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This is especially true for managers with no involvement in the hiring decision.
The dealer himself took on the challenge of providing them his time and efforts before throwing the towel in. His strategy for those bottom twenty percent: before they were simply cut loose, the dealer instructed management to “Let me have them first.”
Be the leader that changes the score, not just one who keeps it.
For more leadership tips, contact us for details. Get your bottom 20% up-to-speed with the newly launched 90-Day Boot Camp for sales and service teams. It's the training they need, uniquely delivered, with accountability built-in!
Visit our website for more information, or call 888-300-4629.
The Mar-Kee Group
Structure and accountability allows an organization, as well as its employees to thrive. Managers have a huge responsibility to make volume and gross a priority, but must not ever “widen the plate” for anyone or for any reason.
Take a look at your current standards, policies and procedures. Pay close attention to dress codes, arrival times and conduct expectations.
It is our hope that after your examination, you have much about which to feel proud in regard to structure and accountability. We hope that it is the exception, as opposed to the rule, where you might on occasion get relaxed and “widen the plate.”
Apply Mr. Scolinos’s wisdom (below), and in the end you will take more of your employees to places they didn’t think they could go, and as a “parent,” you have raised adults, not children. Take to heart the advice from this very wise coach.
In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention.
While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”
Who the hell is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter, I was just happy to be there.
I woke early the next morning and found myself alone in the massive convention hall, reviewing my notes from the day before: pitching mechanics, hitting philosophy, team practice drills. All technical and typical — important stuff for a young coach, and I was in Heaven.
At the end of the morning session, certain that I had accurately scouted the group dynamic and that my seat would again be waiting for me after lunch, I allowed myself a few extra minutes to sit down and enjoy an overpriced sandwich in one of the hotel restaurants. But when I returned to the convention hall thirty minutes before the lunch break ended, not only was my seat not available, barely any seats were available!
I managed to find one between two high school coaches, both proudly adorned in their respective team caps and jackets. Disappointed in myself for losing my seat up front, I wondered what had pried all these coaches from their barstools. I found the clinic schedule in my bag: “1 PM John Scolinos, Cal Poly Pamona.” It was the man whose name I had heard buzzing around the lobby two days earlier. Could he be the reason that all 4,000 coaches had returned, early, to the convention hall? Wow, I thought, this guy must really be good.
I had no idea.
In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.
Seriously, I wondered, who in the hell is this guy?
After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.
Then, finally …
“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”
Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer.
“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”
Another long pause.
“Seventeen inches?” Came a guess from another reluctant coach.
“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”
“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.
“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”
“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.
“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”
“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?”
“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.
“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.'”
” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him, do we widen home plate?
The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”
Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.
“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”
Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross.
“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”
I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.
“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”
With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.
“… dark days ahead.”
Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.
His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players — no matter how good they are — your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.”
He was, indeed, worth the airfare.
The Mar-Kee Group
The Mar-Kee Group is proud to celebrate 20 years of outstanding Sales, Service, and Management Training.
Many times, salespeople contact potential customers through email and then wait to get a response, if they ever get one at all. Though email is a convenient and important tool for businesses, the best way to develop and maintain customer relations is through brief, well thought out conversations on the phone.
Phone calls show customers you care and helps them connect on a more personal level. Taking the time to make these scheduled calls will go a long way in ensuring you will be on the customer’s radar when the time comes for another purchase.
There are many good reasons to contact customers throughout the year. These contacts can be made in a variety of ways—through phone calls, email and of course texting. Should you have a prospect that is in the decision making process, the phone call and text are by far the best method of communicating.
But having a plan before you call is just as important as the call itself. Your salespeople should be strategic and know what they are going to say prior to the call. Whether it is a check-up call, service call, or to answer questions the customer may have, knowing how to address issues or concerns is crucial. Make sure you have a planned response when leaving a voicemail too.
In today’s technology age, potential customers do their research first on the internet before going to the dealership. In most cases, they will call first to ask about a vehicle they have seen on the internet and obtain more details before stopping in to see it firsthand.
This is where having phone expertise is key. Addressing a customer’s questions and alleviating any possible concerns they may have (i.e. the mileage is too high or the model is older than they were looking for) is an important step to holding on to a potential sale.
Salespeople need to have a planned response to a question or concern before the call. For example, if an interested buyer was calling about a pre-owned vehicle you had on the lot and the miles on the vehicle made them uncomfortable, a good response to their objection would be:
“Well I appreciate your concern, but you may be pleased to know that our dealer’s pricing philosophy is to price every vehicle according to its precise mileage and condition. For example, if the miles were lower, this vehicle would certainly be priced higher. If you are more comfortable investing more to one with lower miles, I can investigate and see what other vehicles we have similar to this one and we’ll go from there. What I do recommend, since this one interested you, is to come see and maybe drive it, and in the meantime I’ll be looking into other options for you. What would be a good appointment time for you?”
Also, by providing them more options with lower miles, or whatever their preference may be, you are telling them you understand their needs and want to help them find the best car, RV or boat for them.
Therefore don’t volunteer too much information right away. Offer to show them the product in person and then give them the full details. A prospect seeing a vehicle, boat or RV in person will allow you to greatly increase the probability of closing the deal. The ability to see, touch, and drive it firsthand helps the customer imagine themselves owning it.
Another question that troubles some salespeople while on the phone, is when a customer asks if this is the best price, or says you have to work more on the price. Sometimes this is simply a test, they’re just doing their job and want assurance they don’t spend more than they absolutely have to.
One good response could be “We may have a little room, but the best thing you can do is come in to get a closer look, drive it, and let’s make certain it’s the right vehicle. If it is, then we will work hard to get you a fair proposal. When is a good time for you to come in?”
Many times, people will call in about a vehicle they are interested in, but exclude the fact they also have a vehicle they may want to trade in. By asking if they do, and that you are motivated to help them get the most money out of their trade, you are establishing trust and confidence in your service. People can be suspicious of dealerships because of the perception that the dealership is only in it for themselves. By assuring a potential customer you are looking out for their best interest and want to give them the best deal you can offer, it shows the customer you care about their needs and concerns.
You can also create some urgency when you express that their timing is perfect. Letting them know that your dealership needs pre-owned inventory more than ever and this will have a possible impact on the purchase price they receive.
The Mar-Kee Group offers many video tutorials to help salespeople make the most out of phone calls and other important sales topics. To watch a demo video on Ultimate Phone Expertise, click here.
The Mar-Kee Group offers comprehensive sales training programs for both automotive, boat and RV. Find out how our training can help your dealership!
The Mar-Kee Group
The Mar-Kee Group is proud to celebrate 20 years of outstanding Sales, Service, and Management Training.
Fact: When all of your variable staff embraces and lives out this strategy every day, well, there is just "no stopping that freight train". In fact, it’s a force so strong that when any customer continues to call, email or visit other dealerships, the “theory of contrast” is very much in play.
We simply need to make sure that all on the team, including managers, never lose the spirit nor their enthusiasm due to what things look like on the surface. You may have a level of comfort with all on the team giving every guest their best, but I do recommend you assess whether it is done 100% of the time by 100% of the staff.
You, as a dealer or manager can drive this concept into your culture like a wedge. By doing so, you will close more first time guests, create future return traffic like you have never experienced before (with excellent follow-up), and will (of course) create more front and back gross in the process. Period. End of story (well, actually I’m not quite through!).
I am certainly empathetic to the challenges and frustrations that salespeople and managers routinely encounter. They are constantly trying to work through credit-challenged customers, negative equity scenarios, unrealistic and sometimes rude customers, and of course all else that they face every day. Yet if I am not mistaken, that is everyday life in the car business, and part of why it can pay so well!
Another reality is salespeople are more prone to stay pro-active in their follow-up efforts when they know they have performed well and made a fantastic impression on the showroom guest.
Face it…the dealership that allows salespeople and managers the opportunity to provide for their families deserves nothing less than the employees very best efforts every time, no exceptions. When a customer gives them the chance to structure a deal, or simply needs preliminary information while in their research phase, salespeople should focus on providing thorough, courteous and professional treatment…100% of the time. When this is the case, this is the store that takes most customers further down the road to the sale than the average or less-committed employee takes that same customer.
This means: No longer can a salesperson go to the desk trying to sell the manager on the reasons to cut the visit short. Nor can we have managers expressing with body language and/or with word, that the salesperson has been foolish in spending so much time with a non-(today) buyer. We are investing time and effort, not sacrificing it.
Remember, the less apt they are to close now, the more motivation we should have to give it our absolute all! Every customer deserves:
• Effective counseling and interviewing prior to selection, minimally prior to desking the deal
• Impressive Feature/Benefit Walk-around presentations…like no one else can or will
• Effective test drives (20-30 minutes and making it “work” for the cause)
• Consistent trade walks (with the customer present) prior to discussing figures (potentially earning some flexibility on what the customer will be willing to accept for their trade)
• Service “Value” Walk prior to discussing figures (sell the value of the dealership, it matters). Do this even if figures are not being discussed during a particular visit
• A proper and timely T.O. with every customer
• Quality and timely follow-up, not just for the warmest of opportunities
Someone (the dealer) has paid money for every guest that calls, emails and enters our environment. If you didn’t pay it, you shouldn’t get to take shortcuts. The 70-80% of customers who leave without buying (this time) should leave thinking “Wow, when I get closer to actually buying, I want to go back there!”
In our business, we don’t sell a high percentage of those who initially call or come in, but always remember that the dealership’s image is always on the line and we need to be constantly earning the return visits, as well as all of the profit that is possible on the sales that we do make.
At the end of each day, every salesperson and manager should take pride in their contribution of 100/100/100%. This is a huge determining factor in their long term success, as well as that of their employer.
Below is a good flyer to post in the conference room:
Thank you and remember… I invite your call should you desire a chat.
The Mar-Kee Group
How to handle trade-in appraisal requests via phone or email
Sales teams are finding themselves at a considerable disadvantage when being asked to provide trade-in offers on the phone and through email. We all know it is best to have the customer in front of us in a more controlled environment. Since shoppers are looking for everything to be quick and easy, it could be counter-productive to take the position of not accommodating consumers with the answers they seek.
Goals to strive for:
1. Be accommodating and non-evasive in responding
2. Give a reason to come in for the number (see script)
3. Create urgency for the buyer to come in for the number
4. Guard against strictly loading a competitor’s guns
5. Express the dealership’s extreme need for the customer’s vehicle
6. Give credit to the appraisal tool, yet with the potential to improve on it (without guaranteeing it)
Below, is a sample of a work track that may improve the results in getting the customer to the dealership. It is likely you have a few on the team that would love suggestions on how to do a better job handling these scenarios.
“Can you give me a number on what your dealership will give me for my trade?”
“We’d be happy to. We have access to a fantastic online trade appraisal tool, and it’s right there on our website. Using this tool allows us to provide you an excellent idea of where you stand regarding your trade.
“Here’s some more good news. Our experience with this customer trade appraisal tool is that it’s spot on regarding a fair, actually aggressive bid on your vehicle. However, there is one issue we at [dealership] have with it. It does not take into consideration our dealership’s current and extreme need for local vehicles, especially when they have service records, or at least some customer story behind it.
“We have actually seen the tool come up with very strong numbers, yet when we get the chance to look at the vehicle, we have put anywhere from an additional $1,000 to $1,500 (pick your numbers, or generalize i.e. “a good bit more”). We just ask for the opportunity to look more closely at your vehicle and, of course, take it for a brief road test. Doing this will most likely result in an even more aggressive purchase bid for you.
“I'd like to offer you 2 choices and you simply let me know which approach you are most comfortable with. We can utilize the online appraisal tool in order to get a preliminary number to work with, or what most people have been pleased with is option number 2. We cut to the chase and let [dealership] see the vehicle and get really aggressive on a purchase bid as early as today. Which option would you like to proceed with?"
Minimally, maybe more prospects will look at the number provided and be motivated to come into the dealership. Our mission is to be accommodating and non-evasive while still controlling the deal and the gross to some extent.
For more advice and training on automotive sales, take a look at our eAutotraining resources at The Mar-Kee Group website.
The Mar-Kee Group
Pick a number and live it every day, with every deal. The target could be a volume number, gross number or both. Sure, you will have other targets such as CSI or occasional targets set by the manufacturer for incentive purposes, but I’m talking about a number that simplifies your expectations and your agreement with all on the team.
You may very well be thinking, we already do this. Let me share what the difference is. Say that your volume number is 100 new vehicles and 100 pre-owned vehicles. No longer will it be a "hope" number, an aspiration, or a something you expect all to simply work hard and long hours to achieve.
Things that once may have been tolerated or fell into the "let it slide for now” category, well, not anymore.
As Dave Anderson wrote, we need to build a culture of accountability, and this includes things that may have been viewed as an annoyance, yet no one felt bad about it, nor were they called on it. What gets tolerated, get repeated!
A few things that should stick out like a sore thumb & once weren’t as big of a deal:
Think if every salesperson had a realistic yet lofty goal, and they also adopted this same mentality regarding their individual business. Keep it simple… Set your demands! Live the number!
RELATED: Dealers & Managers: Fire LESS — Look in the Mirror MORE
Richard Keeney, Co-Founder
The Mar-Kee Group
The Mar-Kee Group is the leading provider of Automotive, Boat & RV Sales, Service & Management Training Solutions.
I believe the old school way of marketing is the best way to create trust and loyalty. The result is repeat and referral business that pays big dividends for the long haul. The current generation coming into workforce were born with an electronic device in their hand, may need a bit more convincing of the impact of personalization.
Hopefully you are already doing this to some degree, yet imagine every salesperson hand writing 10 cards and making 10 customer and/or prospect calls every day, Monday through Friday. Duh, some may say, can’t you come up with something earth shattering, this is so basic?
Success, individually and collectively, isn’t all that complicated.
I’m sure you already spend a great deal of money on CRM tools and human resources for sales support. However, as wonderful as today’s technology is, it can come with a little collateral damage as well. Many salespeople lean on it solely to trigger future activity, and lose site of the personalized follow-up. Consider allocating some of the marketing budget for cards, envelopes and postage.
Just so you know, The Mar-Kee Group practices what we preach. Our office sends out dozens of blue ink hand-written cards every day.
This isn’t about asking someone to buy anything. This is about touching people to convey that they are important to you, and not just viewed as a future transaction. If all people hear from a salesperson or dealership is the “special opportunity to save big” email messages, that’s not massaging relationships very well.
If you need more traffic and business right now, and had 50 - 100 cards going out every Monday through Friday over the last couple of years, your current reality might be more attractive.
Why don’t more salespeople do the personalized calls and cards every day? Here are some possibilities:
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