At the end of the month, dealership personnel often yearn for just a few more hours or days to “pull the month out.” The encouraging truth is that no one needs to put in more hours or days in order to increase production. Rather, they should first focus harder on putting more of the right things into the hours and days they squander or fail to maximize each month. In fact, the potential for doing this is within the realm of all dealerships because, without question, the most valuable and untapped resource in any store is the unstructured downtime of loosely managed employees. Consider the seven following thoughts and points to guide you in the high-return task of turning downtime into prime time.
1. Just because people are busy doesn’t mean they’re productive.
It’s common to confuse activity with accomplishment. As you look out your office window and see bodies in motion and little or no passivity it’s easy to be seduced into believing your people are being productive. However, it’s dangerous to mistake motion for progress. What’s more important than people “doing a lot” is whether or not they’re doing the most important things; what matters most in the quest to create results. Unless you increase structure in your department and replace downtime with meaningful, daily activities you’ll continue to be duped by motion and fall short of desired results.
2. Human beings develop to their potential in highly structured environments.
Consider a great actor, musician, or athlete and answer this: do you believe they became great by winging it every day; by shooting from the hip or simply because they made their days up as they went along? Of course not, and successful business people are no different. As a leader it’s your job to create increased structure for your team and to hold them accountable for accomplishing the daily and weekly tasks you’ve set forth as non-negotiable job requirements.
3. Declare war on white space.
White space on your people’s calendar indicates the following:
A. You haven’t created clear enough expectations for daily activities, or that space would be accounted for by the high return activities you’ve outlined.
B. White space indicates unmanaged time and unmanaged time tends to flow to the trivial and will surrender to every emergency. In other words, team members wind up spending major time on minor things and getting caught up in every bit of gossip or drama that arises during the day. This can only happen when you don’t create the aforementioned structured daily framework to keep them in productive motion throughout the day.
4. The secret to success for any individual lies in their daily routine.
Author John Maxwell has rightly written that you can watch someone’s daily routine for a period of time and then accurately predict their future. This is because the activities sown on a daily basis determine the quality and quantity of one’s harvest. As a leader, what is the quality of your daily routine? Could it serve as a training film for new managers? Is it consistently spot on or only when you find yourself up against a wall or during the final five days of the month? Frankly, if your daily routine wouldn’t turn any heads, you don’t have the credibility to help structure someone else’s. Get your own act together first, then help team members develop powerful daily routines and hold them accountable for living them out.
5. You and your people should finish your days before you start them.
This sage advice from the late Jim Rohn is both simple and powerful. It means you plan tomorrow before you go home tonight so you can walk into the dealership each morning with a pre-planned, highly structured day. Of course emergencies may arise during the day to get you off track, but at least you’ll have a plan to get back to if you actually start the day with one in the first place.
6. Schedule priorities, don’t prioritize your schedule.
You’ll have limited success if you take the most productive tasks in your daily routine and try to squeeze them into the day. Instead, schedule your priorities and work the day around them. As Peter Drucker said, “Do first things first and last things not at all.” Or, in the words of the late Stephen Covey, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
7. Schedule weekly training themes for your team.
This added structure to each team member’s daily routine allows them to convert down time into practice time that will pay off when they’re in front of a customer. Unfortunately, many salespeople simply wait for another customer during their downtime rather than upgrade their skills so that they’ll be better able to sell the customer when he or she arrives. Weekly training themes can include but are not limited to the following:
A. A product of the week. You can discuss this product at your weekly training meeting and then assign “X” number of practice presentations during the week. At the beginning of the next meeting choose one or two team members at random to perform the presentation. This accountability and positive peer pressure to perform will encourage them to execute the practice you’ve outlined for them. This conversion of downtime into prime time keeps people sharp, rather than passive, in-between customers.
B. A closing technique of the week, an objection of the week, or in the service department an upsell of the week using the same guidelines presented in the prior point.
C. Assign online training topics they must complete during the course of the week. If you have our online training system, the Anderson Training Vault, you’ll have hundreds of DVD programs and short coaching clips to select from and assign to help your people stay focused and productive during their downtime. You’ll also be able to run the accountability reports to ensure they completed what you assigned them.
Consider the downtime of your average team member each day. Is it at least an hour, maybe much more? Now multiply it by the total number of team members and then by the days in each month. Depending on the size of your team you may find that you have hundreds of hours of unmanaged downtime monthly in your department. What a goldmine of opportunity if you’ll put down your coffee for a moment and do your job; create the daily structured activities necessary for each of your team members to reach their fullest potential and then hold them accountable for their execution.