log All Sales Opportunities
Whether you use a showroom log, prospect sheets or a
state-of-the-art electronic logging system, customer
contact information is the heart of a customer tracking
and prospecting system. Collecting contact information is
not optional, it is essential!

5: Follow The Structured Sales Process
You have taken the time to prepare a procedural manual,
so make sure that all the steps of the dealership’s selling
process are completed every time! Do not skip steps or
take short cuts.

6: Maximize Gross Profit
Recognize that retail is a fair price. You must start high
enough to come down during the negotiation process.
Starting with discounted prices automatically devalues
the product you are selling. Don’t forget the add-ons! If
they are financing a new ATV, they are probably going
to need a loading ramp to go with it, right?

7: Sit Down With The Customer
It is not professional to conduct negotiations while
standing up. Help the customer relax and enjoy the
process. Remember: talk product on your feet, price in
your seat.

8: Convert Shoppers Into Buyers
Write up any offer as long as you tell
the customer where they should be.
Use the proper words — try saying
selling price versus full retail price;
agreement rather than contract;
business office versus F&I
department, etc. We make take it for
granted, but industry jargon only
confuses the customer.

9: Avoid Any Potential Finance Discussions
Refer all finance questions about
rate, term and credit-worthiness to
the business office (remember not to
slip and say the F&I guy!). These
details can erode the bond between
you and the customer. Remain
focused on gaining commitment and
completing the sale.

10: Follow-Up Properly With Contacts And Customers
Schedule follow-up calls and mailings in your day planner for both prospects and purchasers.
Purchasers should receive follow-up calls within 48 hours and personalized mailings at regular intervals. Again, this is nonnegotiable!

Prospects are a main source for increased sales opportunities. All showroom, phone and web contacts must be followed-up within a timely manner. No excuses, just do it — as
the Nike commercials suggest.

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