By Neil Pascale
American Suzuki Motor Corp. has worked with an independent company to provide a training program that redefines the initial sales process.
Shifting the salesperson’s role from “pitcher” to “listener” in the moments after the customer greeting is just one of the elements behind The Educational Program, a training course Suzuki has developed in conjunction with the Glenn Roller Institute.
The program, which is part of the manufacturer’s co-op plan this year, is available to all Suzuki dealership personnel regardless of other brands carried.
Officials from five dealerships who have completed the training course and have spent more than a month using its concepts on the showroom floor all gave Powersports Business positive reviews of it.
Bob Mueller, sales development manager for American Suzuki Motor Corp., says the program takes the salesperson to a higher level of understanding of the sales process and teaches a system that raises sales efficiency (average amount of time and effort it takes to close a sale).
Among the topics presented in the program:
• How a salesperson can discover what is most important to the customer and their financial parameters in less than 61?2 minutes;
• Why salespeople feel the need to talk so much and if this really helps reach the desired end result;
• Fifty different ways to help move toward closing a sale;
• A customer’s buying signs and what to do when a salesperson sees them.
Why a new sales program?
Mueller has seen more sales training programs than he would like to remember. He says the reason Suzuki is putting its co-op funding behind this one is the integrity it brings to the sales process.
The recently unveiled program not only preaches sales process basics, but also the importance of understanding the customer and building their trust quickly. That can mean the first few minutes of a customer exchange can be radically different for salespeople, who rather than launch into an orchestrated pitch spend that time asking questions and delving into customer wants and needs.
The difference, Mueller explains, is the salesperson’s intent.
“If my agenda is to help you own something today, that’s a much different approach than if my agenda is to sell you something today,” Mueller said.
“When the intent is to help somebody achieve ownership, (the salespeople) are much more likely to be hearing what the customer is saying rather than thinking about how they are going to manipulate them into the next step in the sales process. By doing this, you establish trust, that customer feels like you want to help them, which you do, and is more likely then to open up with what their concerns are.
“Once trust is established, then things happen very quickly through the rest of sales process,” Mueller said. “If the customer feels he has to be guarded, which a manipulative salesperson can easily make that customer feel, then it’s going to make the sales process longer, and it’s going to be more frustrating for both the salesperson and to the customer.”
The entire process, says Brian Kempke of Glenn Curtiss Motorsports, can mean more time spent on the front end of the sale and less on the back end.
“I would say it helped us 100 percent, especially for my salesman that did it,” said Kempke, a part owner of the Suzuki/Yamaha dealership in West Bend, Wis. Kempke took the course late last year along with one of his sales staff who had been with the dealership for about a year.
“It was like a total transition for him,” Kempke said of the training, which is derived from Glenn Roller’s book, “The Seven Evolutionary Levels to Profound Selling.” “He was having a hard time getting from the write up to actually closing the customer and part of the reason was because he didn’t ask enough questions in the beginning, during the whole meet-and-greet time. Well after reading Glenn Roller’s book, he realized how important that interview is in the beginning. So he started slowing down the process, asking the right questions and then the close would only take 5 minutes.”
Kempke says that salesperson’s closing ratio has increased from 15 percent to approximately 25 percent. “It was a big jump,” he said. “It was significant enough that my partner said, ‘Man, what’s going on?’”
Kempke and his staff took the sales training at about the same time as Rob Allen and his sales staff did. Allen is the sales manager for Freedom Powersports, a Suzuki/Polaris/Piaggio dealership in Kennesaw, Ga.
Allen and his staff of four — plus a parts person — would read two chapters of the book and then have a staff meeting to discuss it.
“I probably read 12-15 sales books during the years,” Allen said, “and I’ve never read something close to as good as Glenn Roller’s book. As far as powersports, it hit everything right on a ‘T.’”
Allen says his staff more than doubled their anticipated new unit sales in the two months following the sales training program. While Allen wouldn’t equate the store’s success solely to the new training program, he did say it played a big part.
“It was a just different approach that people don’t usually do,” he said. “That’s what I liked about it so much.”
Greg Crane of Roseville Cycle Center, Roseville, Calif., says he has definitively seen an increase in the dealership’s closing ratio after his sales staff took the program.
Zach Rissler, one of the sales managers at Fay Myers Motorcycle World in Denver, hasn’t seen anything in terms of concrete figures in wake of his five sales staff completing the training course, but something perhaps just as valuable.
“You know training for sales guys, nobody really likes to do,” Rissler said. “But I had three of them tell me it was a really good piece, and they actually enjoyed it, which I was thinking, ‘They didn’t have to tell me that.’”