April 18th, 2001: I remember it like it was yesterday! I was in a brand-new suit, a lightly starched shirt and was wearing my first Tommy Hilfiger tie. Walking into the training room with perfectly polished shoes about to start my career in the automotive industry was beyond exciting. As I registered for orientation, I was handed 2 books and told to grab a seat around the conference table. Those books were the company employee handbook and what was presented to me as the Holy Grail, “A Salesman’s Processes and Procedures,” which was supposed to be the “how to guide” of becoming a top-notch salesman.
Looking back, it was clearly just a series of items which had evolved over time thrown together by the sales manager with the best organizational skills who they also deemed the group’s “training manager.” This book had everything from The Road to the Sale, CRM do’s and don’ts, word tracks, how to get a deal ready for F&I, bank loan and lease payoff phone numbers plus it even had a page of all the local restaurants! *We all know to this day lunch reigns supreme over even selling a vehicle at sticker, right?
But there was nothing on the phones, which I didn’t think anything of at the time. I was new, and they clearly had it all figured out, I mean the guy training me was wearing a Rolex and driving a Porsche with license plate DLM8KR.
So why the trip down memory lane? It’s because I was recently at a dealership and while waiting for the staff in the conference room, I happen to see their new employee handbook, so I picked it up and thumbed through and guess what, it was almost identical to the one I was given 20 years ago and still nothing about the phones!! Why do we not have a process for the phones, they are ringing now more than ever, and every dealer is pouring thousands into advertising each month to make them ring and bring people in the doors. They will not come unless they were treated properly on the phones and that cannot be accomplished unless we are coaching and training our teams on the phones in an ongoing manner. Now, some of you are thinking “Chris, we do train our staff, in fact we have a weekly meeting and focus on a different topic each one.” Now before you go patting yourself on the back, I have a couple questions about your “weekly meeting” and its effectiveness: 1. Was the info reviewed in said meeting something you printed off the internet the morning of or night before? 2. Since the meeting you gave 3 weeks ago, how many times have you gone back and re-visited the staffs progress and coached them on the reviewed material or was it a one and done? Those are the biggest issues, most think coaching and training are the same thing when in fact they are completely opposite but one cannot be done without the other. See I can “train” someone to do a walk around but if I am not watching them do each one, then pulling them aside after and “coaching” on how they can get better and where they went wrong in real time, it’s all a waste.
We need to have a greater emphasis on the phones, not to say the rest of the processes at the store will magically fall into place, they won’t, but let’s not lose sight of what comes first and how that impacts everything else. It all starts with a phone call.
If you’re looking for something for that “training manager” to do, have them monitor CRM and make sure the staff is actually making their phone calls, following up with customers and being “airborne” on the sales floor vs. “chairborne.” Find out what it’s costing your store each time the phone rings, and not just off 3rd party paid sites, but truly every call into the store and I’m sure you’ll then realize that a process and a tool are needed to help with the phones. Cash is always will be king in our business but you cannot capture the king if you cannot win the battle on the phones.