Principles of Awesomeness

Setting a New Standard of Service in the Valley
A Case Study

DSU's Principles of Awesomeness in Walla Walla Valley Honda's Training Program Build Unity and Team Morale


Imagine it: A bunch of hard-working employees, not knowing what to do and what to say, with no structure or uniformity from one sales person to another. This was the former structure of Walla Walla Valley Honda.

The sales team lacked any type of consistent excellence, or accountability – a key benefit of training. That made the customer experience poor and created an environment of frustration that lead to lower sales and sky-high turnover. Employees weren’t happy. Customers weren’t happy. And as a result, sales crashed.

But all this was about to change for the dealership.

Awesome Training that Builds Unity and Team Morale

Changing the culture of an auto dealership means changing the experience consumers have when they visit, and that requires a total commitment to training and education. It’s a shared commitment, as well: owners, managers and employees must learn to prioritize a consistent and comprehensive training approach. Unfortunately, the previous owner of Walla Walla Honda did not invest in the right kind of initial and ongoing training, and did not support efforts by employees to reach out for additional help. “Before we came into the dealership, the training basically consisted of stuffing the new guy in the back room and making him spend hours and days trying to do Honda’s training,” said Bryant Gibby, General Sales Manager for Walla Walla Honda. “There was really no leadership involved in the training, there was nothing from the sales managers. And no long term training to speak of, etiher. They didn’t even have an actual sales process manual.” Setting

Learning Based on the Principles of Awesomeness

When Jared Hamilton purchased the store, he immediately brought in Gibby and put him to work creating a new environment, one that started with a proper and cohesive sales process manual. “Over the course of six months, we kept fine tuning the manual until we felt comfortable that we had a structure that we could base new-hire training on,” said Gibby. “That’s a key foundation. Today, based on that manual, we have an onboarding process where they’re not just stuffed in the back room by themselves for three weeks.”

By applying the core training principles from DrivingSales University, Gibby is able to also implement accountability by way of deadlines and expectations. Whether it’s Honda training or DSUS curriculum, new employees have 60 days to complete the process. That gives them more time to soak in the best practices found in the training materials and through interaction with dealership managers. It even includes a daily training session – the foundation of the program – that happens at 8:30 am sharp. “The store opens up at 9, and we do a morning training at 8:30, every single morning,” said Gibby. “The topics vary from product training to sales training. We do role playing and scripting and inbound phone script training. We’ll even cover Internet lead handling training. It may see like we train on everything, but it’s very focused and constructive.”

Thirty minutes most mornings. That’s a small investment that leads to happier employees and more satisfied customers. The more the sales team embraced the training, the better able they were to represent the Five Principles of Awesomeness. That, in turn, helped to create a friendly and open exchange of ideas and best practices. Today, the team at Walla Walla mixes sales training with product guidance and contests; Gibby says that every month they do a walk-around competition on a focus vehicle that the team studies, then uses to practice their presentation skills. It’s casual, based on learning and improving, and folds into a formal walk around competition that’s actually judged – with the winner getting a cash prize. It’s for fun, but it also rewards the extra effort that goes into learning and practicing.

By gradually instituting a progressive and constant training model based on a core mission statement and the “five principles of awesome,” Gibby and the management team at Walla Walla have created an environment of knowledge sharing and constructive, relentless improvement. That in turn has created greater accountability. Good training makes it possible to establish clear expectations around results and customer satisfaction, from the sales floor to the F&I office and beyond. Gibby implemented key points along the customer journey, including a guest track process that documents all contact with a buyer. The sales team fills out and turns in a track card every day, which enables managers to assess cars sold to phone calls taken, leads, and more. By learning and building good habits, the sales team stays disciplined and is able to help create an accurate view of the month on a daily basis. In addition, the team implemented a monthly sit down session – for all employees – where together, managers and employees look at progress in terms of sales, CSI, closing percentages and more. “We look at a bunch of things that are required to do on a monthly basis to create success, and we score them on a scale of one to ten,” said Gibby.

High scores get praise, and areas for improvement get focus and help.” The sit down reviews ladder up to key dealership metrics. For example, a sales team member is reviewed on customer satisfaction, profit, process and personal development.

By giving the teams the tools they need to get the job done, morale improves, and with so do results and personal accountability. It all begins with learning the Principles of Awesome and applying them to the job on a daily basis.

Pure Awesomeness

In the past 18 months, Walla Walla Honda has gone from 0 sales to an average of 50-60 sales per month. They’ve been honored by Honda as a visionary dealership and have accelerated overall gross to the point where it is now in the top 10 percent for Honda dealerships in the nation.

The reason? Training. And the accountability that comes with it. “I believe the more time you spend training with somebody in teaching the process, and in identifying where there’s room for improvement – then add to that continual training to reinforce those areas, you will see incredible results,” said Gibby. “We do all of this because our goal is to meet the ultimate metric – to sell more cars to happy customers. It’s pretty clear that our training is helping to do just that.”

There are other aspects that come into play when building a high performance dealership. But it all starts with training – interesting, ongoing and relentless training and education for all team members. The training program implemented at Walla Walla Honda has laid the foundation for continued excellence, based on the Principles of Awesome, and a belief that if you put your team first, they’ll put their customers first as well.

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