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Shop Talk: Virus Lessons

First and foremost, I hope all reading this month’s article are healthy and ready to get back to work. Living through a pandemic as a neighbor, a state and as a nation has been eye opening on several levels. My goal is to make sure your eyes are open to the right things. While your store may be sitting idle or on skeleton staff levels, what are you doing?

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Success is like a virus in that it can be very contagious. The difference is whether you make the decision to spread the “germ.” If you are constantly looking to create more success on a daily basis, those around you will be drawn in and want to contribute. Just as we’re seeing amazing contributions from ordinary people during this crisis, you can generate the same. People, by nature, want to participate in something good.


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We’re learning new terms throughout this time in America. Shelter-in-place is a big one. For some of you, it was difficult to tell some or all of your team that they have to be laid off, furloughed or whatever term telling them to go home. If you sincerely want to keep them as employees, what are you doing to foster their loyalty? Since it looks like the government is helping with income, what can you do?

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One thing that absolutely makes sense is to invest in making them better for when they come back. With little to distract them, what better time than right now to train? Over the last several months, we’ve mentioned subscription training for budget-minded dealers. Anyone NOT a budget dealer right now? Here, your people can participate in online, video and other stay at home ways to train and learn. Best of all, they can do it on their own time.

There are some other benefits of setting up a dealership subscription to training, which is tied to another new term — social distance. During my retail years, we used to say that we spent more time with our co-workers than we do with our family. This means that relationships are formed and should be growing rather than being allowed to stagnate. Gathering your team online is a great way to allow them to interact during training and maintain their relationships for their future reunion on your sales floor.

As with all training, it will keep everyone’s head in the game. Being able to come back to work with even more confidence in one’s ability is almost hard to measure. Having your team show up for your re-opening being excited to get back to work will spread right to the customers coming through your doors. How can that be a bad thing?

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Ignoring this opportunity can have totally different results. Ignoring your team while they are not at the dealership could mean a rise in employee turnover. Now, by ignoring training, you have to start over with new employees and train them as they take care of customers. This means lost deals due to “rookie” mistakes and lower gross income because they aren’t experienced enough to create real value in doing business in your store.

Even if there are no negative reactions to ignoring training, what’s the positive? At best, your people come back to work as if they were on vacation. That means a few days to “ramp back up” to being at work and if the customers aren’t there immediately, an attitude that will rapidly decline. Ignoring your people is like ignoring all the warnings that have been on the news. Then it becomes a question not of “if” but “when,” you start losing traction with your sales team.

Here’s another way to look at this. Let’s say you’re a dealer up here in the Northeast. While the store was closed, didn’t you leave the heat on to be sure that pipes couldn’t freeze. Is the building and inventory secure to make certain there is something to come back to. And, didn’t you check with your insurance agency to see what, if any, coverage you were entitled to? All of that is just being smart about your business.

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But, if that’s all you do, unless your inventory can sell itself, how will things be when they do open up the doors again? That’s up to you. I would just list your personal priorities and see if this fits among them. First and foremost, make sure your people are healthy and safe. If your intent is to bring them back, please let them know. Don’t assume they will “understand.” Make sure the physical operation is secure so that all you have to do is turn the key and you are open again.

After that, it’s all about what you want your business to be like when you do open. My prayer for all of you is that we get back to normal as quickly as possible reminding the customers that we sell fun and lifestyle, which this current event may have many more people wanting to add those elements to their lives. I can assure you that many are home right now rethinking their priorities, which may include adding fun to their hectic lives. Will you be ready to help them? 

 John Fuhrman is the senior trainer for Performance Road Agency. He has trained over 15,000 sales, F&I and management professionals for retail operations and dealerships across the U.S. Performance Road is one of the only agencies with a 100% subscription-based training for all variable departments. If you’d a free phone consult, or discuss your dealership situation, email him at [email protected]

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