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I’m sitting in my living room right now, possibly feeling a little melancholy. As with any person who lives their business, my thoughts turn to training, which I love more than anything.
To set the stage for my rantings, you should know that I’m not new to the business. I spent 10 years in the dealership as a salesperson and manager, where I won awards for every carline I sold, and won a national walkaround competition for a major manufacturer. I will be celebrating my 20th year in the vehicle sales training business, so I feel I’ve stood the test of time, and know a little of what I’m speaking. Over the past 20 years, I’ve developed successful sales websites for my company (autosalestraining.us), performed numerous large group seminars for manufacturers and major training companies, developed products that have successfully sold around the world, and worked with dealerships to train their salespeople and managers and develop their internet departments. In essence, I love this business and everything I do for the industry.
Throughout my career, I’ve experienced many of the frustrations other trainers in our industry have, mainly on how can we get our salespeople and managers to want to learn more. Now as I begin speaking about this, keep in mind that I have met many salespeople and managers who actually want to learn and are excellent examples for our industry. But as with any industry, the Pareto Principle (80-20 Rule) probably applies. We have 20% of our salespeople who do 80% of the work. So we likely have 20% of our salespeople and managers who I would consider truly professional. So if you are one of the 20%, please don’t take this article personally because it has nothing to do with you.
So my thought begins, why don’t most salespeople and managers want to learn more than they already know? They resent it when they are sent to training away from the dealership, they won’t buy a sales book or audio with their own money, they won’t go to the library to check out a book, they won’t even search Google for free articles on sales and management. Is it that they already know everything there is regarding their jobs, or do they feel it’s just not important to learn more?
This year I developed a program called, “How You Can Make $100,000 Per Year in Auto Sales.” I created this program because I got tired of salespeople making $40,000 per year in an industry where they were promised an “unlimited income potential.” This program, which I’m very proud of, comes packaged with a 289 page workbook which incorporates selling skills, business skills and internet skills training, and 6 audio cd-roms that talks about “running their business like a business” as well as hours of training on negotiating, closing and handling objections. It is the most complete program I have ever seen and would help every salesperson reach new levels of sales and financial success.
I sell this program in a sales meeting format. We offer a dealership a free 30-minute sales meeting that’s motivating and inspiring. The only requirement for the sales meeting is anyone who wishes to purchase this program, which I currently sell for only $129, the dealership will agree to payroll deduct their investment over the next couple of pays, making it easier for them to acquire.
Now I must admit, I’m proud of the way I present. My training is high energy, my message is real world, and I do have credentials. I’ve been an NADA and RVDA presenter, so I know how to work a room and keep their attention for an entire day. And in 30 minutes, I’ll leave them with enough solid information to at least start thinking about how to earn more money than they currently make, even if they don’t buy the program. So you would think with all this going for me, salespeople and managers who were interested in their careers would want to hear from someone who is a solid contributor to our industry.
So when I look out at the group, what do I see? Closed minds, eyes down, salespeople looking at their watches, some even have their backs turned to me, and some even create an excuse to leave the meeting. Don’t get me wrong, I will have some devotees in the meeting that do buy my products; people who smile and nod their heads in agreement, people who are looking at me straight in my eyes, those who take notes and sign the payroll deduct forms before the meeting is even finished, and those who even productively comment on issues I’m speaking of. These are the ones that keep me going and make the meeting worth while. But what about the other ones? Why would they take such a negative approach to learning? Am I an imposition on their time? Do they think they know more than I do? Do they think they’re already successful that they don’t need to learn more?
As I’m writing up the invoice in the manager’s office for those who purchased the program, I overheard one of the salespeople say as he passed, “If he really knew how to sell, he wouldn’t have to be a consultant!” Is that really the way they see us, as failures rather than successes? Is the adage, “Those that can, do - those that can’t, teach” really the rule?
So as I looked at the attitudes of some of these salespeople, I was wondering what the trickle-down effect could be that may cause them to think that way. So I went back to the initial call to the dealership to setup the free sales meeting. Aside from those managers who treat us rudely or hang up on us, only 10% of the managers we call welcome the opportunity to have their salespeople listen to an outside trainer. Why do 90% of managers turn the sales meeting down? Do they not want their salespeople to learn anything more? Are they afraid we’ll say something that goes against what they believe? Could it be that they don’t believe that training and motivation works? These sales meetings are absolutely free, there’s no financial risk to the dealership. Plus it’s done before the dealership opens, so it’s not even an imposition on their time. If I walk out with a few sales, great. If I don’t, then I know I’ve left them with some good information, and a motivating and hopefully inspiring sales meeting to start their day. That alone sounds like a win-win situation to me!
So, we setup a sales meeting. When I walk into the dealership, I normally will sit with the manager for a few minutes and explain the program so he/she knows exactly what I’m going to talk about. I’ll always ask the manager if the dealership has a policy of splitting the cost of the program with the salespeople as an educational perk. 60% of the dealerships will say no. Why wouldn’t they want to help with a training investment? It really doesn’t cost the dealership that much, and it would show the salespeople that they believe in them enough that they’re willing to help with their education. But some of the reasons I’ve heard include: “Why should I invest it my salespeople when I’m not sure that they’ll even be here tomorrow.” And, “If they want to learn they can purchase it on their own.” Some managers won’t even come to the sales meeting. I wonder what message that sends? Hmmmm.
I do some management training for a state automotive association. I wrote the book, “The Ultimate Automotive Manager”, but I don’t bring it with me. I simply provide the training workbook. But what I will do is offer all the managers in the seminar a free ebook if they’ll just email me and ask for it. If I have 20 managers in the seminar, only two will email me for the free ebook. 99% of the managers won’t even take learning if it’s free. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that most managers have never received any training on how to be a successful leader. So if they don’t believe in education, I would imagine that mentality would trickle down to their salespeople.
Sometimes I ask myself why I continue to stay in an industry that doesn’t want to learn. Well, here’s why. Every so often you get to be a part of a life changing experience. You trained a green-pea that went on to have a successful career. You receive an email from a despondent manager who’s ready to quit. And because of something you said, and the way you made him feel, he took a new approach to his career and continued his good work. Or you get a call from a salesperson that was #6 in the dealership, and because you taught her how to run her business like a business, she is now #1. Or you developed an Organizational Planbook that helped someone become better organized and therefore, increased sales. And the countless many other success stories that keep me wanting to help that one additional person achieve a rewarding career in auto sales.
My job as a trainer was created the moment one of my salespeople asked me a question when I was a sales manager. To respond to that person who made the “consultant” remark, all I can say is I was an excellent salesperson. But being in sales was way too autocratic for me. I’m the type of person who loves helping other people succeed. My degree is in Education and Speech Communication. So after learning the auto sales and management business, training was the next logical step for me. Along with being a trainer, I’m also a writer, product developer and instructional designer. These talents provide a way for me to give back to an industry that has been so very good to me. It’s a career I have a great passion for. It’s the same type of passion I wish for everyone who pursues a career in vehicle sales.
“To be successful, you must always remain a student of your craft.”