Why have you made high salesman’s turnover such a high priority in your dealership?
Who really wins with high salesman? Certainly not the salesperson, the dealer or the customer. More importantly I feel that I’m solving two other industry issues: lower profit margins and high cost of generating new business. NADA statistics show it costs approximately $550-$650 per car sale in advertising. Both of those issues can be significantly improved with, what I believe is the biggest auto industry ill, retaining sales people.
As an industry, we have the most educated consumers talking to the least educated sales people. We better get on board for training sales people, but the only way the training sticks is if the salesman sticks.
What are you doing to keep sales people at your dealership?
I believe that you can’t train nice or desire. If I have someone who truly puts the customer first and has the desire to succeed, I feel that I should make them an effective and productive salesperson at my dealership. In addition to providing a positive work environment, helping a salesperson who is willing to work to make money is the core to keeping them for the long term.
How do you hire the right people?
At my dealership, Sansone Jr’s 66 Automall, any salesperson that is new to the industry spends 60 to 90 days training in my BDC. I use that as their “boot camp,” so to speak. During their BDC training they learn word tracks, the ins and outs of the CRM, and how to overcome objections. They are required to have over 100 customer interactions each day by making phone calls with manager supervision, which helps them learn that the phone is their friend.
This training helps identify the salesperson’s commitment level. Some sales people do not make it through the training, but the ones who do complete it, “graduate” with the tools to be a successful sales person.
This BDC boot camp training has proven very successful so far. My son, who just started in the business, spent 90 days in the BDC. Since his first month on the sales floor he has averaged 15 car sales per month. He’s a good example of sales people we should try to attract to the auto industry: 20-something, college educated who is comfortable with technology and using social media.
It’s been so successful that I’ve included more sales people. We have a gentleman who recently made a mid-life career change just “graduated” from our boot camp, and in his first month on the floor will sell over 20 cars. I’m now starting to make salesperson that is underperforming go back to the BDC for training to help improve their performances.
Besides effective training, what other tools do you provide to help your sales people become businesses within your business?
First, I developed a referral program, called EZ Referral Network, which is a tool that allows a salesperson to easily network to their friends and family, while the dealership tracks and monitors all activity. It has smart phone technology, replicating websites and pays via debit card.
Second, what successful business these days doesn’t have a website? I’ve integrated salespersons’ websites, called EZ Connect, with my dealership’s website. They include the dealership’s inventory, links to reviews, why buy message from the salesperson, videos created by the salesperson, links to social media, trackable 800 #s that ring to the salesperson’s cell phone, and contact forms.
So is every sales person on board with your approach?
Every salesperson has been told to build their business within my business, but I have provided the tools for them to do so. First is a referral program, called EZ Referral Network, which easily allows a salesperson to For EZ Referral Network, every sales person participates and understands the benefits. We’ve made it easy for them to ask and get referrals, so who wouldn’t want to participate? Right now we have 6200 referral agents (bird dogs) and have delivered about 920 cars in 3 years. That’s an average of 25 cars a month. Although the beginning took some time to ramp up, now we’re hitting about 35 car sales each month from the EZ Referral Network, and are continuing to grow.
There is no downside for the sales people through this program. The referrals they get via this program have a higher closing rate (35% of every LEAD is closed) plus a 35% higher gross, all of which leads to higher CSI ratings. The sales people get more customers, and earn more money, which of course is all beneficial to me, the dealer.
For the EZ Connect websites, this is optional. We started with the “hand raisers” in the sales team, but have expanded as more sales people see the value. Now we have 12 out of 20 sales people participating. Since the sales people who get EZ Connect websites financially contribute to the costs, I do not force everyone to participate.
Who can refer customers to you?
Anyone can refer customers to us via the EZ Referral Network. We have a referral agent who earned $6000 in referral fees last year! I call that a “professional bird dog” and we’re looking to attract more people like that. In addition our employees in other departments such as service advisors, accounting and even the lot guys can refer customers to the sales department via EZ Referral Network. Since service advisors meet with the most customers, they often have the most opportunities.
Getting back to the EZ Connect websites, don’t many sales people already have their own websites?
Yes, these days many sales people have their own websites. With the dealership integration approach that EZ Connect follows, I’d prefer to offer the salesmen websites that ties into my dealership. It’s a win-win for the sales person and my dealership.
How do the sales people promote their EZ Connect websites?
We encourage the salespeople to have catchy URLs. Some examples at my dealership are ps3autos.com, melissasellscars.com and gattagetacar.com. These URLs are added to their business cards. Also we teach them how to use social media to promote themselves as a business, if they don’t already know. Plus, we recently started giving them Facebook ads up to $200 each month.
Since we started, the EZ Connect websites account for 22% of my entire dealership’s website traffic. Combining my main dealership’s websites with the EZ Connect sites, my website visitors are up 77% compared to last year. That’s huge.
All of this sounds like a lot of money. Have you increased your marketing budgets?
No, in fact, I’ve simply reallocated money from my dealership’s marketing, Tier 3, and put it toward the salesperson’s, Tier 4 Marketing. During the past year I have analyzed every vendor we have to see what’s working and what’s not. Based on that analysis I restructured my budget so I’m not spending more money. I’m just spending it differently.
This seems great, but how are your sales?
I’m glad you asked that. The bottom line is for every dealer, it’s all about sales. In February we had a 50% increase in sales compared to February 2014. And in March, we should have a 40- 50% increase in sales compared to March 2014. I’m also seeing less salesperson turn over, and hope that continues to improve.