It's not the wand that makes the magic happen, but the magician who wields it. All of the tools, solutions, and leads in the world may be necessary to stay competitive, but it is the people you employ that make you profitable. If a dealership is only as good as the people speaking to their customers, we must make sure we have the right people representing us in the first place.
One of the fundamental problems on our sales floors is that it is just too easy to get a job. Candidates walk in, fill out an application, prove that they have a pulse during an interview, and are hired on the spot. This has to change. This builds no value in our dealerships, our profession, or our industry. We must require applicants to earn
a position rather than just getting
As a trainer, dealers always ask me "What is the magic bullet out there? What will help me sell more cars?" They are likely looking for a solution/tool/CRM/website/campaign, but the true magic bullet is a great employee. One forward-thinking person (especially in your Internet Department) can yield endless profitability. You are the magic bullet. The people around you are the magic bullets. Your growth will be determined by the people that work for you, with you, above you, and beside you.
We develop intricate processes to bring a prospect from lead to appointment to sale throughout our showrooms, but we rarely have a process to recruit, interview, hire and train the employees of our stores. I was able to achieve success while in the retail side of the automotive business, but I know I wouldn't have been near as successful if it hadn't been for the people I surrounded myself with during my time at my former dealership. It is only because of the work I put into preparing them for success and the work they, in turn, achieved, have I been able to parlay my career as an automotive internet expert into starting my own consulting business. Selling cars, not on the floor, but online, is a TEAM environment. It is high time we begin focusing on acquiring a solid team.
One question I'm often asked is 'Who should run my Internet Department/BDC'. There are only three choices, each with a different monetary tag attached. You can hire the best (otherwise known as 'stealing an expert'). You can promote from within. Or you can hire a newbie and train (i.e. start from scratch). Know that you'll pay top dollar to hire the best, but this will yield you the fastest turnaround and gross. If you decide to promote from within, you will likely be paying a fair industry price for their services. Lastly, you will save considerable money (rough book value) by hiring someone new to the position, but won't see considerable growth or a return on the investment for some time.
Before you begin recruiting or interviewing for the position, you must do three things.
- Determine the hierarchy of the store. Who will this person, in a new department, be reporting to? Often anyone from sales managers to salespeople believe they can delegate work to someone in the internet department while the top stores usually have this a director or GM as the only entity that presides over the Internet team. Decide who is in charge of what and this will help you understand the type of candidate you need to hire.
- Develop a pay plan based upon your goals for the Internet department/BDC and reward these specific metrics. The structure of this position (A-Z, appointment setter, Director) will help determine the pay plan.
- Create a written, detailed job description specifying all duties, expectations, hierarchies, necessary skills, and intended earning potential.
Many dealers ask me where they can even find
quality candidates. Above and beyond the normal classified sections, here are some outside-the-box places that I've had success finding strong personnel for my former BDC.
- College graduates. I've had much success hiring recent college graduates. Those individuals with the fortitude to sit in classrooms, research, and complete assignments, day in and day out, just seem to take to the environment and position of Internet Sales Coordinator/Manager very well. There is a knowledge level and drive there that cannot be overlooked.
- Promote from Within. Looking internally has given me some great Customer Contact Reps (BDC personnel) as they understand the product, have good phone skills, and, even better, know the staff well enough to understand what prospects would work well with whom.
- Vendor Referrals. Those Cars.com and AutoTrader reps stopping by your store know who the real talent is at your competitors' stores. Often, people pass the word that they are open for a change through these reps so approach them and see if there is someone who may be a good fit. After all, no vendor will refer in a fool because that person would only make their life harder in your store as well.
- Local Competition. Many great Internet Directors have a strong #2 at their store. This is someone that they know deserves a shot at running their own department, but can't give them that opportunity because they won't obviously give up their own jobs. If you have a good relationship with another ID, consider calling up and asking if they have a second in command that they'd be willing to recommend. If not, just steal them. Also in this category, don't overlook recruiters. They have access to many great candidates.
Regarding who you select, please do not overlook women. If it is proven that 85% of all decisions are influenced by women and 65% of ever vehicle purchase is determined by a woman, why do women only make up 7% of our sales and service staff? Correct this discrepancy by finding strong female applicants.
Once you've acquired all of the resumes/applications, review them, ensuring they have the necessary background/skills, and then research them on the social networking pages. Make sure their LinkedIn information correlates to what is on their resume. Check the other sites to gain insight into their character. Try to learn about them through the social media landscape. Then, screen them by phone.
A good phone screening should be no longer than 5 minutes. You detail thejob requirements and their work history, uncover any gaps/short terms in their employment, mention the drug/background check (to scare off anyone with bad habits hoping to sneak by), and inform them of the interview process. I won't delve into the art of interviewing (and it is an art), but make sure you provide your sales management team with all of the training necessary to properly interview. Most managers were awarded their positions from being strong on the sales floor. In many cases, a sales manager hasn't been in an interview themselves for 6 or more years. They need to understand the how
of closed ended vs. open ended questions, what to ask, and when to ask them. Know that interviewing is a PROCESS. It should be performed by several managers over several days. (No one should be hired on day one). It should involve several steps the applicant must complete and should also involve outside-the-box interview tactics like mystery shopping and role-playing. Trust me, if every manager role-played a negotiation with the new candidate (the candidate being the salesperson and manager as the customer), not many people would be hired...or consequently later fired. I could make interviewing for auto dealers a ten-page article alone so I will let you do your own research here - or simply contact someone who can help in this regard.
The orientation is incredibly important to the success of any new hire. Bad orientation causes a type of "buyer's remorse" and increases turnover.
No new hire should begin handling internet leads or calls on day one. This happens all too often. On the same note, don't give a new hire "the grand tour" and expect them to remember names, paperwork, logins/etc. Much like for Recruiting and Interviewing, there is also a process for a proper orientation.
Require that your vendor trains the new recruit on all solutions - front to back. No exceptions or find another vendor. It is fine for the director of the department to give guidance/hints/tips, but the training must come from the vendor.
Create teams where every single department in the dealership has one primary communicator. This way, the new hire learns about the overall dealership's structure and has only one individual that they are to speak to. Allow them to spend a little time in the different departments to get a lay of the land and understand the importance of the entire rather than the role of its parts. Once product knowledge training, process training, solution training, and paperwork review are complete, you should then test them through a mystery shop on the system. Make sure they are employing all of the templates/word tracks/practices that you're expecting of them before they get the green light to handle customers. They must earn your seal of approval before they officially step into the duties. This first two weeks of orientation should be salaried in my opinion. This way they will be in a good place financially - and not starting from scratch - when they do assume the reins of their job. Just ensure they are ready to tackle the position before giving them the task of performing the actions.
Too many new hires are dropped onto the sales floor or into the internet department with little more than "advice" from someone they've been insanely asked to "shadow". Do more for them than these old-school practices. These negative impressions lead to mistrust. If you've put them through a process to join your team, don't drop the ball now by leaving them will little guidance on how to conduct themselves.
Celebrate your new employees. Have a manager take them out to lunch the first week. Send a gift basket to their home welcoming their
family into yours. Make sure they understand the "language" of cars sales. (We all have those code words that we share for different aspects of the deal. Familiarize them.) Let the new hire know the importance of paperwork and how very crucial their
role is to the organization. Show them what type of future they can have at the dealership. Most importantly, ask for questions. Let them know that there is never anything they should be afraid to ask of you. As I said, this is a TEAM environment.
And don't forget to provide them long-term, on-going training and evaluations. This will always keep them focused and prepared for the goals you'd like them achieve.
Finding the perfect fit for your Internet department is one of the most difficult jobs an owner/GM has, yet it can single-handedly be one of the most profitable for them if performed correctly. There are three things that develop people: the training, the job environment, and their willingness to learn. You can only control two of these three which is why you must not just support the staff, but measure their results.
Provided you've created the proper processes when recruiting, interviewing, and training, you will be able to sit back and see the success of your efforts. You won't need to pull any tricks out of your sleeves. The magic will happen.