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Power past the competition
in the automotive business

xBy John Latka

In the retail automotive industry, you don’t need a degree inrocket science to power past the competition.

You simply need the ability to recognize improvement opportunities and be able to develop or acquire, implement and coordinate, appropriate interventions and strategies that will facilitate acceleration in sales volume and gross profit.

Over the years I’ve taken the initiative to further develop, formalize and perfect some simple tools and strategies that I’ve utilized over the years which have proven to be pivotal in the process of employee and business development. Dealers that have implemented their use have reaped the rewards of improved “CPR”; communications, processes and relationships. Not to mention increased sales volumes and gross profits.

Recognizing that organizations investing in customer contact practices and systems see a larger percentage of sales consultants attaining their targets, I saw an opportunity to develop and implement a more structured customer contact and sales process with a view to having a larger percentage of sales consultants attain or exceed their targets.

The foundation is the self-explanatory KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) Principle. The simple tools and strategies I developed for increasing sales are driven by goals and powered by process.

They are proactive rather than reactive. In addition they are: affordable, user friendly, easy to implement and most importantly, offer measurable results.

The obvious first step is setting attainable goals and making departmental targets a team effort where everyone is responsible and accountable. It’s about creating an environment where targets are understood and sales consultants have the resources to not only meet – but also exceed their targets. Other necessary elements incorporated for success include: structure, efficiency and recognition.

All this had to be delivered in a familiar format in order to make the transition as painless and as seamless as possible. Wall Charts and Flip Charts are natural conduits.

The following are the three I developed:

• The Projections and Progress Chart
• The Appointment Board
• Our Sales Meeting

Projections & Progress Chart
This chart (above) is meant to be mounted in a conspicuous place as a constant visual reminder of individual and departmental projections of units to be delivered in the current month. It was engineered to address issues of focus and accountability.

Here’s how it works
Prior to the first of each month, Management meets with each Sales Consultant and together set the individual projections for the upcoming month. The projections are based on the individual’s current skills level, recent performance history, market and any other conditions or extenuating circumstances that may affect results. Individual projections must total the new and used vehicle departmental projections. The simple measurement of progress is as follows:

  1. Under Weekly Progress, each week starts out with “Red” 0’s.
  2. Each Sales Consultant commits to a weekly personal target based on balance due. These targets are in writing and assigned at the weekly Sales Meetings.
  3. As a vehicle or vehicles are sold, the “Red” 0’s are changed to the appro- priate number in black. That number is changed with additional sales in the same week.
  4. Under Month to Date, “Actual” represents the total number of sales to date.
  5. Under Month to Date, “Balance Due” represents the number needed to meet projection.
  6. The chart is updated in real time with each transaction and is an accurate reflection of progress to date.
  7. Any “carry-overs” sold in previous months that will be delivered this month are written in week one.
  8. Progress is measured by a simple Excel spreadsheet or Software available through ABS Automotive Business Solutions Inc.

Management’s role is to monitor and support progress. Supportive intervention by mid-week (Wednesday) at the latest, is mandatory, when “Red” 0’s reflect that a Sales Consultant has yet to sell a vehicle. The intervention is a review of the Sales Consultants efforts to date for the week and must include:

  1. A review of the progress with prospects the consultant is currently working with.
  2. Coaching the consultant as necessary on how to proceed with the prospect/s.
  3. A customer service telephone call by management to the prospect in an effort to bring the prospect back into the dealership for a closing opportunity. Turning your monthly projections into commitments is made easier with a powerful visual that reflects tangible and specific goals.

The Appointment Board
This chart (above, detail below) is also meant to be mounted in a conspicuous commonplace as a constant visual reminder of appointments made by individual Sales Consultants.

With ever increasing competition, there is mounting pressure to sell more vehicles with the same or less amount of consumer traffic. Another simple and measurable way to increase sales is to convert e-mail inquiries, telephone inquiries and walk-in prospects who leave the dealership without buying, to appointments.

The reason for this is simple. Realistically, the best that most dealers can hope for is a 15% closing ratio relative to e-mail, telephone and walk-ins. That means that 85% of contacts are ripe for follow up and if only 20 of them “show”, the chances are you will sell another 10 vehicles.

According to Wayne Gretzky “you miss 100% of the shots you never take.” So why wouldn’t you take a shot to book an appointment when the closing ratio for appointments that “show” exceed 50%? What would helping your Sales Consultants sell at least 2 more cars each, per month, mean to your dealership?

The “Appointment Board” is configured in a manner that allows at least six appointment blocks per Sales Consultant. Here’s how it works:

  1. Each week starts with a clean board.
  2. As Sales Consultants book appointments, they complete the appointment block by writing in, checking off or circling the appropriate box.
  3. When a prospect shows for the appointment and is SOLD, the appropriate box is checked off.
  4. If the prospect shows but does not buy, he/she should be re-scheduled and/or turned over to Management for a closing opportunity.
  5. If a prospect is a “No Show” they should be contacted immediately to reschedule.

The simple measurement
of progress is as follows:

It’s easy to see who is following up effectively and its management’s role to monitor and support individual and team progress. Daily supportive intervention is mandatory if a Sales Consultant has yet to book an appointment. The intervention is a review of the Sales Consultants efforts to date for the week and must include:

  1. A review of the progress with prospects the consultant is currently working with.
  2. Coaching the consultant as necessary on how to proceed with prospect/s.
  3. A customer service telephone call by management to the prospect in an effort to book an appointment for a closing opportunity

Turning your monthly projections into actual deliveries is made easier by being proactive in converting inquiries into appointments that traditionally close at a higher ratio. The above chart is an actual recent example of appointment statistics for one week. The names of the Sales Consultants and Dealership are hidden for purposes confidentiality.

Editor’s Note: This article is the first of a two-part series written by John Latka. Mr. Latka is President and Founder of ABS Automotive Business Solutions Inc., a firm that specialize in Consulting, Facilitation, Training and relative products including software. You can contact Email John here.