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Everyone Matters!

Recently, I was asked to pray on and consider speaking at the Christian Auto Conference. After praying on for quite some time, I felt led to apply to speak on the power of the tongue using the book of proverbs as reference. I felt led to speak on this because in my almost 19 years in the car business, I have continuously watched management in various positions speak to employees in aggressive, condescending and just downright insulting manners. And every single time, even long before I was a Christian, nothing got my blood boiling more. Everyone is a human being and deserves to be spoken to and treated with respect. You can mange people and hold them accountable, and discipline as needed without using your words to talk at or talk down to someone. Use your words to speak life. Sure, you can rule by fear, but that is always short lived. It leads to animosity and resentment in the work place and high turnover. The ‘my way or the highway” approach does not work in the long term.

Do you know that when surveyed and asked why a person leaves a job, the number one reason is not money? It is feeling underappreciated or underutilized. I am sick and tired of hearing the old school mentality that the “car business is tough” or “it’s for the thick skinned only” or “only the strong survive.” Cut it out. This is not the marines. It’s selling cars and serving customers. The car business is no different than any other business, so we really need to stop telling ourselves it isn’t because honestly where has that got us? I’ll tell you where. We are among one of the most distrusted professions right up there with politicians and attorneys. Car buyers surveyed have said they would rather get a root canal without Novocain than walk into a dealership. If a car was not a “need” purchase and was a “want” purchase, most dealers would be out of business based on the treatment of people and the words they use in speaking to people, both employees and customers alike.

Stop:

With the coddling millennial talk and the “safe spaces” and “snowflakes”. There is a big difference between those who feel they are truly entitled and speaking to people with respect and dignity.

Stop:

With the “They are stupid and/or lazy and it is the 10th time I had to show them this so they deserve it” No. Have you trained them and if you did, then did you attempt to coach and counsel when they did not get it the first, second or third time. Everyone learns at a different pace and in different ways, and if you cannot tell the difference between the person who needs more time or a different way of learning compared to the person who just really doesn’t care, then you are not ready to manage people. And for those that don’t care, part ways and move on. Keeping them there so you can yell at them daily is for your ego, so stop telling yourself any different.

So here is my little rule of thumb before you open your mouth to anyone…

Is it:

Kind

Necessary

True

It must meet all 3 criteria. If it doesn’t zip it. It may be true but not necessary. It may be necessary and kind. Or it may be necessary and true but use your words to speak life and encouragement and that’s what makes it kind.

If you have read all of this and think I’m too easy on them, I challenge you to ask around about me. Ask anyone who ever worked for me in the last ten years what I am like to work for. I am one of the toughest bosses they ever worked for, is what they will all tell you, but not because I spoke down to them or yelled at them every day. Because I invested my time, blood, sweat and tears in them, and I expect nothing less than 100% from them every single day. And when they don’t measure up one day, because no is perfect, and I have to address it, I do it the right way.

If your team needs leadership and management training, visit our website at www.thebilliondollargirl.com and submit an inquiry. I would be more than happy to help rid the industry of this antiquated way of doing business!

Training Your Staff is Vital

By Toni Anne Fardette, President and COO of The Billion Dollar Girl, Inc.

August 24, 2018

I read this morning that 71.9% of auto sales consultants do not last longer than a year in the industry. The clear question is why? And the next question is why doesn’t anyone seem to care? All I ever hear is, “We can’t find good people.”

I wonder why. What does the average hiring process look like in a dealership? You have a pulse and you are willing to work 60 hours per week. If you agree to that you are hired. Then we ask you to show up, maybe you get your own desk and phone and maybe you don’t. We do not provide any training whatsoever, and if we do, its’ usually called training but really is a beat-up session sales meeting that generally takes place every Saturday morning right before we expect you to then go out in a positive mood, get your game face on and sell cars!

Salespeople are belittled for not filling out a guest sheet or buyers order correctly, for sending an incomplete folder to finance, for having weak negotiating skills, yet has anyone ever stopped to ask themselves what training this salesperson was given before we set them loose on the public? Why are they “practicing” on real customers? The same can be said for BDC agents. We give them a computer and a phone and at best, we provide a little training on the CRM. Maybe at best, we throw them some scripts and tell them to use them. But where is the training? Giving someone a piece of paper with word tracks on it is not training.

Let me give you some advice. Don’t throw stones when you live in a glass house. Before you tell yourself, you cannot find good people, or someone needs to be let go, ask yourself this question. Did I do everything in my power to train this person as I would want to be trained? Did I ensure they had all the resources needed to be productive and successful? If the answer is no, then you need to self-reflect and dedicate time to this person before letting them go.

So, what can you do?

First, I would say calculate what you are losing in terms of turnover and if you can afford to, bring in a professional trainer.

If that is just not in your budget, then at least do the following:

Develop a list of bullet point items you know they need training on.

Create a simple one sheeter on each item that explains how it should be done

Spend at least 30 minutes each day training them on one of these items.

Ask for their feedback.

Create “fun” ways to “test” what they learned.

Have them tell you what they still need training on

Set goals with them and review daily how they can attain those goals.

Document it all.

Bottom line-if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Period. Own it because you are responsible for it.

 

 

 

 

By Toni Anne Fardette, President and COO of The Billion Dollar Girl, Inc.

August 17, 2018

I don’t know how many of you are aware, but the in-market shopper would rather have a root canal without Novocain than come to a car dealership. See, they need a car, but they don’t want to go through the process of buying or leasing one, because of what we have created that process to look like. One of the GM’s I have worked for in the past and one of the best operators I have seen in my time in this industry, always used to tell us this: “The customer should never have to feel the pain of our process.”

Well, amen to that but we really do the opposite! They intensely feel the pain of our process!

So, knowing this, the way that I see it is that we have two choices.

  1. Keep doing what we have always done expecting a different, more favorable result. (which is the definition of insanity, by the way)
  2. Come up with solutions that put the in-market shopper at ease and makes them more comfortable.

In other words, be part of the problem or be part of the solution. It’s really that simple.

One major thing that we can easily drop into our current process, no matter what it is-is to define the expectation and fulfill it. Let me expand on that. Most dealers spend a great deal of money advertising and what comes from that advertising is usually funneled through a BDC or CCC, some sort of call center that handles these opportunities. Some dealers do not have this model and their salespeople or managers handle these opportunities. Frankly, who handles them is not what matters. It’s the training and word tracks we provide them on how to set the expectation and follow through on it. We need to understand the fear and/or general distrust a potential buyer has when they arrive at the dealership. We don’t have to like it and we don’t have to agree with it. But the fact is their perception is reality and we need to deal with it. So here is an example of how I would close out a call after setting an appointment to set the expectation.

“Do you know where we are located? Great! I am going to send you a text and an email with our address and directions, as well as the following info: When you arrive, please come through the main middle entrance and check in with the receptionist for your appointment. Let her know you are here to see me. If for any reason I am not available, please ask for _______. At that point, we will greet you, and have the car ready for you to drive and we will review all the features and benefits of owning this vehicle. After that, we will make the negotiation process super simple, comfortable and fair, as well as respect your time spent with us. I would also love to have your favorite beverage waiting for you. What might that be?”

What are some of your favorite radio stations? I want to have them pre-programmed for your test drive. I look forward to seeing you then!”

Make sure you then send that text (compliantly with opt in of course and never from a personal cell phone), email (preferably a video email confirmation) right after the call.

Now what a dealer can physically accommodate in terms of having the exact vehicle ready or whether their receptionist is the check in point is irrelevant. Create a process that works for your model. Bottom line-have a process-set the expectation and deliver on it!

By: Toni Anne Fardette, President & COO, The Billion Dollar Girl, Inc.

As the former director of business development for ten years for the Atlantic Automotive Group in NY, a 1.1-billion-dollar organization, and a top 10 US dealer group, I preached and trained for many years on how to personalize emails to prospective customers. Yet, it never failed that I would continue to find whether by accident or via mystery shopping that the BDC agent or salesperson could barely answer the customer’s question, never mind personalize the email. So here are a few all too common mistakes, and some ways to avoid making them.

  1. Please be a lead detective. There is a common misconception that you really don’t have to read the notes in the internet purchase or lease request. That al customers are the same. WRONG. What the customer in the market to purchase or lease a vehicle really wants is a customized experience. If you cannot take a minute or two to read the request and look for things like address or zip code in proximity to your dealership, specific stock # and/or color/equipment preferences and certainly whether there is any specific comment or question in the notes, then this is not the position for you. At the very least, you won’t be very good at it.
  2. ANSWER THE QUESTION-FOR THE LOVE OF GOD…If a potential customer takes the time to type out specific question or comment in the form, have the decency to at least address it even if you don’t flat out answer it in the first written response.
  3. Think about how you can connect with this customer. Take their email and plug into Facebook or IG. Check out their interests and include any brief common ground you can to customize their experience.
  4. Stop pre-qualifying who is a “buyer” and who isn’t based on lead source. OWN UP to the role you could be playing in the propensity to close that lead source based on what you may not be doing that you should be.
  5. A “lead” is a person. Treat them like one. It’s that simple. Stop thinking like a car dealer and start thinking like a human. The best advise I can give on how to increase customer engagement through personalized emails is the good ole’ Golden Rule. Treat others as you want to be treated. Period. The End.

Are You Holding Your Vendors Accountable?

By: Toni Anne Fardette, President & COO-The Billion Dollar Girl, Inc.
Coaching Counseling & Process for the Next Generation Dealer

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times in my 18 years in the retail car business, I have watched GM’s cancel great marketing, advertising or lead providers. Times start to get rough for one reason or another, and BOOM- they just started cutting whatever they FEEL is not performing. Here’s the problem with that mentality-YOU CANNOT OPERATE ON FEELINGS in any industry if you expect to perform well. There is no my opinion or your opinion. Last time I checked, 2+2 still equals 4. So why are we not looking at the data? At the metrics? At the FACTS?

I’ll tell you why. Because most GM’s, GSM’s and DP’s do not understand enough about marketing or advertising to hold their vendors accountable. Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not a dig at these operators, but the fact remains that most were never “taught” anything about advertising or marketing especially digital marketing. Most GM’s, GSM’s and DP’s came up through the ranks from salespeople.

With, this, it is not an excuse not to learn enough to be able to hold your vendors accountable.

So here are some quick tips:

  1. You don’t have to know ANYTHING to be able to schedule one day per month to meet with all the vendors you advertise with whether in person or via web meeting to review the prior month’s results. Just make sure they know you are watching!
  2. Own your own Google Analytics, Ad Words, Google My Business, Bing and all other business listings. Even if someone else on your team managers, them, you OWN them.
  3. Get Google Analytics and Ad Words Certified. Commit to a video per week. It’s easy and done online. At least know enough to be dangerous.
  4. Always have a trusted outside partner with no vested interest in taking over your account watching your advertising and marketing including the rates you pay.
  5. Go to the top 5 3rd party websites you either advertise on or that your competitors advertise on (i.e. Edmunds, True Car, Car Gurus) and attempt to look for a car and submit your information. See what your customers see.
  6. Once a month attempt to do something quick on your mobile site. Is it painful?
  7. Once a month randomly check specials or spot check inventory and see what you find.
  8. Mystery shop your store both via phone and email once a month from a different ad source each time

Remember, stop with the “I FEEL” and understand your vendor metrics enough to make decision based on DATA.

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