Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Right Tool For the Job by Greg Martin

Let me talk a bit about "the right tool for the job".

When business gets a bit more challenging, you tend to notice it a bit more, but it's right there all along.

When a customer visits your lot, it is important that you make a good first impression. I'm sure that every one of you will agree. We want our salespeople to be knowledgeable, more knowledgeable than any other dealership. We want him to know features, benefits, availability, or lack of availability, market trends, capacities, the list goes on and on. We train them, the factories have "Certification Classes", new product launches. We are cutting edge, right?

Why then, would we allow a salesperson to "up" a commercial customer without the proper knowledge to perform a proper fact finding interview?

A number of things might happen and a couple of them may happen at the same time;You might sell the customer the wrong truck, misquoting capacity and serviceability, putting the dealership in a tremendous liability position, not sell the vehicle at all because you didn't have the proper knowledge of incentives, availability or options, or lose the customer forever because he was not ready to buy "NOW".

That is why I believe that all commercial customers be directed to a knowledgeable, trained and successful Commercial Truck Salesperson. They work this program everyday. They know that most commercial customers may take weeks, months, sometimes years to conquer. They have been following up with such customers their whole career, have seen the fruit of their labor produce that way time after time.

Why then would we allow an untrained retail salesperson to attempt to work a deal on a commercial truck? Greed, laziness, ego?

Maybe. Maybe all of the above.

If you were to calculate how much lost revenue is involved by losing just one medium sized construction company, you might think differently. The losses can be measured in the 10's to 100's of thousands of dollars in a lifetime!! Each and every one!! Perhaps millions of dollars in each dealership over the course of your careers.

Think about it... 4-5 deals per month @ $2500 each over a 25 year career is nearly $4,000,000!!

What if it were 10 or 12 a month?? Makes you want to re-think the whole "right tool for job" thing, huh? -- Greg Martin, Victory Chevrolet

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Old Inventory Is Like Bleeding To Death, Part 2

Following up with yesterday's blog post (see part 1) on dealing effectively with old inventory, today's post will continue the ideas of how to turn the bleeding through flooring expenses into profits instead.

Yesterday's ideas to turn around the flooring problem are in the order I would do them in. So, I will continue from the last entry of Get Real Bold and Order Two or Three New Units. I recommend that this is not a menu to pick and choose from, but a successful strategy that is proven, so doing all of them and doing them in the order presented will produce the best results.
  • Be a leader, but don't be a loner: Get a team! The more people you have helping you, the better. Develop a team by contacting a lot of other dealers selling the same brand you are and developing relationships with them to help each other sell trucks. If you think that being a leader is doing it all yourself, you're wrong. Get a team helping you. Point number four yesterday was to trade some old units you have for some old units another dealer has. I hope you had a few people you could call and work with, but now is the time to expand that to as many as you can. This will take some time and is not an immediate fix, but we must get started on accepting the concept and beginning the process.
  • Start Some Offsite Displays Now. Get some of your trucks off the lot and on display somewhere where a number of people see them at one time. Try to target places where you know contractors and other service providers go to get parts and supplies. I recommend that you do this in the morning and be out of there by eleven am or noon. Be there at least a half hour before they open and be ready to show off your product, hand out materials, collect names. I recommend some small giveaways, offering coffee, etc. If there is a coffee vendor there, don't bring coffee, but hand out tickets and buy your coffee from the vendor. Lumber stores, hardware stores, The Home Depot, Lowe's, 84 Lumber, Meek's, are some of the kind of places I am referring to. County fairs can be an opportunity. Contractor organization events is a great place. Find some places that you can create some traffic to your product by taking advantage of traffic already coming to that location. This should be an ongoing part of your marketing plan in good times and better times.
  • Market to your existing database of clients and prospects. Hopefully, you have been gathering email addresses of your clients and prospects. If you have, I recommend beginning an HTML email marketing campaign immediately. This is great because you can include photos, graphics, links and lots of color. If you haven't been gathering email addresses, begin today and then put together a flyer highlighting a few pieces on your lot. I recommend only highlighting a few and not trying to put too much on there. Remember that white space is just as important and filling it up because it is the white space that directs your attention to the content, photo, or graphic. Begin sending out one a week. If you have a large database, you might want to stagger the mailings. It is also recommended to target your market whenever possible, so if you know what people buy, send a flyer about that product to them. You can work with service to provide a special deal on oil changes or something like this to have other things to offer that will provide additional value to the mailer or email.
  • Market to a new database of prospects. If you haven't already, buy a database to begin expanding your market area. I recommend that you think of drawing a circle around your city that is about a 100 mile radius and then include that space as your new market area. Buy a list for that area. You can go to Sales Genie or any number of other companies. Go to Google and type, Sales Lists for a good start. We have experience with Sales Genie. Get signed up and get access to a list and get to marketing your products. Do this as an ongoing marketing effort and don't ever stop! Keep expanding your market with a reasonable marketing budget. It doesn't happen for nothing. When I was doing commercial trucks at dealerships, I had a 10,000 name database that we were continually working.
  • Swap bodies. If you have some past year models on your lot, you might want to consider swapping some bodies to get an improved marketing opportunity. For example, if you have an 11' service body on a 450/550 type product that has not sold, swap that body off (on to the ground if necessary) and put a plain flatbed on it. This will allow you to drop the price by about $5-6,000 without dropping your profit. It allows you the flexibility to 'cheap sell' it off your lot or through your marketing flyers or emails. You can put the service body on a fresh unit. You can do the same with a contractor body and drop the price a similar amount. Dumps are a lot of work to swap, so I always leave them as an act of desperation. This works like magic when you have a contractor or service body on a 350 dually and then go to the plain flatbed. You can then use that piece as a 'loss leader' to draw attention dramatically to all of your inventory. It is not very effective to do this with single rear wheel units that normally have service bodies on them, but if you have a 2500 with a service body and it is old, you can put a pickup bed back on it. Make sure and have your body company do that so they can re-certify it. In those situations, that can make all the difference. I don't like swapping bodies and I am slow to do it; however, it can be a huge help to moving old pieces off your lot. Please remember to do this: make sure all of the expenses for removing the body and reinstalling the body on both units is charged against the one you are selling so that you don't increase the cost of the inventory or record a false gross.
  • Create an event at your dealership. Create an event. It can be a thank you event for your customers where you have a BBQ and treat them to lunch, a large vendor display with lots of flags and banners and eye-catching displays. It could be a ride and drive event. It could be almost anything, and the goal is to bring people to your store to see your products.
  • Seek the help of some key clients. Network marketing. Contact some of your key clients and let them know that you really need to move some inventory. Give them several copies of a list of the items you need to move and ask them to help you move them. If they like you and doing business with you, they will be eager to help you. You will be amazed how well this can work. They might not be interested in receiving anything from you for helping, but I would recommend that you give them some free service or something as a thank you. A couple of free oil changes would be a great thank you gift.
  • Get the retail department involved. They could help you if you wanted to let them and teach them.
  • Merchandising and pricing. Besides the lot displays, take the units that you want to move the most and price them on the windshield. I recommend that you go with the lowest numbers that you can and that you use payments instead of price when you can, such as $397 per month. If the sale price is over $30,000, for sure use payments only. If it is under $25,000 pricing can be effective. Make sure and make good use of the what I call the 995 strategy. Always go the the best 995 number to can reach. So if you took a sale price after incentives and it came out to be $24,446, I recommend you either find a way to go to $23,995 or move it up to $24,995. People pay attention to the numbers on the left and not the numbers on the right. It is real. At $24,446, you are throwing away $549 for no good reason. Take advantage of it. This also works for payments, so if you came up with a payment of $418 per month, find a way to get to $395, or you can move it up and it won't make a great deal of difference to the buyer. Make sure and use what might be considered an average down payment when calculating payments. If the average down is about $5,000 and you figure your payment based on $10,000 down, you are not going to be as effective as you could be. People need to be able to relate to what you are offering. Don't let the pricing numbers on the windshield get faded. Continue to make the units look as fresh as possible.
  • Prospecting. Get your people out prospecting and take the units you want to move with you. This is the time to target your prospecting to the clients that you think would be buyers for the kind of unit you want to move. Go visit them and bring your unit with you. Try to show it to them wherever you go. This should be something you are doing all the time anyway. Get out there and see them, especially when they are not coming in to see you.

There are more things you can do, but I will let you think of them yourself. Hopefully, you have a plan here from all these ideas to never have really old inventory ever again. All of these points are important and all together, they are a strategy. You can do it. It requires focus. Let's get back to profitability by stopping the bleeding. You will be a hero.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Old Inventory Is Like Bleeding To Death

In today's market, I see quite a number of commercial truck dealers who have old inventory. I don't mean 120 days old, I mean more than 350 days old, some more than 500 days old. Most manufactures only compensate flooring expenses for up to 100-120 days. After that, the entire monthly cost is on the dealer. Ouch. What's that? About $300 per month per truck times 30 or more trucks? Double ouch. That's a hemorrhage. As that continues, the department bleeds to death.

How does it get this way and how can we avoid it? It gets this way in my opinion by not paying attention, number one and number two, by not doing anything significant about it. Not enough focus and not enough of the right kind of actions. Just because the waves are not 15' high like the last five years, they are still 5' high and they are still coming onshore. It's time to develop a better plan and hang 10 just as if it were a 15' wave! Get focused. This is how we avoid this problem in the future. Have a better plan and get focused.

So, you have old inventory. Let me ask you a few questions. One, I want to see how many upfitted commercial trucks you were selling each month by month for the last five years. Can you provide that information? Two, I want it broken down by what kind of bodies were sold month by month for the last five years. Can you provide this information? Three, I want to see what you have been spending month by month in the last five years on advertising and marketing and what those expenses purchased and what the results were. Can you provide that information? Fourth, I want to know who sold the commercial trucks, month by month and body type by body type for each salesperson. Can you provide that information? Fifth, how have your marketing efforts, expenditures and mix changed in the last five years with particular attention to the last year and a half. Can you provide that information?

If you cannot provide the information on one through five above, you do not know what you are doing. That is a problem. A big problem. You have to know what you are doing and what is working and what is not and how your are advertising and what the results are and how you have changed and why. You have to know this. In a 15' wave market, you can ignore all of this as so many have, but when the waves are down to five footers, if you haven't been keeping track of this, you have a lot of old inventory and are bleeding to death in flooring.

This market did not change overnight. I assure you of that. It changed more slowly, but you may not have noticed it. When gas went from $2.40 to $3.10 and then back down to $2.55, I knew it was not long before it would be $5.00. The changes have been happening. There is a huge difference in the immediate market of trucks when gas is $4.50 vs $2.50. Were you watching what was happening with diesel fuel? Even today, it is $5.50 at many places. You are hard pressed to drive enough miles during ownership to pay for the diesel motor any more. There was a time that was under 60,000 miles. Did you change your mix to more gas rigs? Still stuck on the diesel? Maybe the competition did.

If you could answer one through five above, I can be of great specific help to you on moving your old inventory. Of course, with that knowledge, you may not need me. You are on top of things! I congratulate you! Excellent job. Keep up the good work and please let me know about all your successes.

For the rest, here are some suggestions besides getting a plan in place to be able to answer one through five in the future.
  • Expand your market area. The best thing about commercial trucks to me is that it is not a local market. It is a regional market. Truck Trader type magazines are good, but right now you would be buried in a deluge of ads of dealers trying to off inventory. If you want to dive in there, do so with these two thoughts: Unique and Used. Those are the two best items to put in those publications. Putting in standard stuff is a waste of money in my opinion. Spend that money somewhere else. If all you have is standard stuff, don't go into the traders.
  • Clean up your old stuff. Bodies start looking dingy over time. Get all your trucks spit polished in detail and items repaired, re-stained or whatever is necessary to make them look like they just came off the assembly line.
  • Create attractive, eye-drawing attention displays with white space. Get a portion of the front line and create some great displays with dumps in the air and other eye grabbing things. Forget the parking lot for a while. Let retail keep their spiffy perfect lined up vehicles, but you need to park them at all different angles and have a lot of space between trucks so the 'white space' takes the attention to the vehicle. This will make a difference. And, one last thing. Change it once a week minimum. Keep it fresh! Open up the doors on service bodies, make it like a display at a trade show only on your lot instead.
  • Trade some of your old plain pieces for someone else's old unique pieces. Get with your trading partners and swap out some of your pieces for some of theirs. Get the most unique and different things to can. Shoot for five units. I want you to want it especially if you would never order that piece. You need some change and some new ideas. You're kind of stuck in your ways. Let's get loose and flexible. The stranger the better as far as I'm concerned. If you can find colored units, even better. Become a wild and crazy kind of guy or gal. You will grow from it and you will sell more units. Trust me. I have proven this tactic over and over again at a lot of different dealerships. Get away from the mainstream a bit.
  • Get Really Bold and Order Two or Three New Units. This will help you greatly. Talk to me or my partner, or talk to your body company and find some really, truly unique things that you can get on to your lot fast. Make sure they are things you probably would have never stocked. You know, the same old Contractor Bodies, Service Bodies, Flatbeds, Van Bodies are pretty boring. Everybody has them in quantity. You could find a hundred Contractor Bodies within a 100 mile radius of your store. If all you're selling is the same old stuff everyone has, you only have price and local service to sell. That really limits you in a regional market product, don't you think? Get off that wave and onto a new one. Order up a Desert Landscaper Body from Harbor Truck or body company in your area that has a similar type of body and put it on a tilt cab first choice or a crew cab second choice. Order up a Chipper body from Marathon Industries or a body company in your area with a similar body and put that on a medium duty chassis, tilt cab or regular cab. Order a crane body from Royal Truck Body or a body company in your area that has similar trucks. Put that on a super cab 350 or 450. Get a plumber body or a ProTech aluminum flatbed. The list could go on and on. Get some exciting, different and unique things that you can actually sell. You will make home run grosses on these and you will most likely turn them quickly. When you do, reorder immediately, don't delay. Keep your successes growing.

I will have some more ideas tomorrow, but this will get you going for now. There is absolutely no need to sit on old inventory ever again!

The Best Advice I Have Found

Want the best advice I have ever found? Advice that will change your business for the better, your life for the better? It will change your attitude for the better and it will serve you the rest of your life and your life will continually improve. Are you ready? Here it is in two little words: Be Thankful.

Purposely develop an attitude of gratitude about everything--and I mean everything. I mean every thing that is said, everything that you see and everything that happens around you. Don't leave anything out. Be thankful for it all. Having an attitude of gratitude is something you need to develop, it doesn't just come by itself. It is a decision. Once you decide that you want things to change, and decide to develop the attitude of gratitude, you will become more and more grateful as time passes.

If you're not already there, this idea will have to settle in a bit. I suggest you begin, by trying it on the things that are easy to be grateful for. As you get used to that, start adding in other things that you're maybe not sure you're grateful for and you will start seeing those things in a different light. You might ask, how can I be grateful for this? That will help you get moving toward gratitude for it. In time, and with practice, you can become grateful all day, every day for every thing, event and person.

How will this change your business for the better? When you are grateful, you are open and ready to receive. You will find that you have a whole different attitude about customers, problems, business climates, the news, etc. You will begin seeing--no, you will begin focusing on the possibilities instead of the problems, the light instead of the dark, the way instead of no way, opportunities instead of despair, and abundance rather than lack. You will no longer be controlled by circumstance, but by choice. I tell you that there is nothing more powerful than that. You have the choice. Matter of fact, you have always had the choice and you have always chosen, but now the choice to be grateful is in the forefront of your mind and you realize that you have chosen other responses before. Maybe it was anger, depression, frustration, anxiety. Those need not control you. If they control you, they control your business. Choose gratitude.

This is not a lecture. I am sharing the best advice I have ever found. It is something that I found many years ago, and I continue to read and listen to more about today. And I get better everyday about being more and more grateful. It is a deliberate process. One of my mentors, Jim Rohn said that there is a day that turns your life around. That day for me, was reading a book called Power In Praise by Merlin R Carothers. It is a very short, but very powerful book. Today, I am reading a little each night over and over in John DeMartini's book, The Gratitude Effect. It is also a powerful book and very easy to read. It is great at my bedside because it has a lot of short stories so you can read one every night and it only takes a few minutes. All of John DeMartini's books are focused on gratitude and love. There are many others as well, but these two are very powerful recommendations. Perhaps for you, it will be something different.

How can you be grateful for negative events? Practice. The only thing I can say for sure here is that your reaction to any event, regardless of what it is or how positive or how negative is a choice. The event does not choose for you. Once you get that, and realize that you are in control of what you think about anything. . . well, that is a peace that did not exist before. Try it. You'll get better at it if you don't quit and go back. You will have so much more joy. Start being thankful today for one thing. Then make it two. Then three, and pretty soon, you will realize that you are thankful all day long! It is without a doubt, the best advice I have ever received. Now, I pay that forward to you! Enjoy!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sales Follow Up Program

Yesterday I wrote about the service department and how they can be much more effective if they modify their current follow up system. The same is true in sales, so let's look at some follow up ideas for commercial truck sales.

I talk about email HTML newsletters because they are effective. They are more effective, easier to produce, almost free in comparison to mail and have quite a number of advantages that are not even available in a mail piece, such as links that open a new window to another web source. They are also more fun. So, number one on my list of things I recommend is to get excited about and get going on a series of great HTML newsletters and other email communications for your customer base and your prospect base.

You might be saying, "where is the time and energy to add that to my list of things to do?" Start delegating, but get it done! You can hire us to do it for you, you can hire others to do it for you, maybe someone in your dealership would have fun doing this for you. There are people who enjoy doing these things, and that serves you nicely if you take advantage of it. Basically, just decide you are going to do it and the way will be found.

You can create a nice HTML style follow up email for your prospects and you can include some pictures of some of the kind of trucks that they might have been interested in, or that you would like to suggest to them. People are looking for solutions--especially when it comes to commercial trucks--so the more you can help them find solutions, the more sales you will make. I remember a sales record (33 1/3 - shows my age. . .) that I listened to when I first got in sales. This guy said that last year there were 5 million 1/4" drills sold, but people didn't want 1/4" drills, they wanted 1/4" holes. I thought, wow, that's interesting! People want solutions. If you focus on solving their problems, you will do well.

Create a newsletter to send to your database about once a month give or take. Make sure there are tidbits of information that they would find interesting. You can also promote aftermarket accessories, talk about new products coming to market soon, tips about service, interesting facts about trucks, links to videos about trucks or links to other resources. Add graphics and photos and use color to keep it visually interesting. This is a wonderful way and a soft way to stay in touch with your clients and prospects.

You will find people thanking you for sending them the newsletters and they will point out what they liked about it if you have things of value for them. The most important thing is keeping your name in front of them. People have so many choices in today's world, so they can buy the same things all over the place. It is even more important than ever to find great ways to stay in touch with people, provide some value and keep having them remember you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Some Advice For Service Departments

Here's some great advice for service departments. Many service departments have a follow up mailing or email for oil changes or other service offers. Some even use that database to send periodic emails about special sales of cars and trucks. Great.

In my travels as a body rep for a large body company (about 25,000 miles a year), I would need an oil change about once a month or so. I would have it done a various places and at dealerships I would call on as well. Only two of these places have ever followed up with me at all. One of them sends me emails about service and sales. The other sends me a letter in an envelope about once every six months to a year. The second one is a total waste of money. It is poorly written, contains pool information and frankly, it would do nothing to encourage me to come back into the dealership for any service. I applaud the dealership who is forward thinking enough to send the email, but the email is of no importance to me. It does not help me in any way. It could be so much more effective at both stores. Last, all the ones who have not bothered to follow up at all, you are all missing huge income potential.

There's a better way. I recommend that you put together a good HTML newsletter in a consistent format and then jam it with great and valuable information for a wide variety of clients. Have some tips on how to save money on services, facts that a lot of people don't know, photos of sale items like tires, batteries, accessories, etc. Send that out about once a month. Make it so valuable that people will love to get it because of the value of the content and the pleasant design of the HTML newsletter.

Next. On regular services like oil changes. Find out how many miles they drive on average and set up a schedule of special email reminders just before that time--AND, make an offer that will encourage them to come in! The key point here is to know the driving habits of your clients. The two dealers I mentioned above do not know how often I need oil changes, so they are all over the map on communicating with me. They might as well not waste the energy or postage. They should be sending me an oil change coupon once a month! Don't just remind me, but entice me. Do you realize how many places I can get my oil changed and the last place I really want to go to is a dealership. It just seems to take longer at a dealership, so I have to have another reason to be there. When I want an oil change, I want to be in and out as quickly as I can.

Here's another idea. I have given this to many dealers. Look at your oil change revenue. Chances are it is not very good. There are many places very near dealerships that offer very inexpensive oil changes. Competition is fierce. I suggest that you market your oil changes at a very attractive price at about break even. I recommend $19.95 for the typical vehicle, more for diesels which require more expensive oil filters, but make the diesel price similar in concept.

Now, advertise this constantly. As customers come in, do everything you can to upsell. I don't mean in a shady self-serving way, but I certainly appreciate it when I am told and shown that I need an air filter and why along with other typical maintenance things. Here is where you make your profits. Its like a grocery store selling mayonnaise for $2.49 instead of $5.69. When they come in for the mayonnaise, then the remember they need this, and that, and this, and that, and this, and more of that. There's the profits! The mayonnaise is the draw.

Make the oil change a draw for your service. Here's another good reason why: people need it often and regularly! Make sure and keep good records of what you have sold them in the past so you don't oversell. Better to skip the upsell this time to ensure the continued patronage.

One last thing: make your oil change fast. Develop a system to handle the increased business and move them in an out quickly. Busy people want speed and effective service.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Great Commercial Pay Plan

After the first few months of training and building habits for a strong foundation by paying for and focusing on activities, here is the best pay plan I have found for the commercial department. The retail department might also benefit from this if they become activities oriented as well. I also want to add that I have tried a number of pay plans and that this one produced the best results overall.

This plan is based on a salary plus commission. The salary says several things. One is that you can expect certain things to be done because essentially, you are paying them to do it. It also says that you care more. All of this is good. Next, the commissions on sales was a tier structure to encourage a certain minimum level of performance. The dealership needs a certain minimum job, so build it in. Next is gross. This is a problem with some commercial departments. Most fleet/commercial sales people want to be paid on holdback, but I disagree. The holdback is the dealers money as far as I am concerned except if it is a net fleet invoice. So I don't pay on holdback at all. There is also a minimum commission in case of a sale unit or other circumstance that is many times beyond the control of the sales person. This was the plan:

Salary = $1,500

Commissions on sales based on gross profit from dealer invoice and are retroactive to unit 1:
  • 1 - 9 = 20%
  • 10 - 14 = 25%
  • 15+ = 30%
Gross Bonus (based on accumulated gross profit for the month from invoice):
  • $0-$9,999 = $0
  • $10,000-$14,999 = $250
  • $15,000-$19,999 = $500
  • $20,000-$24,999 = $750
  • $25,000-$29,999 = $1,000
  • Each $5,000 level adds $250 (do not put a cap unless you want a cap on your earnings)

Minimum Commission = $100

Courtesy Deliveries do not count as a sale and are paid at 25% flat.

I have encouraged many dealers to adopt a program like this because I know it from my own experience that it is a very effective program. First, there is huge motivation to get to what I call 10 and 10, which is 10 sales and $10,000 gross. This is the first level change and the difference in pay at that level compared to just missing it is huge since the pay is retroactive. The same thing is true at the next levels. My team was always focused on 10 and 10. After 10 and 10, it really starts to payoff. I really wanted them at 15 and 25 and I was thrilled to pay out the extra money!

Remember that these sales people are going out and getting business! They are not sitting around waiting for an up!

Courtesy Deliveries as you can see are generally discouraged, but compensated. I don't want my commercial/fleet people looking for courtesy delivery business. It is not profitable and the conversion rate is pathetic. I have a lot of years worth of experience here and I think they are generally a negative event. Still, I will pay the 25% for what it is worth.

This plan encourages numbers and gross profits at the same time. At the higher levels, you will pay out more, but that will be a huge benefit because you will reap the rewards of the higher profit levels. I would recommend this plan to any dealer that wants their department to soar.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pay Plan For New Hires

Compared to probably 95+% of the dealerships in the country, my thinking on pay plan is definitely outside the box. To me, that puts me in the top 5%! I like it there. Let me share a pay plan idea with you and let you decide if there is any value in it for you.

For your new hires, a strong pay plan will help you retain and grow your best people. Here is an effective plan. The first two weeks will be strictly training in the classroom and on the lot to learn the product and basic procedures. The second two weeks will be on the job training in prospecting, and other marketing and merchandising tasks in the business development matrix. This will be done with a full time coach which is an experienced sales person on your staff who gets paid extra for this task or by the manager. During the first month, there will be a reasonable training allowance. I recommend a minimum of $2500 to $4000 depending on who the new hire is.

After the first month, they will not be totally on their own, but will begin doing much more solo. The second month, their pay will be based on tasks completed. Each in person prospecting call will have a dollar value, along with each phone call, working on the lot merchandising, along with all of the tasks on the business development matrix. You can use the same dollar amount above that you used the first month and determine which tasks are more valuable than others and then determine what the dollar amount is for each in that when the new hire, hits the target of the number you want them to hit, they earn the same amount of money. If they choose to do more than this, they would earn more, but the money comes from the actual tasks being completed.

You can't pay on sales in the first three months and expect people to stay unless they have a large savings account and they have a very strong desire to work for you. It isn't effective. But, if you pay for the tasks that ultimately lead to making sales, you are creating a work effort pattern that will feed the new hire for life along with the dealer. It is totally win-win. Teach them to fish.

All along from day one, you are watching and testing the new hire to determine how you can help them succeed. You will also be finding out very quickly if they are doing as you need them to do. If they are not and it cannot be corrected quickly, now is the time to make a change and begin again with a fresh candidate. No more will you be hanging on to people who are failing. This plan helps stop that from happening.

I suggest that you keep them on this pay plan for at least three months and perhaps longer if you determine that would be beneficial for both of you. Build a strong and solid foundation of work efforts that you know have dividends over time. Prospecting is not a quick fix, but it will build a strong business with consistent efforts. Focus on the activities and the responses from those activities. This will pay the dealership well and help create strong, healthy, long-term employees.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Send Business To Your Competition. A Bold Idea.

Here's a networking idea that will pay dividends to you in the long run: send customers to your competition. What? Yes, send them to your competition and be of good service to them.

You aren't going to sell them all. Sometimes prospects come in and they are looking around, but they may already have in mind what they want and are just going through the motions as they think they should. Sometimes they are looking at your product and you can just tell by the way they talk that they are not interested in yours, but they are interested in another. Those are the times to send them to your competition. To be of real service in this, you will have to develop some relationships with the other dealers in your area.

I suggest that in time, you purposely visit every other make store in your area. When you go in, find out from the manager who is the best sales person at the store--the one who really takes care of their customers--the pro. Then go visit with that person and get to know them a little. Suggest to them that when you have a customer interested in their brand, that you will send them to this person. Get a number of their cards and you leave a number with them. In return, when they run across a customer who needs a commercial truck, they will send them to you. In this way you will both be serving the customer and also ensuring that they are well cared for by a professional. It need not be any more complicated than this.

Let's say I'm a Ford dealer and I stock upfitted trucks. So I go to the Toyota dealer and I find the best person and work out the deal with them so that when I find someone who I know is interested mainly in the Toyota, I will send the prospect to that person with card in hand knowing that they will be cared for. In turn, when the Toyota sales person knows there is someone needing a commercial truck, they would send them to me. Do this with every make dealer in the area. It is a powerful addition to your tool belt.

You will also have friends and associates who ask you questions about shopping for another make than you sell. Now, you will have cards and know specific people that you know will take good care of them. This is a powerful tool for you and your business. Just think how much your friends and associates will appreciate your help and especially the great care they will get by virtue of your knowledge and relationship.

This idea would be rejected by many people. It's not my job to help the competition and all that crap. Serving the customer is what it is all about. You never know how that will come back to you, but I can assure you of this: it will come back to you. Be a pro and think outside the box. Go out and solicit your competition to help you help your prospects. I guarantee this will help you in a number of ways. It is also one more way to point out that there really is no competition.

Friday, August 22, 2008

There's A Goldmine Right In Your Store!

On July 28th, I published a post about the Service department and building a relationship with Sales, Service, Parts and why. Now, I want to take that article a step further.

The goldmine right inside the average dealership is the service department. It is so in many ways, but I am going to focus on the commercial truck department in this article. In the most recent article, Don't Get Paid To Sell Service? Think Again!, I pointed out that at a lot of dealerships the sales and service departments are at odds. Having been in dealerships for 25 years myself, worked as a mechanic for two years, and watching them for almost 40 years total, I can understand how some of that animosity comes about. I don't condone it at all, but I see how it happens. I say right now: Get over it! Service is a gold mine to sales and sales is a gold mine to service. The sooner that is believed, the faster the profits will roll in. So, you dealers who might read this, I recommend you take charge of that vision and promote it effectively throughout your organization. It all starts and ends with you.

Back to commercial trucks. I know of no surer or faster way to build a great commercial truck department from scratch (or from the ashes) than to get excited about service and get service excited about commercial truck sales. You do this by feeding each other what the other needs to be healthy. Service needs vehicles to work on, and sales needs prospects to sell vehicles to.

Continuing the topic from the last many posts about finding good people, hiring them, managing their activities, getting them involved in the service department is critical as well.

When a dealership commits to building a strong and effective commercial truck operation, prospecting has to be one very strong position to hold onto. You must have an effective prospecting system and management plan. In the prospecting, you will be driving business to the service department before you generate sales. Not everyone is ready to make a change in a vehicle, but everybody needs service very regularly and businesses need that even more often. Service will be the key opportunity to begin building a relationship with most of your prospecting contacts. That is a good thing! Get excited about it. I tell you this: the service department should be thrilled and if they aren't, we need to have a sit down. This is a key reason the dealer needs to see this vision, so that everyone is on the same page and remembering whose business we are building. Cash is cash. If it is coming in the back door or the front door, its still cash to the dealer.

Commercial prospectors should be excited about these opportunities because they will lead to many sales much more quickly than any way I have found. So, even though there is no direct commission on service sales, the money is building up in the bank nonetheless in future sales. These relationships when taken care of will turn into many repeat and referral sales as well. Everyone likes a great service department.

Work with service and the specific service advisors that are set up to take care of the commercial customers. Keep feeding service even when it looks like that is all you are doing. Have faith: I guarantee this works! Next: Service, pay attention! Commercial sales is driving a huge amount of business into your shop! Take great care of those clients and take good care of the commercial department who is helping you greatly. Be thankful. Point out to commercial sales when you see sales opportunities. This door swings both ways. Make it effective for both parties.

Develop the relationship to a high degree in service and commercial sales. This will be the best time and energy spent of anything I can recommend. Get excited about the gold mines right in your store!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Managing Activities Not Results

Part of the process of making the new hire successful is to manage the activities. I have talked about prospecting and that is one activity. There is much more to do than just prospecting. We need to manage all the activities, especially of the new hire, but also of other team members.

In 1974, I designed a daily task and time management booklet that is a quarter of a year in each book. I designed it as a tool for myself as a new salesperson, but have since used it as a management tool with many dealers. The left side of the page is the things to do list and is the most important part of this book. To the left of this is an appointment matrix. At the bottom of that page is a box with several slots for existing customer follow up. On the right page is a lined list of so many mail outs, so many phone calls, in person contacts, presentations/demonstrations, write ups and finally sales. This book is a great management tool to help manage activities. There are spreadsheets that the manager uses to record the number of items achieved in each category each day. You will be able to tell in a very short period of time what is being or not being done. Of course, as I recommended in the last few posts, you will need to supervise your new hires closely in these activities in the first few weeks either by you or your assigned delegate. Should you want to try these, they are available here at the bottom of the page: sales activity management books. I would be happy to help you with how they work.

It doesn't matter what tools you use as much as that you have a good way of measuring and tracking activities. I have learned over the years that though people want you to, you really cannot manage results, but you can manage activities that ultimately produce results. Focus on the activities and the results will come naturally. This is one of the most important lessons in sales management I have ever learned and it didn't come easily. It was like an aha! experience once I finally got it. You can manage activities. That is what you need to manage.

You will want to continue this basic approach for a long time. My activity management book system above covers a whole year. You may even want to continue this longer. If you can see that your team member is doing the activities, then the results should be there as well. The results are the indicator of the activity. If you see the activities over a period and the results are not there, it could be an indication of some needed refresher training, or some coaching. By staying on top of what is being done, you will be able to reap better and better results. Without it, who knows what is going on? I see many dealerships where everything is on autopilot and I see very little thought to managing activities in this way. This is how I am absolutely certain that we can produce results when we go into a store because we set this system up first. It will serve you the same way.

How can you increase your business in this market today? Increase and expand your activities that have a tendency to lead toward a sale. Keep track of the activities and watch their relation to results. You probably already know that on average after so many demonstration rides and or presentations, that an average number of write ups is a result, and after a certain number of write ups, that an average number of sales is a result. Use that information to judge the results of your team. If it is not happening according to your best knowledge of results after efforts, check into it. My real point is that many haven't got a clue because they are not keeping track of the activities. When you keep track of them over time you can visually see patterns that you would never see without that system. That pattern is important for you to see as quickly as you can, that they are successful or they are not, and you can do something about both of those.

Bottom line: manage activities. See that there is a sufficient number of activities and that the quality of the activities is improving over time along with the expected results. Keep track of the daily, weekly, monthly activities so you can see patterns easily. Since my system is in a spreadsheet, you can create graphs very quickly that will clearly show you the patterns. I guarantee that your sales will rise according to your management of the activities and your staff will stay and increase in their value to you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Create Success Under Your New Hires, Part 2

See Part 1

In part one, I addressed the need to ensure success by taking charge and creating success under your people though a well managed training program so that they get the best start possible and start making sales as quickly as possible. They need to experience the activities directly and quickly but they need to have a team member guide them through the full process for a period. It's OJT, or on the job training. It is the most effective training I know of.

If we want them to succeed, we know that they need a good attitude, and they also need well planned activities so that they see and experience the steps toward a sale. Commercial truck sales is not very effective staying at the desk and waiting for an "up" whether it is an Internet call, a "fleet department" call or someone stopping in looking at an upfitted vehicle. Of course, these things happen, but we don't want to train our people to do those things, but to be business seekers instead. It is in this approach that the success and growth of the commercial department is assured. It must be well planned and executed and it will be massively effective.

Essentially, you are teaching them how to fish. Think of most car salespeople as shore fishers. They stay on the shore, cast their lines into the water and there they stand or sit until they get a fish nibbling at their bait. On a good day, they might get to deal with one or two nibbles and if they are real lucky maybe land one to three fish a week working six ten hour days. A well trained commercial fisher is going to get in a boat and head out away from the shore in search of schools of fish. This fisher is prepared with great fishing equipment including fishing nets designed to catch many at a time. This fisher may work five eight hour days and have multiple nibbles by the hour and catch multiple fish daily. Skills are required. We need to teach them to do this. We cannot assume they will learn it on their own. We need to direct their apprenticeship and get them strong quickly thereby creating a strong and successful fisher that will not only fish successfully for us, but go on to teach a number of fishers to do the same.

People who are successful quickly are much more likely to stay on and grow with the company. Create excitement around each success--not just on a sale, but of effort, a good presentation, a good strategy. Celebrate success and reward the kind of behavior you are looking to promote. Spiff money is well spent right here. Spoons are good. I hate house deals and so I used to give those deals away just as rewards for behavior I want. Make it all fun. Build a strong team.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Simple & Effective Prospecting Program, Part 4

Let's step back just for a moment and look at our prospecting program so far.

First, we are going out to every business in our community that we can and we are going to go to an area, move through that area and then move to a new area adjacent to the one we just went through. This will save a good deal of time in not driving all over town. Second, our first goal is to learn about their business--to see their business, get a bit of an understanding what they do, how they do it and what kind of vehicles they have, their needs and problems. Third, we are going to be as observant as we can to see how we might be able to be of service to them now or in the future. Fourth, we are leaving some trinkets behind as a thank you gift for their time. Fifth, we are introducing ourselves and what we do and we may leave some materials behind or not as desired based on the response we get.

That is the overall view of the first part of the simple & effective prospecting plan. Now, we need to do something more, otherwise there will be a lot of making friends and no making sales. Here's what needs to happen next:

When we get back to the store, we debrief ourselves before we get busy with other things. It is important to take 15 to 30 minutes and get this done. If you are entering the information in the database program, you would enter it in there, if not, then you would make notes. We need to think of this as our daily contacts and who we met, how it went, who are the decision makers, what are their needs, what kind of vehicles do they use, are the vehicles working out well for them, how many employees do they have, how is their business doing? Record all that information and anything else that you can so that you develop a file on each contact from which you will be able to move forward intelligently. Record all the names of people in the company that you have, along with website information.

After all the debriefing is done, now we need to look at each of these prospects and see if we can answer the three questions we talked about before. They are, do we have anything that will help them to, 1. make more money, 2. save money, or 3. do their job better or more efficiently. If yes is answered to any of those, now we will determine what that is and when we can put together a proposal and make a follow up appointment. This will be the sales call, and we will be prepared to make it. Walking in the door unannounced and trying to sell is a tough way to go. With this system, you get to make friends, leave trinkets, gather information, leave product or sales materials, then determine how you can be of service and only then make an appointment to do some selling.

It is the goal of the program to make sales by finding prospects who have needs that we can fulfill and then make a presentation that will demonstrate this to the prospect. This is a simple and effective method of achieving that objective.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Simple & Effective Prospecting Program, Part 3

Another simple and effective prospecting activity is to go buy a small digital recorder. They cost between $15 and $75 typically. Carry it with you always. When you are out driving around and you see a commercial truck with the name of the business on the side or the back, get out your recorder and talk the name, phone number, kind of truck and body and any other information that may be of value to you later.

This is a very simple method of prospecting that requires almost no effort, yet will give you a number of businesses to call. Many will be out of your area and that is great because you get to see what they are driving, how they care for it, and how they use their trucks as they cruise through your vicinity.

Perhaps you see an opportunity of a need they may have like the truck is in disrepair or very old, etc. Don't neglect the newer, nicer looking trucks. Sometimes, the buyers don't respond to need, but they want their trucks to represent their image.

I know a hauling guy who hauls junk from your yard who only buys old beat up but decent running dump trucks. Most of them are from the 1960's and 1970's. They have no markings whatsoever and many times the paint is all mismatched and they are filthy looking. Of course, he buys them cheap, but I'm sure he puts money into them to get them to clear smog and safety inspections. I suggested a newer truck and he says that he likes these because he likes his image to be that he works cheap so that he gets a lot of business. He dresses the part as well. A very nice guy, but looks kind of like a bum. He acts kind of shy and humble.

I know another junk hauler who looks at that completely differently. He has a number of nice trucks with his name on the side and the phone number very large. He even has larger dump trucks to haul more stuff. This guy keeps the best things that people pay him to haul away and he has a large business reselling that stuff. He's making money several times on the same stuff. He dresses casually, but well and he looks and acts successful. You have the impression this guy is an entrepreneur.

They are both successful but they are not both prospects. The latter is a prospect for you. He believes in spending money, the first guy would never do that. Their business probably translates similarly to their personal vehicles. Why? Because it is a state of mind.

So, just because you see a guy driving a new truck does not mean they are not a good prospect. It may very well be the opposite of that. It is best to not prejudge any of the trucks that you see. Just record all the information you see and have time to record. Sort it all out later.

Have a plan of contacting these people to offer your services. This might be by phone, mail, or you might drive over there and visit their business in person. All of those can be effective, but the personal visit will move things forward more quickly.

There are prospects all around you and opportunities everywhere!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Simple & Effective Prospecting Program, Part 2

In yesterday's post, I talked about making outside prospecting easier to get done by looking at it in a different way in that you don't go in trying to get a sale, but instead, to gather information. Plus, going in with a sincere interest in their business, bearing some small gifts and no agenda other than to recognize their business, rejection is a non-issue. Of course, we have in the forefront of our mind to recognize any ways that we can be of service to them and as we discover those ways, we will later make an appointment to discuss these things with the business. So, the first visit is truly just information gathering. There is nothing to sell yet. We hope there will be (and we know there will be), for this is not an altruistic endeavor, but today is just a visit.

Today, I want to offer another way to look at prospecting. Many might think that the reason we go into a business prospecting is to get that businesses vehicle business. Of course, that makes sense and is true; however, that is like looking at the tip of the iceberg. Remember that what is showing above the water in the iceberg is about one tenth of the size of the iceberg. What I want you to see is the rest of the iceberg along with the tip. I want you to think about all of the employees who work there, the vendors that supply the business, their client base and the people each of them knows. That is the bottom of the iceberg and that is the really exciting thing to see when you look at prospecting a business.

All of that business like the iceberg is hidden. How can you extract the value out of it? Let me give you some ideas to ponder.

First things first is to recognize that it is there and see the potential value of it. Second, think about the overall view many people have of the car business. Since I left the car business in 1997, I have bought vehicles myself and going to a car dealership to look is a ragged experience at many lots. Knowing what I know will help me make the best deal of the situation, but I still have to put up with the stupid systems. You know, the sales systems that have young people out front who really know very little about their product, don't have much skill, and can't wait to turn you over to a closer. Then the closer has to barter with the sales manager to get you the deal and on and on and on. It is distasteful at best. If I had to deal with that when I was in the car business, I would have left it long before I did. I like knowledgeable salespeople who take control from start to finish. Many dealerships have "the system" because it is easy and cheap to deal with. So think about all of that and how people feel about it. How would you feel about it? Yet in the commercial or fleet department, the sales process is smoother and straight forward, right? None of that going back and forth. You also know that your customers love that. They love not having to deal with the retail game.

Now think about all those employees who drove their car or truck to work. How would they feel if they could deal with you instead of the retail game? You could provide great value to them, right? You could ensure they get a fair deal while you do the same, right? It is a win-win situation that is a pleasant experience, right? So how can you translate that into an opportunity to serve them in this way? You can offer up a flyer with a program of how all of the employees of that company will qualify for fleet pricing through the venue of the business they work for! How cool is that? It might be their very first pleasant buying experience! This can be offered as a free service to the company and a flyer can be issued to each employee. You could even have them personalized for each business to give it a bit more credibility. Now you can begin to mine the larger part of the iceberg which is the employee base. This will happen over time, but because of the number of employees, it can have an excellent return on your efforts. What a great way to communicate your services to many in one location! Don't forget all the people they know and all the referrals you can get because of how great the experience will be for their purchase.

There is so much business in that one shop! Just think if you went to just five of these businesses a day! Only five. That would move you so much further ahead than what you have been doing. Plus, you're becoming more proactive in creating business for yourself and the dealership. Think about the possibilities, get excited about them. Now, sit down, think about this and plan out some ways you think would work well in your initial approach along with your follow up visits. It's much more fun and profitable than waiting around. For sure.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Simple & Effective Prospecting Program, Part 1

We have a simple and effective prospecting program for your commercial staff. It needs to be simple so that it can get done and it is effective because it is something that can be done regularly.

The first premise is that there needs to be a change of attitude about prospecting. If the salesperson is going out there hoping to make a sale and hearing a bunch of negative answers, it is going to take a very strong, focused person to do that every day consistently and stay upbeat and enthusiastic. The change in attitude starts by understanding a different idea of why we are prospecting. Basically, we prospect to find out who are potential customers are. The real advantage to outside prospecting is that you get to see their business up front and personal. You get to see their building, their location, the inside of their business or shop, the kind of vehicles they drive, some employees, the kind of equipment they have, and so on. You will never find any of that in the database or the Yellow Pages. You will only see that in person.

So, I recommend that we start with this premise: we are going to go out and visit businesses in our area and gather information about them so that we can learn who our prospects are, what they do and how we might be of service. Take the heat off of the prospecting. I have seen it happen over and over again from dealership to dealership where people go out one or two days and they are done. They get bummed out and quit. Who wants to endure that kind of pressure and negativity. So we lighten up the process and put a spin on the approach. We don't go in trying to make a sale, we go in to gather information.

This does not mean that I am not into sales. We will be thinking of how we can be of service to this company. We will base much of that thinking on what we see in our visit and how they respond to us. The goal is to be looking for opportunities--to be aware of what is going on in the company, how they use vehicles. This may lead to determining a better choice of vehicle to show them to help them do their job better and more efficiently. Maybe the opportunity is to promote the service department. Everyone needs service, so that is a great thing to offer. You might have service coupons to give out and encourage them to visit soon. If you get them coming into service, you can get them buying vehicles in time. I always recommend that a dealer buy some trinkets to leave behind at each of these calls. These can be note pads, ink pens, letter openers or other small things, with your logo and information on them of course. People bearing gifts are always more welcome.

Basically, we are trying to find out who these people are that run the business, what they do and how they do it and what the potential is for us to do business. In that light, we need to think about how we can help them, 1. make more money, 2. save money, or 3. help them do their job better or more efficiently. If we can answer any of these, we have a second appointment coming very soon to discuss how we can do these things.

Now, here's why I'm so big on training. It is because in this prospecting situation, the difference in turning information gathering into a sale is your knowledge of your products, the bodies that go on them and their uses and flexibility. You need to know what to offer them in a way to help them with their transportation needs. Having not just the knowledge of the products, but the understanding of the products is key. You need to think like a problem solver.

So the first point was to take the curse off of prospecting by changing the way it is viewed. We don't go out to make a sale, we go out to find a prospect, determine their needs and how we can fulfil them, then we make an appointment and try to sell. There's nothing to sell in the first visit, except yourself and your gifts. With this little change, you can turn the one, two, quit kind of prospecting into a consistent and effective plan.

More prospecting ideas tomorrow.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Create Success Under Your New Hires, Part 1

You've got your good people and the training is in full swing and you are starting to get them into activities and so far it is all working. Great. That's sort of like the trial close. You've found the need, desire and ability and you've put a trial close on them, and now is time for the real close. Here is where it is harder to follow through, yet this part will be the most critical in my experience. We've really done the easy part up to now. Finding them is easy, and starting the training is easy, and now you must create success under them in order to keep them. You heard me, I said you need to create success under them. You don't hire them to make you successful, you hire them and make them successful so that you in turn succeed.

I learned this from being involved in a Shaklee multi-level marketing business. All the really strong leaders were teaching us that when we find what we think is a "business builder" (good people), we needed to get in there and create success underneath them so they see the payoff quickly and we would thereby create a strong business under us that would grow and multiply. We had to be active about that. With multi-level marketing, the more business builders you have under you the better, and depth was far more important than width, so the real superstars in that game are always focused on creating success under their members and the members below them and so on.

So, how do you create success under your people? Number one is to direct their activities and participate with them in that. If you're the GM or dealer, you will be having a team member focused on this for you. You need a plan. Don't let them figure it out for themselves, you plan it for them. You create a success plan that you know will produce results. Maybe you don't have a plan. Now's the time if you don't.

I have what I call a sales matrix that has a box in the center titled 'Sales' and then it has boxes around that in a circle with lines going to the center box. The boxes around the center box are titled, 'Referral', 'Service/Parts', 'Offsite Display and Sales', 'Merchandising Lot to Attract Sales', 'In Person Prospecting, Presenting, Following Up', 'Networking', 'Telephone (Gather Info, Follow Up & Make Appointments)', 'Regular Mailer-Stay in Touch with Dbase', 'Specific Mailer - Target Marketing', 'Advertising'. Mailer can mean postage or email. Repeat business is not on there because this is mainly focused on where new business is coming from. I've used this form with many dealers. At the top of the form it says: Develop a Multiple Approach Strategy and Plan of Action! At the bottom of the page it says, What Have I/We Done Today To Create Sales?

With the sales matrix, this will give you a good plan of the things that can be done to actively create sales or at the very least interest toward them. I recommend that you do as it says and create a multiple approach strategy. In other words, do some prospecting, do some mail, do some merchandising, do some offsite displays, work the service drive, do some other advertising, work the phone for follow up and appointments, do some networking. Mix it up. It will keep them interested longer. A great time for prospecting in person business to business is in the morning from about 9 or 10am to 12pm. A lot of the service businesses that you will want to visit are open earlier than typical retail establishments.

After the prospecting and lunch, this would be a good time to get some mail going out. Answering questions that came up during the day, sending out brochures, etc. This is also a good time to plan any presentations that need to be made from the day's prospecting and to get the quotes done that people want. Merchandising the lot can be done first thing in the morning. Now is a good time to cruise the service department looking at vehicles in the shop and especially those with business names. This can be supplemented with communication with service writers you work with to find additional prospects.

Try to mix it up enough that there is no down time to speak of and that the activities are effective. How do you find business? It drives into your service drive, it buys parts at your parts counter, they are at their business thinking of making a vehicle change but haven't found the time to actually go down there. It's people driving by seeing something they've never seen before or thought of quite that way. It catches their eye and their thoughts and they stop in to look at it more closely. That is the reason the spend time merchandising the lot (not like a parking lot). They call in asking for more information on something they saw on TV or had a question about. Perhaps they are in the market and that is their method of "shopping around." Business comes from the flyer that just arrived last week and now today the business has a chance to look at it and it is just the right time because their truck is on its last leg. It is a pile of opportunities waiting to happen when someone or a team of someones begins focusing on the opportunities. The more of the activities with better and better execution will create success under your people.

Now the real bonus for the dealership is a very strong sales rep and that will beget even stronger sales reps and so on. If they are sitting in the store at their desk most of the time, there is a serious amount of business being missed. Create success under your people by showing them how to be successful and working with them until it is reality. The strength that comes from this team member will be unmistakable and highly profitable.

I'll talk of a specific prospecting program tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

You've Found Good People, Now What? Part 3

Final segment on Now What?

See Part 1, Part 2)

Today, I will talk about the specific training of the commercial truck salesperson. All of what I said in Part 1 and Part 2 will apply, but there is some additional training for commercial that is critical to success.

A commercial truck person has to understand what the trucks do and make sure that they fit the need. This entails learning about GVWR and cargo capacities, how loads are placed on trucks and how that affects the balance and GVWR and GAWR. They need to know what kind of bodies go on what trucks and understand the maximum recommended lengths of bodies based on body types, kinds of loads various customers carry and so on and so on. There is a lot to learn, but it is not difficult.

We have a training program that is superb for the new salesperson and a good refresher for more experienced ones. We call it Commercial Trucks 101. You can see a power point presentation of this class at http://www.commercialtrucksuccess.com/ and click on the Training Resources tab. This class has been physically presented at dealerships and over 1,000 salespeople have been through the class. In the class, it takes about 2.5 hours which includes about a half hour to 45 minutes of a walk around of all the upfitted trucks on the lot as an overview. We also have follow up classes that continue this process. I recommend that you develop your training program to be along these lines. If you would like our help, give us a call at 707-480-0959 (Ryan) or 707-434-9967 (Terry). Training is our specialty along with inventory management.

Get the body companies that you deal with to come in during the first week and spend some time with your new people. You need to plan this ahead of time so that schedules can be formed. They can be very valuable in helping the salesperson learn the different body company features, along with hands on training on the lot of their vehicles.

The first two weeks should be crammed with great training. At the end of two weeks, we need to be doing. Even at about a week and a half, get the new salesperson into an activity pattern with a coach at least. We need to know as soon as possible how they will be as a doer. Let's get them started with some prospecting even, again with a coach so they become acclimated to the various work efforts that are needed. This will really require your good salesperson to help here. Make sure it is someone who you know will do this well for you. Start with a light schedule and come back to more repetition training. Work on some walk-arounds so we can get them used to communicating with prospects about the vehicles. Make sure they know where all the switch, releases are and how the dumps go up and down, removing stake gates, how they are numbered in sequence of where they go, all the things they will need to know to demonstrate to prospects that they know their product.

At the two week point, it is time for an evaluation. If they pass this, keep moving and allowing them to stand on their own legs a bit. Start weaning them from the coach and making sure the manager is assigning daily activities and following through. If they don't pass, it is time to make a decision to continue with remedial training, or move on to another candidate. If the latter seems like the right move, make it now and do not delay. Start over ten times if need be, but don't hang on to a warm body just because they are there. Remember, the purpose of training is to find out who you have. You will learn from your evaluation if they are getting it. You've given them a lot of training. How much is sticking? What have they learned? How do they feel about the various vehicles? The Process? The coaching? Debrief them so you know what is going through their mind. You'll know if you have a keeper or a let's try a little more on this one person.

This process is intense and it is extremely effective. It requires a dealership to do a lot of training and to understand the need. But, here are the benefits: You will never have trouble finding good people ever again. You will have as many as you want. You will have much more effective salespeople in general. You will have the new people earning good commissions very quickly. You will create a better team dynamic. You will have a cohesive plan. You will be very profitable. All those would be worth it in my mind. How about you?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You've Found Good People, Now What? Part 2

More on what to do after you find the good people. . .

(See Part 1)

Next point is personal time. The new salesperson requires a lot of personal attention. You need to be able to see in their eyes and their physical expressions how they are doing. The only way you will see this is personal interaction. If it is not you, then make sure the person you have in charge of their training is doing this. People are still deciding if they are going to like working here or not. Don't take this for granted. I don't care what the guarantee of money is, if they don't feel comfortable, they will be looking for other opportunities while going through the motions of working for you. I have seen this many times. You can tell by their physical movements, their tone of voice, their expressions. They need reassurance and the way to give that is by personal attention. Keep their day packed full. Lavish personal attention on them. It will make a major difference in how long they will stay.

This is a funny one to me, but many dealers do not supply business cards immediately for salespeople. They want to wait for a week or two to see if it works out. Now that is starting them out right! You might as well say, 'we have no faith in you, but if you prove it to us, we will get you some business cards.' Total silliness. If you want to be cheap, print some on your color laser printer, but they should have cards on day one. They should be handing them out from day one on. Don't slack on the tools. Be committed to your choices and get on with it. If it doesn't work out, so be it, but you will have given it your best shot.

Make sure the new salesperson is introduced to everyone in the store. Make sure they have a list of all the employees, what department they work in and what their phone numbers or extensions are. You want them to be comfortable as soon as possible. Don't let them introduce themselves--either you, or someone you designate should take them around the store and introduce them.

If the new salesperson is not asking you questions, something is wrong. Find out what it is and fix it now. In the first few days, how could they not have a pile of questions. Seek them out if they don't seek you out. Make sure they feel comfortable seeking you out.

Test. Not written tests, but verbal tests. What are they learning. What did they learn today. Get feedback. Find out if what is going in is sticking. Ask them a lot of questions. Insure that they are feeling good about their choice, that the training is interesting and that they are learning their way around. Ask them.

You've found good people, now make sure they stay and become producers. The first month will determine the length of their stay and you are the key to their success, not them.

Monday, August 11, 2008

You've Found Good People, Now What? Part 1

Finding good people is not nearly as hard as keeping them. The first few weeks are critical for you and your new hire. Based on my own experience and the experience of many that I have seen and worked with as a consultant, I will share some valuable points on keeping your good people.

The first point is that the new salesperson (or any employee for that matter) must have structure to their training and their time. You have to provide this. You cannot be effective if you spend time and money finding good people and then do not have the tools and training in place to make sure they become effective as quickly as possible.

They will need tools. They will need a desk, a computer, catalogs, phone list, phone instructions, employee list, just to name a few. If you don't have these simple things ready, you aren't ready for the good people. Preparation is important. Be ready for them by ensuring that the tools and things they will need to become familiar quickly are in place.

Next, have your training schedule and training classes mapped out and ready to go. Please do not rely on the factory to do this for you. I have seen this time and time again where a manager will hire a salesperson and then have them sit at a computer watching factory training and taking 55 factory training tests. This is very ineffective. The reason the factory has this at all is because the dealer body was not doing effective training. To find and keep good people, you need good, effective training. If you cannot do this, then hire it out, but I highly recommend that you do not have them sitting at a computer for the first two weeks doing the factory tests. Certainly they can be of value, but if this is your only training or your best training, you are in trouble.

Regarding the factory training videos, I would have your people do one or two of these a week and that is it. The rest of the training needs to be hands on, good training by you, your staff or someone you hire. Get good at training and you will have a non-stop supply of good people. Training is how you keep them. Good people are well trained in order to be effective for you and for themselves. You cannot short cut this portion and be effective. Get excited about training and make sure you have the best training on the planet. Let the factory supplement your training instead of the other way around. Lead. Create leaders with your leadership. Training will make all the difference--I guarantee it.

Learning the product quickly is of primary importance. Here's the best way I know to learn the product fast. Issue one brochure for each product you have to the new person. They will read the brochure over and over in the first week. Encourage them to take them home at night, look them over, bring them back the next day. Next, get them in every vehicle. Give them the keys and a coach and go get some experience. Open all the doors, hood, trunk, move the seats, fold down the seats, tilt the wheel, test the stereo, look underneath, take it out for a drive. This is what I call the 1-2 punch. Read and re-read the brochure and then experience each model car or truck. I tell you that everything that they need to know to effectively sell cars and light duty pickups is in the brochure, then they just need to be able to navigate each vehicle and know where all the latches are and so on. It's really easy.

So I would leave the factory tests as a long-term, short space training (meaning one or two a week) and have the rest of your training be done in your own store using your own products along with the brochures. Then I would add in having a coach, which could be a good salesperson on your staff, to help them bring the brochure knowledge and the actual experiencing of the vehicle together to form a sales-focused procedure aimed at an effective presentation to a prospective customer. A manager could do this as well, but having a good salesperson would be the best. They should work together about a week by watching, doing, watching, doing, reviewing. A customer just needs a few facts to make a decision about a vehicle, so the real question is which facts? The experienced coach will help with this. Make sure and take care of the experienced coach in having them do this extra effort in all fairness.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Finding Good People. 25 Years Of Insights, Part 3

Continued from last post.

See Part 1, Part 2)

Insight #9: Networking. Let everyone you know that you are looking for salespeople. Some of your best people may come from people other people know. It's kind of like have a team of helpers. It's probably a bit more productive with your business friends and associates. Get the word out there and see what happens. You could get lucky.

Insight #10: If I am looking for a commercial salesperson, I am going to look in the trades first. This is a great place to prospect for a commercial salesperson. Construction, manufacturing, delivery. These people are using the commercial trucks first hand. They understand the need, the value, the uses. They may not have any sales experience, but that can be taught more easily I think than the understanding of the commercial truck world.

I understood it right away because I used to drive a dump truck and other work trucks for a landscaping company. That gave me great experience with commercial trucks and an understanding of their value and their uses. I later became a journeyman auto mechanic in the Air Force and there I worked on a wide variety of commercial trucks, cars, buses. Then I became a salesperson. I've dealt with many retail salespeople who just never seemed to get the commercial truck bug. You've got to get fired up about these trucks. It has to be very interesting to you. It is a whole market in itself. It is really easy to sell your commercial customers a car, but it is a challenge to sell the other way around.

Get the word out to anyone you know in the trades. Keep your eyes open. The best people I have found came from the trades whether it was directly or they had past experience there. Many in the trades need to change because it is just hard on the body. Sales is easy on the body. Once you find some, you may find that they don't feel that sales might be right for them, but you will know whether you think they can sell or not. If you think they can, go for the close. It will be worth your effort I assure you. The trades. My favorite source for commercial salespeople.

Insight #11: I said in an earlier insight that I didn't value pre-employment tests very much. I still agree. There is something that I think is good to have your prospective employee do though. I recommend that you have them write some things. I want to see them write a paragraph or so about almost anything. I want to see them write numbers. In sales, there is a certain amount of paperwork that will require writing. I want to see that they have the skills to do this effectively.

Writing is something that can be taught as well as anything, but it takes some time. You will need to decide how you feel about where they are in their writing and spelling. You will be having them communicate with your customers in writing via thank you cards, letters, flyers, emails and so on. Make sure they have the written communication skills they need. If they are a great prospect except for this, then it is on you to do it yourself or get some help in getting them trained in written communication. Matter of fact, this might be a good time to look at your whole staff in this light and see what training they need. With email being the number one communication now, you need to ensure that their communication skills are effective.

Insight #12: Your own company. Look around your own company. There may be some great candidates right there. Maybe some of them have already been talking to you about how they would like to work up front. This can be a good source of good people. You already know them!


There you have 12 insights I have learned over 25 years in the car business, along with 10 years in the body business. You may have additional insights. Feel free to add any of these that you like to your arsenal. Good people are all around you. Seeking them out is not hard.

Next up: Once you find them. . .now what?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Finding Good People. 25 Years Of Insights, Part 2

Continuing with insights on finding good people. . .

(See Part 1)

Insight #5: Another borrowed phrase, you get what you inspect, not what you expect. Having expectations of performance and then not inspecting the results and process of that will have a negative effect. The goal is performance and the way to see that this gets done is to look at the activities and procedures you have put into place and trained for. Are they doing it? Are they doing it correctly? Are they doing it well? Do they need assistance?

Many years ago, we were very big on walk-around presentations. I still think there is huge value in this. My new salespeople had to endure a minimum of 2 weeks of daily heavy duty training before they would ever get to go on the floor and try and sell. Prior to going on the floor, they had to give me a complete walk-around presentation to my satisfaction. If they failed this, we went back to more training until they succeeded at it. Showing the product and the features and benefits to the buyer is a critical piece of the sales process. What happens here is very important. You get to see how they react, what interests them more than other parts and it helps you formulate a process that leads to a closed sale. You have to know your product to do this, but the good news is that you don't have to know everything. A good selection of highlights will do just fine. I want to see how the salesperson is doing in this process. I want them to be successful, so I am inspecting my expectations of them.

Insight #6: This was a lesson that took me a long time to learn, but once I got it, it changed my whole perspective. I finally learned that I could not manage results effectively, no matter how hard I tried, but I could manage activities very effectively. Sales is all about activity. If you're not talking to a prospect, there is no possibility of a sale. I finally got it. I do not have the power to manage results except through the effective use of activities that are designed to produce results.

I know that sounds so simple, but I still see so many trying to manage results. As a manager, I needed to stop thinking about the sale and start thinking about the prospect call, the presentation, the mail pieces, the way the lot looks. All these are activities and each has a priority. They are all important to the whole. So, for a commercial salesperson, I need to focus on assigning tasks. Maybe it is so many businesses in a certain area to contact in person, or on the phone. I want to be involved in what is said, what the approach is and even go along for a time and see that these things are being achieved. To just send them out there and hope they get it done is worthless. I guarantee it will produce poor results. You as a manager or even as a manager of yourself CAN manage activities and from the effective management of the activities, you will produce good results with quantity and quality. Managers should have a really good plan of how to do all of this. It will require management. It will produce results. Manage the activities, not the results. The results will take care of themselves.

This will be a key factor in finding good people. If they will do the activities and work with you, keep working with them. If they do not do the activities, give them a chance or two, but stop there and find another person. The best thing about this approach is that you do not hang on to people who will not do the work. You will know within about two weeks to a month at the most. With other methods, you might have a non-performer hanging on for 6 months or longer and wasting everyone's time. The interview and the hiring part is just a bare bones beginning. You won't know if you have good people until you get them involved in activities.

Insight #7: I've read all those interview questions. I've tried a lot of them, and frankly, I didn't notice a difference. My experience is that you get a feeling about people from listening to them talk and watching how they handle themselves. You can tell if someone has confidence in themselves or if they are shy and so on. Basically, just getting them to talk regardless of the questions is what's needed. What are your 5 and 10 year goals? What difference does it make? A lot of silly questions to me. Tell me about yourself. Just get them talking. Talking about themselves is a good place to pick up what you need to pick up. Trust your intuition and your judgement.

I know dealers where you have to take a battery of tests and so on. Hogwash. Time and money not well spent. I get the idea of trying to hire the right person for the right job, but what ever happened to good old fashioned verbal communication and feelings? I've tried the tests also, but they did not improve the results. The problem is this: there are so many people who are really good at interviews and that is their skill. There are many others who freak out on tests because they've carried that around, and yet they become super stars. You need a good manager--one who pays attention and is learned--then let them make the decisions. It doesn't matter about those 'systems' because the personal judgement of a good person when allowed will be superior in my opinion.

Some of the good people I have hired, I knew they were the right ones in about 10 seconds. The rest was drill. I've also missed some that were sheer perfection in the interview, but were the worst I've ever seen afterward. Give it your best shot. It will be good.

Insight #8: This is for you Dealers and General Managers. Let your managers make decisions. I've worked for a dealer where I could not make the final hiring decision for my own sales team. No matter how strong I felt about a person, if the GM or owner felt otherwise, I could not hire them. That is not only a slap in the face, but is counter-productive. If you don't trust your managers to do their job, get rid of them and find some you do trust. Stop micro-managing the process. When you do this, you are speaking clearly to your managers that you do not trust that they can make a good enough decision about who they have on their own team. You might as well get rid of your managers and do everything yourself. It is a terrible situation to try and be a good manager in. Get out of the way and let your team do what they need to do. You go do more important things. When I see GM's and owners like this, I instantly know that they are limiting themselves to a certain place because everything is in their total control. You should be learning as much from your team as they may learn from you. Here's a blog for you: control freaks.

More tomorrow in Part 3. . .

Friday, August 8, 2008

Finding Good People. 25 Years Of Insights, Part 1

Finding good people is a challenge. I think it is one of the biggest challenges that a business must deal with, and they are out there. . . somewhere.

As a truck body guy, people were always asking if I knew someone that would come to work and be their commercial manager, fleet manager, commercial salesperson, etc. Most of them were trying to get the guy from the town close to them who has been at that dealership for a long time and have them come to this dealership, bring all their customers, and be up and running at full speed within a week. . . approximately. So, I ask, well if they have been there for a long time, why in the world would they come here and start all over again? That is a great question. What will be so much better that they would do that? And trust that the promises would be followed through? Good luck.

Even if the guy or gal down the road did come, I can guarantee you that they cannot bring all their customers even if they wanted to. They will not be up to speed in a week, let alone a month. They are used to operating a certain way and now all that will change. Realistically, the best you could hope for with a sane mind would be better than starting from scratch. That is, if it lasts. Just because they come, doesn't mean they will stay. This is not the easy transition it is made out to be.

On the outside chance you can get them to come, they get up to speed in a month or so and they appear to be staying, that is a dream deal and you should celebrate appropriately. On the more likely chance they aren't coming, Plan B has some possibilities.

After 25 years in the car business and 22 of those years in management, I have endured a large number of interviews of prospective employees, most of which would be hired for the sales department or commercial sales department. So, after all of that and the hiring of quite a number, I have some experience built up and insights that struck me up the side of the head. I'll share a few with you in hopes you can steer a solid course.

Insight #1: I'll start out with the best lesson I've ever learned about hiring salespeople. I am always looking for a good salesperson. Sure, it would be sheer perfection to find a super star, but when you find that one super star, what do you do with the rest of your team? I have my eyes and ears open everywhere I go. I got so good at it that I do it today just as a matter of habit. It's a fun habit too. I see the potentially good salespeople everywhere. I saw two at the Farmers Market tonight. I saw a couple more at a meeting in San Francisco yesterday. I see them at the dry cleaners, the grocery store, the department store. I hear them on the phone when I cannot see them. If I was now looking, I would draw them in briefly and see if I could gain an interview with them and discuss some possibilities. They are all around you.

Insight #2: I would never, ever again run an ad in the newspaper. If you want to spend all week interviewing people who really don't want to work, but need to go on interviews for whatever reason, go ahead. I haven't got that kind of time, nor energy. It is downright depressing. I used to read the other dealers ads in the paper how they talked about the high commissions, no experience necessary, benefits, salary while learning and all that crap. Sunshine up their skirt is all that is. Like they really do that. The salary is required. It's called Minimum Wage. The training is lethargic and totally ineffective. What most want is a warm body, so that's why no experience is necessary. Well. . . I'm being rather harsh. They weren't all that way of course, but I enjoyed reading the dream ads. I'm sure it really brought in the top producers!

Insight #3: I learned very early on as a sales manager that I was far better off hiring someone who had never been in the car business and training them well, than to hire a guy or gal from another dealership. I did hire people from other dealerships from time to time, but I certainly preferred outsiders. Part of the reason is that I did a huge amount of training--more than any manager I have met--and training the experienced people was at least twice as hard because they already had certain habits they have learned over time and I needed to have them do things differently.

Insight #4: I borrowed this phrase from some unknown someone, but it is one of the most powerful things I ever learned: The purpose of training is to find out who you have. That statement is pure gold. It is totally true and the sooner you accept it, the better off you will be. The reason you train is to find out who you have that will do the things you are training them to do. You will know you have them when they do it. You will keep them when they do it well and you take care of their needs financially and emotionally. The training will cause the one that is not going to work out to stand out so that it is impossible to miss them. In this, training can be a blessing for both parties. Working at a place where it is not working is torture. Working where it is working is fun.

Continued in Part 2 tomorrow.