Life in the Fast Lane
Listening to my iPod while mowing the yard this past weekend, the Eagles song “Life in the Fast Lane” began playing. Hearing it, triggered an experience I had a few years ago and gave way to my thinking about the power of growth potential and the idea for this article.
A few years ago I was riding with a friend in his new Porsche 911 Turbo S on the Autobahn in Germany. He couldn’t wait to show me the potential of his new car. As we migrated over into the fast lane he began to accelerate quickly until he found a comfortable cruising speed of 135 miles an hour.
“Can you believe the power in this thing?” he asked. Then, glancing in his rear view mirror he said, “Oh, my gosh!” I turned around expecting to see police lights but instead saw a car bearing down on us in our lane a half mile back flashing its lights for us to get out of his way. We pulled over into the next lane to give way to this vehicle and as it flashed past us in a blur I noticed it was the same model Porsche we were driving but most likely doing somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 miles an hour. Just when we thought we were utilizing the potential of this Porsche we were immediately humbled by someone else who was actually fully using the car’s potential much greater than we were.
In my travels around the country, I see thesame thing occurring in dealerships all the time. Some stores think they are utilizing their fullest potential while there are stores who are blowing right past them by utilizing the new sales development methods. Many are not challenging themselves to become better than they currently are. I have seen stores who essentially have a similar sales team, management team, product line and desirable location, yet are different in so many ways. In spite of these similarities being in place, some stores sell more units, double and/or triple the gross profits, as the other stores. They also have created a total team synergy platform from which to build upon and have a low attrition rate. Why is it that some stores drive along at 135 and almost identical profiled stores are doing 175? Where does the difference reside?
Ask 20 people this question, “What are the first thoughts that come to your mind when I say car salesman”? Their responses are a reflection of negative paradigms built up over the years from experiences they, a relative or friend had in dealing with a car salesman. The dealerships that are driving to new levels of achievement recognize this perception and are affecting a change in the way they do business with their customers by creating a paradigm shift.
This shift can only be created when the dealership and all the employees are committed to raising the level of professionalism to new heights. When this occurs you will see dramatic productivity increases. Productivity increases occur as a result of leading edge paradigm shifting training and result in increased output (units, gross, CSI) being achieved with the same level of effort currently required. No more work required just a better way of doing the same work.
Examples of productivity increases include:
• Professional sales training priorities are put in place thus reducing the effort and time required to accomplish various tasks required to increase the store’s growth.
• Reaching higher levels of skill set development leading to elevated work quality and growth in professionalism and profit increases.
• Significantly reaching higher levels of employee satisfaction and motivation which leads to willing increased effort and increased team work and synergy.
When you stop learning new strategies you stop growing. When you stop growing you become a prisoner to high maintenance, problems and irritations. You become stagnant and complacent. Once you adopt the decision to do things differently, you must consistently be disciplined with your accountability in seeing it through. It is ok to make adjustments along the way but in no way should you compromise your new approach to doing business.
Fact: Every Dealer wants to grow the store. Yet few form the habit of doing the things successful dealers do on a regular basis. Recognize that there are two types of pain. There’s the short term pain of disciplined accountability and the long term pain of regretting to become accountable.
Good decision planning helps us begin the increased potential journey. Being accountable and consistent to new sales techniques and processes encourage and allows us to finish ahead. The pain of disciplined accountability is momentary but the payoff is monetary.
Where does it all begin? At the top.
Top down strategy simply means that everyone in management has to be committed to discovering new business strategies, planning, implementation, managing and the leadership of a new sales and management approach. Let everyone know how valuable and essential to the store’s success they are because quite frankly it is all about your people.
We all need to acknowledge that the landscape of the automobile industry has and continues to change and if you want to be a part of the success stories regarding consistent store growth then you will just have to do things with enhanced professionalism and new training methodologies. What got you here will not keep you here. Corporate America, with a few exceptions, has been doing it this way for quite some time with remarkable results. Yet the automobile industry, for some unknown reason, feels this professional approach is not for us. If you’re current thinking is taking you towards a “business as usual” short cut approach then be prepared for a diminishment of everything you have built thus far. We need entrepreneurship to be at its best in this industry right now.
One tremendously important factor in ‘growing to your potential’ is your investment in your employees. If people really are your greatest assets, isn’t it time to look at giving your people an opportunity to reach their full potential? Look at them as investments in your organization’s human capital and not just as an expense. Anyone can be competitive with their capitol (such as advertising) but investing in the skill sets of your people develops a stronger store and is priceless. A very small percentage of your advertising budget redirected to growing and training your employees will deliver to you much greater long term benefits than the newspaper in the trash. Don’t wait until you have a flat tire to do something.
Now more than ever are we required to be people of excellence. In an industry where mediocrity has been the norm for so many dealerships, consumers fed up with this approach are now expecting to develop relationships with professionally acting sales consultants. No half hearted efforts any more. Full throttle forward in the direction of a well oiled professional machine. Excellence is doing the right things when no one is watching. Earn respect, sharpen skills, whatever you do – get better at it. Develop a spirit of total team excellence in your dealership and watch your potential begin to increase speed.
Shed a few paradigms. It has become such a cliché for management to claim that ‘our employees are our greatest asset’. Yet, much to the dismay of most employees, the effort management puts forth into developing this valuable ‘human capital’ continues to be seen as an expense and not as an investment. It’s time for you to turn this around. Start looking at your training programs as if they were capital investments. Develop your very own ‘in-house’ training solution and deliver it consistently twice a month using new enhanced material. Don’t just settle for the ‘same old stuff’, make it purposeful and clear. At a time when there are so many exciting new developments in enhanced skill and psychology training and with the market increasing, you’re going to need people at their full potential. Invest in your people and they will invest in themselves, in management and the dealership. You also have to then empower them to make decisions in order to get things done. I like to say if it doesn’t burn the store down, break the law, hurt anyone and we would be proud of it on the front page of our newspaper, then just make the decision. Empowerment, what a great word.
Chuck Barker is CEO of his two companies Impact Marketing & Consulting Group, LLC and Impact Summit, LLC both located in Virginia. His experience ranges from an executive with a Fortune 200 corporation, Harris Corp., to the automobile business where he has performed all management positions. His firms specialize in growing people and dealerships. He delivers Leading Edge Sales Training Programs, Customer Relationship Strategies, Management Leadership Workshop Programs and Dealer/Principal consulting assistance for the automobile industry. Chuck has recently published the first comprehensive ‘in-house’ sales training solution program for dealers entitled Dealership Success Guide at www.impactsummit.com .