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Dennis Galbraith

Dennis Galbraith Chief Marketing Officer

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The Role of Trainers and Consultants

Various trainers and consultants are viewed as anything from industry experts to industry washouts. Some dealership owners owe their continued existence to one or more of these people, and some owners want nothing to do with them. As with any profession, they are a mixed bag. Their role is not to run the store, take ups, or close deals. The job is to rapidly improve the organization, or individuals within the organization, leading to greater profitability.

Fortunately for the industry, the best promotional strategy for many of these firms is to give away free samples of what they know. Most are confident they know enough and can facilitate execution well enough that it makes sense to give away many of their best ideas. On any given day, DrivingSales is packed with a number of examples. There is a spillover benefit to dealers from these trainers and consultants.

Dealership disappointment with trainers or consultants is often a result of insufficient buy in. These people can’t work miracles; even their best ideas will not work if they are not executed properly. The organization’s leaders still need to do the leading. Things also break down when the trainer can’t properly train or consultants don’t properly execute on their ideas. Some are good at articulating theory, but not so good at putting them into action in the areas the dealer needs help. The fundamental role of these professionals is not to generate fancy new ideas; it is to facilitate execution. If the store leadership didn’t already buy into the core ideas, the opportunity to execute would not exist. Ideas are for getting attention and for offering a better system within which to execute.

Sharing ideas is a great way to get attention for this type of business. It is certainly better than the practice of trying to fluff one’s own self up by attacking vendors or alternative solutions. We see some trainers position themselves as the grand defenders of dealers in a holy war against vendors, and some vendor trainers who can’t say anything nice about anything they don’t sell. But these are the rouge exceptions. Most trainers and consultants know their role is to execute and get results for individual dealers and dealer groups. Bloviating is for pundits who don’t really produce anything but entertainment. In this fast paced market, automotive retail needs trainers and consultants more than ever, at least the ones who can achieve results.

Although I don’t do this kind of work today, I spent much of the last 21 years consulting and/or training for automotive and other industries. I’m proud of that work, the achievements I helped organizations realize, and the profession of helping businesses as an outsider. Automotive retail employs many full-time trainers and consultants. Some are independent, some work for a training or consulting firm, and some work for a specific vendor. Within the Vendor Ratings section of DrivingSales, 17 firms are listed for Sales Training, 49 for Internet Training, and 35 for Dealership Consulting. Many of the people involved know each other, refer each other, and share ideas. They have a positive role to play in both thought leadership and execution, but they get paid for the latter.

Glen Garvin
Execution. Great execution of a decent plan is better than bad execution of a perfect plan
David Kain
Dennis...I appreciate your perspective and think it hits home. All of our client's success is a result of their efforts and execution. We prefer to celebrate their skills and talents and reading about their success. They pay us to make them better. When I operated our family dealership we had some exceptional trainers come in and guide us forward so that's the model we've used in our own company. Thanks for shining light on all the great trainers in the industry who I consider close friends.
Brian Pasch
Dennis, the need for strong leadership inside the dealership is so key for change and progress to be realized. When the consultant and the Dealer/GM agree and support a clear common goal, the results can be amazing. If the store leaders are not fully bought in, the positive outcomes that were promised, will never be realized. One of the challenges for consultants between "onsite visits" is blocking out a regular time to communicate with the dealership, because everyone is very busy. However, once regular communication between the store's leadership and the consultant becomes a "habit", then progress can accelerate between in store visits.
Joe Webb
Dennis - Thank you for highlighting the many pluses and minuses of today's training and consulting. I've written about the problems with trainers and consultants endlessly, and that is... there is no prerequisite. There is no certification one can (read: should have to) achieve before proclaiming themselves as one. With the overflow of information on these resource sites, far too many fledgling dealership managers take to the streets as consultants simply regurgitating others' information. Admittedly, I never had the benefit of a trainer or consultant while I was in retail. I essentially had to learn through trial by fire. And for me, that was the best way to do it. It means I can actually "train" and not just "consult" because I've actually executed these strategies myself. And getting dealer buy-in to execute these tactics we're teaching is the uphill battle of every consultant. But it is a just cause if the consultant actually is worthy of being one. A friend on mine from high school (nowhere near our industry) recently wrote on her Facebook wall "Speak not of what you have heard, or what has been said....speak from your own perception...(whether right or wrong)." THAT is what I think good trainers do. (Granted, it's best they speak what's right... but it still applies.) A good consultant relies on their own experience being successful to make others successful. Speakers regurgitate information. But dealers don't need speakers. They need someone who can show, not just tell. That is what makes a good trainer/consultant. As you know, Dennis, I pride myself on not receiving money from vendors so I thank you for highlighting this moral dilemma facing our industry. Not accepting kickbacks allows us at DealerKnows to stay subjective and... well... and biased. I'm actually allowed to support those vendors that do the best job, but don't have to support just one simply because they give money. Refusing "referral" fees allows integrity to remain. Yet far too many are being coerced through dollars (much like politicians) to make decisions for dealerships that aren't always in the best interest of the dealership themselves. What made me successful in retail was that I CARED about what I did. It is also what translates well to DealerKnows Consulting. Our clients know that we CARE. If my clients ever could find another consultant that cares more about them, and their success, I'd urge them to hire that person. But they won't find one. CARING, both in retail or in consulting, allows people to focus their efforts on the positives, and not the negatives. Back-handed dealings and bad mouthing vendors doesn't get dealers anywhere, yet far too many self-proclaimed consultants do just that. It's time our industry finds a way to let the cream rise to the top and quiet some of the noise from those that don't have the dealers' best interests at heart. Or, worse, don't have the documented success to be training them in the first place.
Dennis Galbraith
Great input gentlemen. Joe is right, there is no license or documentation that shows who has the qualifications or who will even care about the store once the agreement is made. I hope we can get more reviews for these categories on DrivingSales. It remains unfulfilled relative to many other categories. Brian, there is a saying among advertising agencies that the client ultimately gets the agency it deserves. From what you say it is similar between dealerships and consultants. Even the same consulting firm will perform better for a dealership with strong leadership and a good communication channel. It's just human nature for this to be true in any industry. Thank you so much! David, you always bring things back around to where they should be. Trainers need to execute on the training, but the end result comes from the activities of the people in the store. I see the importance of congratulating them and bringing the celebration back to them. I think many trainers do this, but you articulate it so well, and having done that it is far more likely to happen to the full measure that it should. Glen, your 16 words are so powerful, what a fantastic summary!

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