It’s Time to Shift from Potential to Kinetic Thinking

By: Chuck Barker

Those of you who know me have heard me tell this story before and I feel it is so worth repeating because of our current marketplace. A few years ago, while I was working in Moscow, Russia, I visited a wealthy friend of mine in Frankfort, Germany. He was a very proud new owner of a Porsche 911 Turbo S. After gawking over the car for some time we decided to take it for a spin on the Autobahn because he couldn’t wait to show me the “potential” of his new ride. As we accelerated quickly getting on, we migrated over into the fast lane and he continued to accelerate until he found a “comfortable” cruising speed of around 135 miles an hour. Frankly, we were both holding our breath a bit realizing that we were really cooking down the road. He then said to me, “can you believe the power of this thing?” Then, all of a sudden, glancing in his rear-view mirror he said, “Oh my gosh are you kidding”? I turned around expecting to see German police lights but instead saw another vehicle bearing down on us in our lane a half-mile back flashing its lights for us to get out of its way. My friend shifted into the next lane to the right of us to give way to this rapidly approaching vehicle.

Here is the interesting point; As this vehicle flashed past us in a blur I happened to notice it was the same model Porsche we were driving but most likely doing somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 miles an hour. Hum, just when we thought we were utilizing the potential of this Porsche we were immediately humbled by someone else who was actually utilizing the car’s potential much greater than we were. We both had to laugh at ourselves for thinking we were the top dog out there. Humbling to say the least.

In my travels around this country, I see the same thing occurring in dealerships all the time. Some stores think they are utilizing their fullest potential while there are stores who are blowing right past their competitors by utilizing contemporary sales development and relationship-building training and methodologies. Many dealers are not challenging themselves to become better than they currently are. I have seen stores who essentially have a very similar sales team, management team, product line and desirable location yet are different in so many ways. In spite of these similarities being in place, some stores sell more units, double and/or triple the gross profits, as the other stores. They also have created a total team synergy platform from which to build upon and a pride themselves on a low attrition rate. Why is it that some stores drive along at 135 and almost identical profiled stores are doing 175? Where does the difference reside? Is it the “comfortable” speed they are attacking their business? We all need to be disruptors and break out of being complacent while pushing towards accelerated business growth.

Go out to your local mall and ask 20 people this question; “What are the first thoughts that come to your mind when I say car salesman”?  Their responses are a reflection of negative paradigms built up over the years from experiences they, a relative or friend had in dealing with a car salesman. The dealerships that are driving to new levels of achievement recognize this “perception” and are affecting a change in the way they do business with their customers by creating a paradigm shift. This shift can only be created when the dealer/principal and all team members are committed to raising employee’s level of professionalism and development to new heights of excellence. When this occurs, you will see dramatic productivity increases. Productivity increases occur as a result of leading-edge paradigm shifting training and result in increased output (units, gross, CSI) being achieved with the same level of effort currently required. No more work required just a better way of doing the same work. In other words, taking potential energies and turning them into kinetic energies.

Examples of productivity increases include:

  • Professional sales training priorities are put in place thus reducing the effort and time required to accomplish various tasks required to increase the store’s growth.
  • Reaching higher levels of skill set development leading to elevated work quality and growth in professionalism and profit increases.
  • Significantly reaching higher levels of employee satisfaction and motivation which leads to willing increased effort and increased teamwork and synergy.
  • Leadership, Leadership, Leadership!

When you stop learning new strategies you stop growing. When you stop growing you become a prisoner to high maintenance, problems, and irritations. You become stagnant and complacent. Once you adopt the decision to do things differently, you must consistently be disciplined with your accountability in seeing it through. It is okay to make adjustments along the way but in no way should you compromise your new approach to doing business.

Fact: Every dealer wants to grow the store. Yet few form the habit of doing the things successful dealers do on a regular basis. Recognize that there are two types of pain. There’s the short-term pain of disciplined accountability and the long-term pain of regretting to become accountable.

Good decision planning helps us begin the increased potential journey. Being accountable and consistent with new sales and service techniques and processes encourage and allow us to finish ahead. The pain of disciplined accountability is momentary but the payoff is monetary. Where does it all begin? At the top. The top-down strategy simply means that everyone in management has to be committed to discovering new business strategies, planning, implementation, managing and the leadership of a new sales, service and management approach. Let everyone know how valuable and essential to the store’s success he or she is because quite frankly it is all about your people.

We all need to acknowledge that the landscape of the automobile industry has and continues to change and if you want to be a part of the success stories regarding consistent store growth then you will just have to do things with enhanced professionalism and new training methodologies. What got you here will not keep you here. Corporate America, with a few exceptions, has been doing it this way for quite some time with remarkable results. Yet the automobile industry, for some unknown reason, feels this professional approach is not for us. If your current thinking is taking you towards a “business as usual” shortcut approach then be prepared for a diminishment of everything you have built thus far. We need entrepreneurship to be at its best in this industry right now.

One tremendously important factor in ‘growing to your potential’ is your investment in your employees. If people really are your greatest assets, isn’t it time to look at giving your people an opportunity to reach their full potential? Look at them as investments in your organization’s human capital and not just as an expense. Anyone can be competitive with their capital (such as advertising) but investing in the skillsets of your people develops a stronger store and is priceless. A very small percentage of your advertising budget redirected to growing and training your employees will deliver you much greater short-and long-term benefits than your advertising does. Plus, you are making your team members better and stronger. Advertising does not do that. Don’t wait until you have a flat tire to do something.

Now, more than ever are we required to be people of excellence. In an industry where mediocrity has been the norm for so many dealerships, consumers fed up with this approach are now expecting to develop relationships with professionally acting sales and service representatives. No half-hearted efforts anymore. Full throttle forward in the direction of a well-oiled professional machine. Excellence is doing the right things when no one is watching. Earn respect, sharpen skills, whatever you do – get better at it. Develop a spirit of total team excellence in your dealership and watch your potential begin to increase speed.

The most basic foundation for selling vehicles is building relationships with your customers. If you don’t believe this, stop reading this article and head back out to coerce and hammer on another fresh-up. However, if you’re one of the many dealerships to embrace this concept, behavioral profiling may be the missing link. Several years ago, customer relationship software was touted as the key to building and keeping relationships, and it’s taken most of that time for people to realize CRM software is only a 10% part of the solution. CRM is there to facilitate and help your people and processes. The missing link, however, was, and continues to be, the human element, and more importantly, modifiable interpersonal communication.

So, here’s the solution: train your sales staff to identify their own and each customer’s behavioral profile and adjust their message accordingly. If they can effectively, in a repeatable manner, practice active listening and message modification, everything will increase! Sales will go up because more leads will be converted to completed deals. Gross margins will increase because the focus of conversation will be moved off the topic of price and onto the relationship part of the business. And CSI will go through the roof because customers will be sold directly at the level they are comfortable buying.

Shed a few paradigms. It has become such a cliché for management to claim that ‘our employees are our greatest asset.’ Yet, much to the dismay of most employees, the effort management puts forth into developing this valuable ‘human capital’ continues to be seen as an expense and not as an investment. It’s time for you to turn this around. Start looking at your training programs as if they were capital investments. Develop your very own ‘in-house’ training solution and deliver it consistently twice a month using the new enhanced material. Don’t just settle for the ‘same old stuff,’ make it purposeful and clear. At a time when there are so many exciting new developments in enhanced skill and psychology training and with the market increasing, you’re going to need people at their full potential. Invest in your people and they will invest in themselves, in management and the dealership. You also have to then empower them to make decisions in order to get things done. I like to say if it doesn’t burn the store down, break the law, hurt anyone and we would be proud of it on the front page of our newspaper, then just make the decision. Empowerment, what a great word.

“There is no man living who isn’t capable of doing more than he thinks he can do.” —Henry Ford

As a leader, you must practice over and over what to say to describe where you’re taking your people. After you’ve found the right words, stick with them in emails, in sales and management meetings and in general conversations with the team. Solve the mystery of how we are going to grow the store by reinforcing and understanding that all the small process elements which when unified as one unit will take the store and its people to the next level of growth and success. Remember in the movie The Patriot when the Red Coats are coming down the road holding one of Mel Gibson’s sons hostage? Mel Gibson faces his two young scared sons and on bended knee hands each a rifle then gives them very quick instructions as to how to shoot the red coat officers coming down the lane; “remember, aim small, miss small.” He then looks them in the eyes and says one simple yet profound command to his sons…Steady. I love the way that single word conjures up all the multitude of lessons he could have given them yet he knew that this word steady said it all. So, I say to you, Steady.

Choose your road wisely and navigate well. We can no more afford to spend major time on minor things than we can to spend minor time on major things. Keep your eyes on the road especially when you are accelerating and striving to reach the full potential you are capable of. Need a map for reaching your dealership’s full potential? Send me an email and request ‘The Map.’ Keep both hands on the wheel!

Author: Chuck Barker

CHUCK BARKER is President & Founder of Impact Marketing & Consulting Group, located in Virginia and a Partner with Envision Enterprise Solutions, a Disruptive Technology Company. He has assisted Dealers & Corporations across the country in Sales & Service Development training programs, Management Leadership Workshops and Business Improvement/Analysis Consulting. He is a pioneer in BDC, CRM, Best Processes and Team Member Development since the early ‘90’s. Chuck has held Automobile, Corporate, and International Executive positions for over 27 years. Chuck has been a monthly author/contributor for Dealer Magazine for over 12 years. Email: