This article excerpt appears in the FALL 2017 issue of HOTLINE and is authored by Matt Richardson.
For automotive retailers, there have been a greater number of tools and options available when it comes to generating qualified sales leads.
The problem is, turning those leads into actual sales. There are many cases where good, qualified inbound leads have simply fallen off because the sales staff simply isn’t trained to handle them; or, the dealership doesn’t have a culture in place that promotes accountability for those involved in the sales process.
And a lot of that comes down to an often-prevalent open floor sales culture where each person is doing things on an individual basis and there is no orchestration, nor accountability among either the sales staff or management.
It’s something that Brent Wees, Director of First Impressions, Nextup, is very familiar with.
MORE PEOPLE, MORE CHALLENGES
Wees says that open floor cultures work in certain environments, such as small dealerships in rural areas which have just a few people on the sales floor, but in larger communities which have larger stores, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage bigger groups of salespeople.
“If you are investing in online leads coming in, but you have an open floor nobody is really holding anybody else accountable, especially when they’re not in front of a customer.”
The solution then is to develop a system that allows managers and dealer principals to track
the activities of the sales department and create a process where one person is on point and other is doing scheduling appointments or following up internet leads—in other words, a managed floor. At Nextup, the traditional managed floor process has been modified into a system that allows dealers to digital track and manage data in real time on what staff are doing, whether its following up on a lead, sitting with a customer, scheduling a test drive, doing sales follow-ups or scheduling appointments.
Yet as Wees notes, there tends to be a fear of accountability, since people are often afraid of exposing areas of improvement, which the data provides.
Yet once the closed or managed floor process is implemented, it can be transformational. Fletcher Jones Mercedes-Benz in Newport Beach, Calif., has grown to be the largest volume Mercedes-Benz retailer in the world and it exclusively relies exclusively on a managed floor sales system.
Research also shows that when dealerships adopted a managed floor it can significantly reduce staff turnover, traditionally one of the key issues facing many sales department.
In fact, a case recalls a dealer in the Eastern Ontario region that was having a very difficult time retaining young, talented sales staff, since the older, seasoned salespeople kept grabbing the lion’s share of customers that came in.
The trouble is, that such open floor environments, often driven on the strength of one or two salespeople that are strong closers that enable themselves and their managers to achieve specified sales targets and bonuses work well in the short term but are detrimental in the long term because they not only create high staff turnover but a high-pressure low service customer environment that causes many potential clients to simply take their business elsewhere.
Another issue often revolves around actually understanding what data and analytics can do for a dealership, whether it’s specifically related to staff activities or customer habits.
While you might not be able to understand everything the first time, repeated listening and learning will allow dealers to grasp the fundamentals, namely understanding what’s relevant to their customers and then employing strategies both in terms of utilizing the data and holding staff and managers accountable to ensure the sales process goes smoothly from start to finish.