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Much of what employees learn in the car business is from watching and listening to their co-workers. This type of education can be invaluable in many areas such as sales presentation, demonstration, and closing techniques. Of course, it can also lead to picking up bad habits like pre-qualifying customers by appearance or shortcutting the sales process.
An area that is frequently learned more by osmosis than by formal training is legal compliance. Dealers often assume that their employees possess adequate regulatory know-how simply because they’ve been in the business for a while. But who taught them the rules? Have they been properly trained in compliance or are they just winging it? It’s important to realize that at some point in their career, many automotive professionals were taught the “old school” way of doing business. Some dealership practices they’ve learned are not necessarily legal or ethical but the employees simply rely on doing business the way it’s always been done. Many of these old school tactics are so common that employees don’t realize how risky they are:
Sales manager to salesperson: “Your customer has great credit but the bank is going to need more income. I don’t think they’ll ask for proof”.
Sales manager to finance manager: “Listen, these folks are in a hurry. Let’s make them mental owners. Just have them sign a contract real quick and we’ll get the rest of the paperwork done another time. If they leave without signing something, they won’t be back”.
Sales manager to salespeople: “Guys, that ad car is a big loser. Switch your customers to something else unless we can make a ton on the back end”.
Sales manager to finance manager: “Joe’s got this guy committed at $30 a month more then we need. Let’s make some back-end money!”
Sales manager to salesperson: “We can probably get this guy done, but there’s going to be a big bank fee. If he wants that Sentra, don’t mention the ad price. We need to sell it for a few grand more for the deal to make sense. He’ll be happy we can get him done”.
Sales manger to sales person: “It looks like the negative equity is her hot button. Here’s what we’ll do: Tell her that we’ll pay off her trade and get her committed at $379 a month. I’ll just add the negative equity to the price.”
Finance manager to salesperson: “Let your customer know that the bank may call her and ask some questions. Make sure she tells them that the car is for her and not her brother!”
Finance manager to sales manager: “I don’t care if you take a hold check for the downpayment, but the bank isn’t going to go for a deferred down, so we need to show it as cash on the contract.”
Finance manager to used car manager: “We’re over-advanced on that Tahoe deal. I need a book sheet for $15,500. Book it with premium wheels and sound.”
The vast majority of dealership employees are well-meaning, honest people, but assuming that they know everything they need to about compliance, especially in the current environment, is risky at best. When was the last time you had a comprehensive compliance check-up done? If it’s been a while (or never), now is the time. Once you have identified the areas that are in need of attention, the staff should be properly trained. Education is a vital step towards protecting your business. After all, if employees don’t know or understand the rules, how can they be expected to follow them?
Chances are, you wouldn’t let someone drive your car unless you were certain that they knew how to drive. It makes sense to be just as careful when you’re handing them the keys to the dealership.