Why dealers need to restructure how their sales staff operates – September 4, 2006

After preaching a particular structured sales process for 35 years, I’ve dramatically altered my strategy.
A call center, which I established in St. Croix in 2003 and services a limited number of dealers, has made a number of things clear:

  • Customers are not being handled like dealers believe they’re being handled, at least by the consumer’s viewpoint;
  • A higher percentage of buyers really do want to buy, more than we have assumed;
  • The shopper, with more resources at their disposal, is more informed and prepared than in the past;
  • We have to change the way we structure the showroom in order to make sales to these more prepared and informed customers.
    The market is bigger than ever, and the market is tougher than ever. That is good news for the dealership that is prepared to operate in the current marketplace. Before we try to overthink a solution, it is imperative to never lose track of the basic sales premises, which are:

  • Every customer should be promptly greeted and made to feel welcome;
  • The customer’s interests are to be determined and an appropriate presentation is to be made;
  • We will ask the customer to buy;
  • Management assistance will be readily available to explain financing and incentive programs, value potential trade-ins and provide any other assistance the customer or salesperson requires.
    These premises are so basic, yet what percentage of time does this happen in your dealership? Why is it that we can obtain 100 percent compliance in other departments, but not in the sales department? The answer is the startling revelation that drives the need to change the way we structure the sales department.
    The answer: we expect the impossible.
    We expect the salesman to do the basic premises and then make the sale. What really happens is the salesman figures out the consumer isn’t interested in buying a bike that day and gives up, meaning we lose the chance to turn the shopper into a good prospect. To get a sale, now or in the future, there’s a ritual that the salesman has to go through. There’s a certain process that has to happen. Namely, the basic premises.
    If we know the customer is likely to have obtained a price online and is subject to make an issue of price, we have to be in a position to deal with the price issue at a time, place and manner of our choosing. You have to train the sales people to provide a price range and move on to the No. 1 and 2 basic premises.
    Every customer entering the showroom wants a price quote or a brochure. The salesperson’s job, after dealing with premises No. 1 and No. 2, is to do just that. Get the customer a price quote or brochure and then turn them over to the team leader or sales manager. We know that most customers did not come in with the intention of buying that day. If the salesperson’s job is not to sell a bike on that particular day, he/she is not distracted by objections and delivers on premise No. 1 and 2.
    When the first two basic premises are provided, the team leader is in a much better position to provide basic premises No. 3 and 4.
    The resources available today make the process easier, but there is no less need for strong sales management. There is no technology on earth that will take the place of a strong, well-prepared sales manager. Automated traffic logs and call centers can only facilitate the process and provide information. To make the most of the available resources, the sales manager has to receive ongoing training twice a year.
    There is still much to learn:

  • New specific training required for salespeople and team leaders;
  • Objections and problems encountered at all stages of the process;
  • Getting a daytime contact number 100 percent of the time;
  • Assumptive closing and making the new process work for us;
  • Controlling the negotiations;
  • Taking in more trade-ins;
  • Converting follow-up information into sales.
    We have created a situation on the showroom where a high level of confidence and ability is expected of entry-level people. The inevitable frustration brings about a high level of turnover, making it much harder on the customer and sales manager.
    Cheers, Ed.
    Ed Lemco has been involved with the powersports industry for more than 30 years. Lemco, the former owner of Lemco Management Group, is the founder and executive director of the National Council of Motorcycle Dealer Associations. He can be reached at edlemco@aol.com.

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