One Builds and One Demolishes

One of the most popular things I do in helping dealerships grow is through what I call the Total Dealership Inspection and Analysis. This one to two-day event (depending upon the size of the store) unveils a multitude of profit and cost containment areas for improvement. It inspects; current processes (including all customer touch points), BDC capabilities and/or development, website analysis, HR, employee aptitude and offers up improvement suggestions which otherwise are generally overlooked. Key strategies and problems are identified by interviewing most of the dealership’s team members. The theme here is “you don’t know what you don’t know” and to have an outside experienced eye examining the business provides new and refreshing business enhancements.

These interviews provide an immense amount of facts, processes and the identification of a strategic plan towards the improvement of; various profit enhancers, problem identification and resolution ideas, sales and service training needs, management and individual employee assessment, leadership assets and liabilities, enhanced processes and procedure suggestions as well as cost containment ideas. Additionally, a huge benefit through this process is I have the opportunity to encourage, mentor and provide leadership ideas to team members leaving them more engaged. This subsequently unveils a strategic process road map for the dealer to give consideration to regarding implementation.


Main Benefits: Precise reporting and identification of areas for improvement and an implementation plan for increased profit, processes, team member development, cost analysis/containment, lower attrition through stronger team synergy and business growth.

Recently, I performed this engagement with two different stores in two different states and I want to point out the difference in the two to see if you can more clearly understand what it is you have to do to truly make a difference in growing your store and your team members.

Before I begin this process with a store, I hold a short managers’ meeting to unveil everything we are about to do. Main Point: To obtain buy-in and commitment for these managers to ensure the processes are fulfilled.

On the surface, both of these stores understood the importance in having good business processes in order to more effectively operate their dealerships. They both understood that because of the market, if they were to thrive not just survive, they simply had to adopt new ways of doing business that added differential in the way they did business vs. the way their competitor dealerships did business.  In fact, both stores told me that consumers could purchase the identical product they each sold at over 7 to 9 competitor dealerships within a 45-minute drive. Therefore, we all agreed that it would be wise to differentiate or make their stores stand out as to attract more customers and employees by giving them something different and better. Sure, but how do we do it? After discussions revolving around how this process worked and the benefits to be derived, both stores invited us in to perform the analysis.

After the analysis was complete in both stores and recommendations were made, I was invited back to put on a sales and management workshop. In the first store, we had 15 sales people and 5 managers split into two different classes, morning and afternoon so we had coverage on the floor.  Everyone was engaged and on point with the pre-agreed upon curriculum material. There were great questions, great roll playing, and great enthusiasm for the newfound business elements that just make perfect sense. Everyone was eager to learn more and to begin utilizing the techniques/processes because they could clearly see how these business practices were going to give everyone a raise in pay. The managers from the first store actually said they were very impressed with the sales team and the maturity in which they learned the material. Similarly, the sales team mentioned that they were really impressed with the questions, answers and synergy submitted by the managerial team. Wow, we have connection going here. You see, the managers and sales professionals were all on equal turf in the workshop and working as a team by embracing new techniques they know will make themselves, each other and the store better and that is a good feeling of hope because they are learning new material together as a team. And, everyone had some fun along the way.

Now, the first day of the second store’s workshop rolls around and we have 16 sales people and 5 managers signed up, again split in a morning and afternoon session. The enthusiasm is the same, the questions are similar, roll playing and eagerness are all the same except for one huge thing. The managers at the last minute decided not to attend either of the sessions. When I would look out to the tower it was the same old thing; look busy even though you’re not and perhaps a little “I know everything anyway why have someone teach me something that I know anyway?” The GM made a fatal mistake by not requiring that the managers attend. Hum, see something wrong here? You bet you do.

Here is the way the story unfolds. The first store implemented and accepted the responsibility of fulfilling everything to the tee and as a consequence began converting opportunities into sales, closing percentages went up because they knew how to communicate to customers in new ways not explored before, the team worked as a team enjoying the new processes, follow-up calls now meant receiving appointments for a re-visit, the internet department now had new ground upon which to stand on and the improvements took hold. Great first month, better second month and the improvements keep coming because this store built these new processes into their new store “culture.” Meaning; this is the new way we are approaching business which allows us flexibility and adaptability for any market climate. One team looking in the same direction. Word got out that there was an enhanced place to work too.  Candidates for positions began clamoring for jobs within six months.

The second store’s sales people were very excited for about three weeks and then reverted back to doing whatever they felt like. Why? Because there was not one manager who could mentor the team much less even speak on or answer questions regarding the process involving these new techniques. Four sales people left after three months and business is just about where it was. The managers are continuing to berate sales people into submission and killing their spirits.

There is a vast difference between manipulating and influencing others. Manipulation deliberately uses and abuses other people to act out your own intentions. Influence, on the other hand, requires buy-in on the part of the person being influenced and a willingness on their part to support your goals. You cannot influence another without that buy-in taking place. People respect other people who have the power to positively influence others and get things done. Manipulation is the dark side of management. When you manipulate others, you give away any chance of gaining respect from others. It doesn’t matter whether the manipulation is overt or covert; manipulation has no role in a true managerial skill set…influence does. A simple review of Dale Carnegie’s age old best-selling book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” expands on this.

Process implementation of “anything” is only as good as the culture the managerial ‘discipline’ of the store makes it. So many managers believe they are “doing all the right things” by belonging to the right clubs, associating with the right leaders in the community, attending highly visible community functions, or belonging to the right professional associations. That’s just the persona. It’s not the person. Unfortunately, there are way too many managers with “manufactured” images rather than real ones. People can tell the difference. When you peel off the veneer, you often find a different person hiding behind the “professional” image. Sometimes the real person underneath isn’t a very nice person. Leaders who command the greatest respect are those who are “themselves” 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are no Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde surprises with a real person. You will command a deeper level of respect when you let your human-ness show. It demonstrates to others that you are not afraid to let your true colors show and your vulnerability is open to all.

Respect is something you must earn. You cannot demand it from anyone. The only person you can demand respect from is yourself. Demand that you become a better manager to the individuals you are charged with developing. When you respect yourself and others, people will respect you in return. Examine how your actions can enhance your ability to influence others and earn their respect, not just demand it. A title does not automatically give you respect. Also, if you expect subordinates to be accountable you must exhibit accountability yourself and inject it into your dealership’s culture as well.

Speaking of accountability, one of the biggest challenges I see in our industry is obtaining accurate information regarding up traffic, effective and consistent follow-up and identifying owners in a timely fashion as they visit to name a few. Why?  Feel free to disagree with me but most stores tell me it is because the sales consultants do not take the time to enter the guest information.  Whether it is because they are lazy, don’t want to admit a guest left without purchasing (and experiencing the berating of a manager), lost the guest information or simply forgot. We live in a data-driven world and as a manager, data should be your number one priority for information in order to grow the store. Imagine this for a moment, I recently discovered a company who has developed a super cool device that acts as a receptionist, sales manager and “up-counter” all in one and can connect this data to your existing CRM. It will tell you who they are when onsite and identify where all guests and employees are at all times while on campus. Plus, they allow a dealership to “push” ads to visiting guests like “Thanks for visiting with us today Mr. Johnson, we want to let you know we are having a 10% discount in accessories and tires today” or text messages like, “Mr. Johnson, your car will be ready in service for pick up in 5 minutes.” To make it even sweeter, it allows a dealership to send texts and emails to guests not only during visits but also as a follow-up after they leave and even sell ads to surrounding business like Starbucks for a discount on a cup of coffee while the guests are waiting in your service lounge. Wow, technology is really coming along to enable managers to do their job even better.

As a leader, the choice is to either stretch yourself towards new horizons or stay put. Staying put is not the way of a real leader. If you would like to receive more information on developing a process culture or the latest technology component shoot me an email requesting either and I will promise to get it out to you. Start your day tomorrow with the thought that you can and will develop an enhanced dealership culture for yourself, your people and the dealership. You will be glad you did.