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Shop Talk: 21st Century Selling

If you want a different outcome in anything, you have to make changes. If you want to increase sales, you have to change the way you sell.

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As you read this, we are at the beginning of a new year. This also means we are only one year away from celebrating 20 years of 21st century life. People are now talking about taking trips to space, we have electric cars and cars that even drive themselves. The world is moving at lightning speed, and you’re still selling like it’s 1986. Yet, you’re wondering how the next downturn will impact your store.

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   So, here is the one irrefutable fact of the world as we know it: If you want a different outcome in anything, you have to make changes. If you want to increase sales, you have to change the way you sell. If you want to increase customer satisfaction, you have to change the way you treat customers. If you want to improve F&I performance, something HAS TO CHANGE!

The Timing Is Less Than Perfect

The most productive way to make any change is to start over, from scratch.

Before you panic, there are two successful ways to start over. First, fire everyone and hire a completely new staff. This means everyone has to be trained to do exactly what you want going forward. Or, start from scratch with your current staff. By the way, this also means everyone has to be trained to do exactly what you want going forward. Either way, the foundation for your future is training and always was.

Let me guess. You’re too busy to train. Or is it, it’s too slow to train? Perhaps, training isn’t in the budget. Or you can fill in the blank with any excuse you want. That’s right, all of the above are excuses. There was a boss who told a trainer that his concern was, “What if I invest all this money in training and they quit to work for a competitor?” The trainer looked him in the eye and replied, “What if you don’t train them at all and they stay?”

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The reality is, there is never the right time to train for improvement. However, anytime is perfect to schedule training. The key is, effective training is never a surprise. It should be scheduled in advance, have a specific agenda (what do you want to accomplish with this round of training?) and people are required to attend.

Just Two Kinds Of People

Based on length of time in the retail side of the business, some would say I’m approaching prehistoric. The reason I continue to be relevant is that I adapt, learn and change with the times. Most people hate to change. I’m not a fan, but I know in my line of work, it’s required. I mean, could you imagine me trying to make a living training salespeople how to find customers in the phone book?

With social media, emails, websites and more, many people no longer are even in the phone book. I had to adapt my training to take advantage of what can be used now. In dealerships, what technology can be used to improve speed, process or other function? That answer can be different in stores depending on situation, but it’s not always size that dictates. For example, many small stores don’t think they can afford a quality CRM to track customers, performance, work deals, migrate to menus and so much more.

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The smaller stores think it’s just too expensive. Many are expensive and do things that smaller dealers simply don’t need. But, there are CRM set ups that cost a lot less than you’d think and will produce significant profits if used properly. To be used properly, the dealership must be trained. One of my duties is to help dealers figure out software needs, but more importantly, what training will work best for what they want to accomplish. I also help with the normal resistance to change that salespeople often feel when someone like me shows up. The simple answer is this: there are two types of people in your store — trainable or expendable.

If a dealer is to be around and succeed this century, what worked even five short years ago doesn’t apply. Consumers have far more access, and in some cases, can even negotiate their deals on their phones. As a dealer, I appreciate your loyalty to your people, but if change is necessary, it is no longer the option of the employee to decide whether they want to change. That applies to managers as well as salespeople. If you’re running your store and still using pieces of paper and magic markers to make deals, we need to talk.  

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John Fuhrman, director of training, OptionSoft Technologies, has been training dealership professionals since 1996. His 13 books on topics like sales, leadership and management have sold worldwide and have been translated into a dozen languages. He has trained over 15,000 sales, management and F&I professionals and can be reached at [email protected] For 2019, John will be available to individual dealers for training and consulting.

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