By Tiffany Peeler, VP of Sales and Operations, Proactive Dealer Solutions

The chip crisis will abate and your lot will be full of vehicles again. Yet, one can argue that the retail auto sales experience has changed forever. Consumers like completing more of the buying steps online. They want a fast, easy and convenient experience. They’re increasingly comfortable ordering a vehicle and waiting for it to arrive. Is your sales team equipped to handle this new normal?

Now is the time to push the pedal down on sales training. I’m not here to tell you what your new processes should look like (although a focus on lead response times, pricing transparency, and a great online-to-onsite customer experience is a good place to start), but rather to suggest a way to make new processes a permanent way of doing business: The ADKAR training method.

ADKAR is an acronym for the five outcomes employees need to achieve for a change to be successful: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement. It’s a solution used by many Fortune 500 companies when rolling out new material to employees.

When done properly, ADKAR is powerful because it first cultivates employee buy-in of new processes by explaining why they are needed and then the benefits to employees so they want to embrace change. You know how important this is if you’ve ever rolled out new training only to have employees regress back to what is familiar and comfortable after a few short weeks.

So, let’s dig into how the ADKAR method works. The first goal is Awareness. Employees need to be aware that change is needed to succeed in today’s market. This is where you gather research on how today’s consumers want to shop, identify consumer pain points, assess where your sales process is under-delivering, and outline how change will benefit employees and/or teams.

Next is Desire. Just because employees understand why a change should be made it doesn’t mean they want to change. You can foster desire by inviting influencers to be a part of the training process. These are the people in your dealership who are not at the management level but who naturally lead other employees. This may include your top-producing salesperson. Your top-producing BDC agent. Your best F&I representative. Bring these people into the discussion and incorporate their feedback into your new sales model. These leaders will show public support for the change because they’ve been a part of designing it and will connect with the people most affected by it to significantly improve buy-in.

The third goal is Knowledge. This is primarily about training and education. Provide knowledge that applies directly to each employee’s or team’s responsibilities. For example, if you’re introducing a new internet lead follow-up process your salespeople will need to focus on how to track their activities. If your change requires employees to master new skills, implement it gradually. Too much change packed into a week of intensive training can be frustrating and lead to resistance.

The fourth goal is Ability. Do your employees have the ability to do what you want them to do? Too often training takes place in a classroom with no practical application so employees feel lost when they’re back on the job. Ability is fostered in real-world situations. To bridge the gap between knowledge and ability, put influencers in charge of coaching employees or teams. These leaders can collect feedback from customer phone calls and online lead responses and bring potential challenges or roadblocks to your attention for fine-tuning.

The last goal is Reinforcement. You have to ensure employees don’t fall back on old habits. Celebrate success long after implementation to keep the momentum going. If people slip back into old habits, correct them in private and then double-down on coaching and encouragement. Once employees “win” with more customer conversations and sales, they’ll be proud of their accomplishments and want to keep going. In the meantime, continue to collect feedback and tweak processes as needed.

The ADKAR model is an excellent framework for changing your sales process. However, each milestone may require additional support from training professionals so be ready to seek help when needed. Change takes time but when you follow a proven model you’ll get real, lasting change instead of just spinning your wheels.

Author: Christine Corkran

Digital Dealer