I have a friend who called me up in late June and asked me for some help. His daughter Tammy, who had graduated college the year before, was having trouble finding a job. He knew I’m in the automotive industry and wanted to know if there might be an opportunity for his daughter. Knowing Tammy, I was thrilled to think that this bright young woman would have an interest in an industry that I love so much.
Although her college had been paid for, Tammy, not one to be idle, worked a part time job as she went to school. She worked at Starbucks for a while, but worked the bulk of her college years at an electronics and appliance store. She started out in customer service but quickly moved to the sales floor, as the managers saw that she had a work ethic and personality more suited for sales. After making that move, Tammy earned more than her share of spiffs and small awards for her ability to work with and sell to customers. This did not surprise me, as I had always known Tammy to be a happy, outgoing type of person; the type that could one day be a great salesperson if that is where her heart lead her.
Anxious to help, I recommended she give writing service a try. I told her how she could earn an income of $50K plus annually, and over a short period of time, 50% more than that. I explained to Tammy all the benefits of the job, explaining that although it might be tough, it could be a very rewarding career choice for her. Being the motivated, hard-working person she is, she immediately started applying at dealerships in her area. She was hired within one week of looking.
Tammy started at a GM dealership in July. This particular dealership has about 50 vehicles visit its service department every day. The pay plan she showed me was one that would allow her to make the $50k plus annually, just as I had told her, with a decent benefit package. She was stoked to say the least. With this job, she could accomplish her dream of being totally independent and on her own.
As I write this, it has been just over three months since she started. It has been nothing short of a disaster. She is averaging about $1,700 a month in gross income with no big upswing visible in the near future. Everything I had portrayed the job to be has not panned out. What went wrong?
1. In three months’ time, she has received one hour of training. That training came from the factory rep. He happened to stop by the dealership 35 days after she started. He was kind enough to spend an hour with her to show her some “tricks” on her computer.
2. With it being July and right in the heat of the summer, the advisors she shares her day with were supposed to help her learn the job. They did not. My assumption is that either they did not have the time, simply did not want to, or most likely, did not know how to do the job themselves, since their numbers are ridiculously low as well.
3. Her manager, who seems to be always missing or putting out fires, has spent zero time with her beyond normal chit-chat and monthly team meetings where he talks about the importance of better numbers – “Talks about,” yet gives no instruction on how to get these better numbers. The General Manager, however, taking a liking to Tammy and seeing her struggle, bought her a copy of the book “Gung Ho!” He felt by her reading the book, it would help improve her survey scores.
4. Morale is understandably low since no one is making anything close to the money they were told they could make, and would make with some training. What is even more demoralizing for the service staff and Tammy, is that they witness every week how the vehicle sales staff get endless training, endless spiffs, and have regular Saturday auto sales contests with hundreds of dollars in cash being handed out.
I have advisors write and call me all the time with similar stories, and although I have always felt for these advisors, it never quite resonated with me until I saw it happen first hand. I know that not all dealerships are like that, but by my best guesstimate, I believe that somewhere between 30 to 50% are, just based on the communication we have daily with dealerships who are seeking us out to improve their service profits.
Personally, I don’t get it. Why would someone go to the trouble of finding the land, building the facility, inventorying it with millions of dollars of inventory, spending thousands to get people to walk in the door and then stop short by a very few thousand dollars to train their employees to be prepared for their customers? We in the auto industry cry and scream for people to come and join our employment ranks. We are stunned that more would not want to, with all the industry has to offer. Yet it is easy to see why they do not. Just like an untrained salesperson will run your customers off, any business who does not train their employees will run those employees off.
As far as Tammy goes, she is now talking about leaving the car industry, not because she wants to, as she sees great potential in it. She is leaving it because her whole reason for going to school and working is not being met; the need to be independent and live without a handout, or the aid of others.
What a shame. I thought young, educated people were what we wanted and needed in our industry! If they truly are, we will never attract and keep them with our current approach. I did give Tammy access to my training, but as I was not able to be with her on the drive every day (living 2,000 miles away), I could not show her how it worked and coach her the way she and the rest of the staff needed to be coached.
All this to say: If you’re wondering why your advisors or service department is not meeting your goals, here are a couple of things to think about or address:
- Do you actually have a solid and ongoing training process for each advisor hired at your store – for veterans and rookies alike?
- Does your Service Manager hold daily and weekly meetings where they coach, critique and role play?
- Do you have clear, concise goals for your staff to meet?
- Do your managers themselves understand the profession of selling?
- Do you as a Dealer, General Manager or Fixed Operations Director fully understand the opportunity missed by not having a fully trained staff, prepared to meet and handle any situation in a proactive way?