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Creating a Sales Culture in Fixed Ops!

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Every process in your dealership falls into one of two categories; it’s either administrative or revenue-generating. Granted, every job description of every service employee has a certain amount of administrative duties, but the majority of the processes they follow must be revenue-generating.

Rex Weaver says it like this (when talking about where to focus your training): “If your training revolves around processes that are administrative and not revenue-generating (like salesmanship), you need to re-shuffle your training schedules.” Weaver, service director of Mercedes Benz and Porsche of Lehigh Valley in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, goes on to say that ongoing, consistent training of your revenue-generating employees is one of the most profitable moves your dealership can make.

“If you aren’t spending time every day in salesmanship training for your advisors, then you have no idea what your ultimate potential can be,” Weaver concludes.

Well said. And speaking of training, most new and used car departments rally the team for sales training every day, yet many service managers I talk to have never had a service sales meeting. Oh, sure, they may have a monthly service meeting, but they rarely discuss sales goals and the selling skills needed by techs and advisors to hit the numbers. That’s got to change.

Your new and used car sales department is, by definition, a sales organization with a sales culture. Your service department must also, first and foremost, be a sales organization with a sales culture. Additionally, revenue-generating employees (advisors and technicians) must have revenue-production-based pay plans. That means no earning cap…the more they sell, the more they make. (Outdoorsmen and hunters understand this concept; “you eat what you kill.” Otherwise, you go hungry.) When your personnel sell lots of maintenance services, they should make lots of money. Passive order-takers deserve to starve.

You don’t bat an eye about offering a spiff to your new and used car sales team to sell vehicles that have been on the lot too long. Oftentimes, you have fun with it and offer a $250 bonus for the first car sold before 10:00 a.m., or something along those lines. Therefore, don’t be reluctant to offer a spiff to advisors for selling preventive maintenance services. Have fun with it. Pay $5.00 for each service sold and start a Century Club for those advisors that sell over 100 services a month. Give them a $100 bonus each month that they earn Century Club status. How about an additional $100 for the first advisor to hit 100 maintenance services for the month?

Advisors are not administrative-process-driven-paper-pushing-clerks….no, no, no. They are revenue-generating, production-based professional sales people!

You wouldn’t tolerate a car salesman who wouldn’t sell cars, right? Then why on earth would you tolerate a service advisor that won’t sell service?

There are only two things in life: knowing and doing. That said, let’s unpack this further. Training precedes knowing. Accountability precedes doing.

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but don’t expect your advisors to sell maintenance if they haven’t been trained in the art of selling. Selling skills, overcoming objections, and closing the deal are learned behaviors. You can’t send someone to training once and call them trained; sales training must be ongoing. Your service sales team must routinely practice, drill, and rehearse.

Countless business studies have shown that people do more and perform at a higher level when there is an accountability structure in place. Everyone’s production increases when they know you are watching. (Obviously, I don’t mean that you should stare a hole through them every minute of the day, but direct observation for a few minutes every day is good.) When an employee knows the boss is looking at their numbers, guess what? Their numbers go up.

The opposite is also true. According to Dave Anderson, some people complain about the money they don’t have from the work that they don’t do! They do just enough to get by. They could do more, but they just don’t want to. Heaven forbid that the employees learned this attitude from the boss! Basically, they have learned that no one above them cares, so why should they?

In closing, here are some characteristics of a healthy sales culture:

Clear Goals and Expectations. If nothing is your goal, you’re sure to get it—nothing. Training, Mentoring, and Coaching (not screaming, ranting, and cursing). Management by fear and intimidation is not leadership.

  • Practicing, Drilling, and Rehearsing. The greatest sports heroes and teams never stop training or improving. The world’s greatest musicians never stop practicing.
  • Marketing and Merchandising Tools. Equipping your service sales team with menus, multi-point inspection forms, tablets, videos, processes, and point-of-sale materials to help them close the sale.
  • Accountability Structure. Don’t overthink this. Decide your top three or four revenue-producing key performance indicators and monitor every tech and advisor every day.
  • Celebrate Milestones Publicly. Celebrate and reward your parts and service team when they knock it out of the park one month. Publicly award top achievers who meet their numbers.

Fixed ops is first and foremost a sales organization. Make it a priority in 2019. You can do this.

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Building Your Business by Building Your People!

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“You don’t build a business, you build people—then your people will build your business!” –Zig Ziglar

Wow! That’s powerful, isn’t it? Zig Ziglar was my hero for over 40 years. Even after his passing, his words still inspire me.

Business men and women always say people are their most valuable resource; yet all too often they don’t provide the resources and training necessary to grow their people.

To clarify, I’m talking about consistent, intentional, planned training. Practice, drill, and rehearse. Follow-up and accountability. It is so easy to get caught up in the daily grind of taking care of business that training gets pushed to the back burner.

When training does occur, it is often used as punishment. I’ve actually heard service managers tell their advisors, “Whoever doesn’t hit their numbers this month will have to go to training!” Oh brother! Don’t be the moron that says that.

Service departments can never stop training. The “knowledge retention” curve declines quickly, meaning people only remember 10% of what they learn. Therefore, constant reinforcement is necessary to turn knowledge into action, and to turn action into revenue.

Training is never ‘one and done.’ No one is ever completely trained—rather, it is an ongoing career-long process.

Some managers say building their people is a waste of time—they’ll just quit and move on. I have heard it said that it is far better to train your people and have them leave than it is to not train your people and have them stay!

Max Zanan wrote a wonderful little book called “Perfect Dealership” (perfectdealership.com). It is a quick read that’s packed with nuggets of practical advice on running a dealership.

Zanan wraps up the book with the Ten Commandments of Success. Three of them focus on personnel development:

  • „Remember, automotive retail is a career, not a temporary gig.

I believe techs get it, and they’ve made a huge investment in their tools to further their careers. I think the biggest challenge dealers have with techs is keeping them at your dealership. Working conditions, work load (read that as not enough work to do), production-based pay plans, and continuing training are all potential deal breakers. Lube techs and service advisors often view their jobs as less of a long-term career path. These folks are way too transient and often bounce from dealership to dealership. I am truly amazed at the turnover of advisors. If a guy is an order-taker at the Toyota store, then he’ll be an order-taker if he gets hired at the Ford dealership across town.

  • „ Focus on employee development that provides a path for career growth.

Remember what Zig says: build your people and they will build your business. Don’t get cynical because of a handful of jerks that don’t want to grow and get better. Most of your people are good people that want to do better; they aspire to more—more money, more responsibility, more productivity, more respect.

  • „Attract a better workforce by having better pay plans, schedules, and training.

I get the part about pay plans and training, but schedules? I’m motivated by money and I thrive on a production-based pay plan, but not everyone does. There is a growing segment of the workforce that values time off and flexible schedules. They aren’t lazy, they don’t want something for nothing, they just want it on their schedule. A three-day weekend and two Saturdays off per month might be a game-changer for these folks. As a manager, don’t have an attitude that says, “hey, I’m in charge and my people will work when I tell them to work.” At least look into what motivates your people and see if you can accommodate them. Maybe you could tie sales production to flex-time off. Going back to pay plans, I’ve seen dozens of advisors that believe the only way to get a raise is to move to a different dealership. Tragically, all too often, they’re right. Just when they start making good money, the pay plan changes and out the door they go.

Action Points:

„ You must be intentional with your training. Schedule a service sales meeting with all fixed ops personnel once a month. Make it a big deal where you feed everyone, celebrate victories, and reward production.

„ Train your service advisors on how to sell. I’d suggest 15-30 minutes per week. Consistently reinforce the message. Spend half the time reviewing last week’s training and the remainder on new material.

„ If you’re hung up on exactly what to do, then subscribe to a blog, podcast, or video series from Dave Anderson. Show one clip at each weekly training session. Give your team access to Dave’s library of free resources (learntolead.com)

„ You might also want to check out all the service advisor sales training resources provided by Jeff Cowan (automotiveservicetraining.com). Jeff has an amazing ability to simplify word tracks that advisors can use to close the sale.

„ Lastly, I work with a team of over 700 fixed ops trainers spread out across North America. Let me know if you’d like to connect with one of them for live in-dealership training.

If you build your people in 2019, if you invest in their development and growth, then they will build your fixed ops department into a vibrant revenue stream for your dealership.

Happy sales to you and Happy New Year!

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