Generating leads, making sales, or even making your sales numbers today is a challenging task regardless of the industry you work in. For the auto dealership, it has never been harder. Cut-throat competition and the availability of information on websites like CarSales.com and Drive.com has given customers complete control over the sales process.Itis no wonder that dealerships are finding it hard to make a decent profit from each sale. So what can you do to beat the odds?There are a few methods that you can implement to increase overall sales performance. Establishing a concrete and reliable follow-up system, implement a formal training programme for sales employees, and creating a nurturing work environment to encourage teamwork and to help everyone succeed.

Build a robust Sales Management System

This is a great place to start. You will be surprised by how much your sales performance can improve by just implementing a reliable and robust CRM system to track and nurture prospects. If each sales person takes a little time each day, after each conversation with a customer, to update information such as customer contact info, customer preferences, the vehicle they enquired, their budget, etc… your sales team will have significantly more information about your customers and open opportunities than the average dealership. Next, take the time to help your sales team put together a series of tasks for every customer. They should populate their calendar with reminders to follow up, or comb their contact list for new opportunities and referrals to keep the sales pipeline populated and healthy.

When contacting customers, don’t make every call a sales call. While you should contact the customer when you have new information that is relevant to their inquiry, don’t make this the only reason for engaging with your customers. The idea is to keep communications open; send them a Christmas card, tell them about the school soccer team that your dealership is sponsoring, or invite them to a charity fund-raising BBQ next weekend. By all means keep them updated on any new model launches and promotions but don’t make every contact a sales-motivated call.

Implement a formal training programme

Beyond product knowledge, sales employees needs to be equipped with an extensive set of knowledge and skills to be effective. From learning how to prospect for new customers, to effective communication and presentation skills, to closing techniques, and the skills to engage the customer and build long term relationships, sales employees need to learn how to do all these effectively before they go onto the shop floor.

Many dealerships leave it to the individual employee to pick up these critical skills on their own instead of implementing a formal training programme to ensure that each sales employee goes through a proven curriculum to ensure maximum effectiveness when they start talking to your customers.

By investing in training for your sales team, you are essentially giving them the tools to succeed. When they succeed, your dealership benefits. Giving your sales team information and strategies for improving performance, as well as clear, measurable goals, will provide them with the drive and incentive to consistently do better. Additionally, using a customer focused approach can generate future sales from loyal customers who recommend their friends and families to your dealership.

Implementing a formal training programme also sends a clear message to your employees; that you are investing in them because they are valuable to your organisation. This will boost morale, resulting in better productivity and retention.

Create a Nurturing Workplace

Creating an environment that allows your sales employees to feel comfortable, and to learn and grow, will also lead to increased sales and profitability. There is something infectious about a happy workplace that even customers can feel when they come into your showroom.

In such an environment, managers take on the role of coach and leaders, not just the go-to person for a discount or a deal. We all know that a sales manager that constantly hounds employees for numbers is a recipe for disaster. Employees constantly feel like they are walking on eggshells, and in most cases, fear or dislike coming to work. This inevitably leads to high turnover where the dealership must constantly seek out new employees who never stay long enough to make significant contributions.

Selling more is simple but not easy

The biggest advantage for any dealership seeking to improve is that most dealerships really aren’t. By implementing a robust sales management system using the right tools, putting in place a formal training programme, and deliberately creating a nurturing work environment, you will be miles ahead of the competition. It is simple but not necessarily easy; because doing any of the above requires hard work and commitment.

In today’s business environment, it is more important than ever to optimise sales performance and take the necessary steps to stay ahead of the competition. As customers become smarter and better informed, dealerships must begin focusing on building strong relationships with both their customers and their sales employees; not just on meeting sales targets. Ω

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Robert Katern
Robert is one of the company’s most senior training consultants, with 15 years of experience in the delivery of local and international training, particularly in Vehicle Sales and New Product Release training. Robert has the ability to guide your team through the process of turning a training and development concept into an effective reality. His high energy and participative approach ensure participants and clients get practical solutions and customer sensitive selling strategies for a modern market.