By Phil Spagnoli, Regional Sales Director, Elead
Many dealers reduced the size of their sales teams in 2020, but as things return to normal, they’ll once again be on the hunt for new talent. Hiring and retaining good salespeople has always been a challenge, even in the best of times.
Before making any commitments, take this opportunity to rethink your approach to hiring and retention. New times may require new measures.
So, how can you build back a winning sales team?
Change Comp Plans
Some dealers have resisted this for years, but I think we now realize the traditional sales comp plan is less than ideal. First, some pay plans are so convoluted you need an accountant to figure it out. Second, not many people can afford to work for a tiny draw while they wait for commissions. Third, the gross you get these days has little to do with a salesperson’s skills, so why pay them on that basis?
The other important question to ask is, do you really need to hire experienced car salespeople? Employees with experience cost more and may bring bad habits. Hiring based on character and building your team from scratch may require more up-front time, but will yield better results.
Offer Work-Life Balance
Traditionally, success in the car business is achieved through long hours. The attitude has been the more you work, the more you make. But today’s younger generations are not motivated purely by money – they also place value on their time. To attract the best talent, and especially if you want to attract more women into this business, you need to offer work-life balance. Create part-time positions and allow full-time employees to have more flexibility in the hours they work. Twelve-hour days, six days a week won’t fly with most job prospects these days.
Review Your Sales Process
Every dealership has its own road to the sale but with fewer prospects coming into the store, it might be worth asking: how relevant is this process? The vast majority of leads originate from the Internet and phone calls, so it may be time to re-think your process—especially the meet and greet and qualification steps.
To bring leads down funnel, it’s important that your people have phone, communication and writing skills. You may have hired a salesperson for his vibrant personality but if that doesn’t translate on the phone, into well-written emails or a killer video presentation, you’re going to lose leads.
When creating any new process, ask for and incorporate input from your team, so they have ownership of the process. It may take time and several tries to get it right.
All new employees need to know exactly what to expect, and what you expect of them. Hold daily meetings to discuss wins and challenges. Share data and make it clear how many phone calls lead to a conversation, and how many conversations it takes to book an appointment. Salespeople need to know they can’t wait for ups and expect to be successful.
To help keep your team motivated, use technology. Most CRMs have some form of a “motivator board” that shows salespeople where they rank on certain KPIs. It might be highest gross, number of sold vehicles, oldest age units sold, appointments set or closing ratios. To make things fun, pick a different KPI every week and award a small prize to the leader. A little friendly competition goes a long way.
Keep it Positive
When I worked at a dealership, the GM brought a couple of pies into our sales meetings. The biggest producer would get the biggest slice of pie, and so on down the line, until the lowest-producing salesperson was left with nothing but crumbs. This is NOT the type of positive reinforcement that keeps a sales team motivated.
Keep sales meetings positive and productive, and avoid personal bashing sessions. You can incorporate good-natured competitions and contests, but don’t humiliate the losers. Get creative with “wear your favorite sports jersey to work” day, or Casual day, or Hawaiian day. If people aren’t having fun when they come to work, they aren’t going to stick around.
Dealers have a unique opportunity in 2021 to build back a winning sales team with a fresh process and a new work culture. How will you rethink your approach to hiring and retention?
About the Author
Phil Spagnoli serves as Regional Sales Director for Elead. Phil has worked his entire career in the auto industry, including as Fixed Ops Director and Service Manager for a dealership in Washington State.