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Develop Great Habits in 2017

For two years in a row the US market reached over 17 million vehicle sales. Experts predict 2017 will be another record setting year for franchised dealerships. Good times in the auto industry have become the new norm. Yet many newer, less tenured employees were not around during the bad times of 2008/09. The veterans in the business know, that everything is cyclical. They also know that in bad times one builds good habits. The opposite is true as well – bad habits can be easily developed during good times. In many cases those habits can be well hidden and ignored in lieu of good results. In order to dominate during good and bad times here are five things you must focus on continuously.

1. Employee development. Great companies are created by great people. In many cases those companies raise their own talent. Talented people will not stick around if they are not challenged and given an opportunity to grow and develop their skills. It is important to identify learning gaps as they may be in the areas you least expect. Based on a recent survey of multiple dealerships employees, one third of the respondents chose leadership skills as most desired subject they wanted to learn about. This comes as no surprise, since leaderships/management skills training is often ignored in the automotive world. To help them grow you must focus on their capabilities development by providing great just-in-time training and a healthy regimen of skills upgrading opportunities.
2. Experience is KING. Those of you who were around during “cash for clunkers”, might remember the lack of great customer experience during that time. To be fair, dealerships were offering “first come, first serve” experience approach and customers did not mind the time and brain damage it took to get a deal of a lifetime. Well, those days did not last long. Today’s consumer expects great experience online, over the phone and in-person. They have low tolerance for shenanigans and old-school games. Moreover, transaction time has become important to them like never before. To win in any economy focus on great experience that exceeds each customer’s expectations.
3. Process improvement. Process and experience often go together. During good times it is easy to lose focus on either one or both. Continuous process improvement will enable your business to grow in a steady and incremental pace. As the saying goes, “the best never rest”, evaluating processes and constantly looking for better ways to deliver your promise to your guests will help your departments function at peak performance. Pay attention to communication. In many environments, lack of communication is the harbinger of process breakdowns. Your employee’s feedback is another vital part of communication you must utilize to improve. How often do you ask your employees to provide this necessary feedback?
4. Forecasting and tracking. These two disciplines can be first to slip away when things are going your way. It is easy to slack off and not take time to put much thought into projecting your numbers. Does each department forecast production and track their progress? Do they truly do it daily? Does each department know and understand what other department’s goals and status is each day? Think of ways they can help each other if they knew what everyone’s rate of travel is. What about good old fashion “make a deal” or “save a deal” meetings, how often do they happen at your dealership? Do you think you can pick up two or three deals per day or per week?
5. Expense control. There is a term I learned long ago that is called “the creep”. No it is not a person, it is your expenses that creep up on you over time. You do not notice when your admin cost goes up, or when you add another “valet” in your service department. Certain software monthly fees go up, while your BDC wants to add another caller to “cover” the schedule, oh and parts department ordered more parts to add to their obsolete collection. What seemed like a great idea at the time, ended-up driving your expense structure way out of control and your retention suffers. Reviewing your expenses often and making necessary adjustments is critical to stay lean and healthy in any economy.

Developing and maintaining good habits during the good times takes discipline. It takes focus and unwavering commitment to keep getting better. Concentrate on developing your employees, by offering them the best training possible and opportunity to grow. Insure your people provide the best customer experience by constantly reviewing and improving their processes. Continue to forecast and track each department’s production drilling it down to each individual producer. Monitor your expenses and watch out for that “creep,” that sneaks-up on you without you knowing it is there. One last thing, I left out accountability. You see, if you are doing true employee development, process improvement, forecasting and tracking, accountability will take care of itself. So, when you focus on those five components of your business and keep accountability part of your culture, you will stay ahead of the pack and dominate the market during any economy.

by Tony Troussov

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Take Control of Your Activities!

The “time management” concept has been around for a very long time. There are deluge of books, seminars and podcasts regarding this subject. Someone once said, “You cannot manage time”. Without getting into semantics, this point is correct – time cannot be controlled. Instead, what you can control are the activities you perform at any given time. In sales your world can be a chaotic. There are multiple interruptions that can distract you from your goal. Here are four principles that will help you stay focused on your activities to produce better results – awareness, choice, discipline and commitment.

Awareness. Have you ever been in a sales situation and totally missed it? You were going through your process and were totally unaware that your potential client checked out. Now, think about the time you were physically lost because you were distracted and took a wrong turn. What made that feeling worse is you weren’t sure which direction you needed to travel to get to your destination. In today’s business environment you can easily get distracted by someone’s text or some form of notification on your phone. Taking action is imperative to achieving your goals. The awareness of what is going on around you is the first step in helping you identify the actions you need to take to influence results. To find your way out of the woods you need to stop, assess the situation and become aware of which direction to travel, only then can you move forward. Oftentimes solutions and steps are in plain view but you are unable to identify them because you are unaware that these solutions or steps are possible. To become aware of the right direction, learn to ask the right questions. To help you focus ask yourself, “Does what I’m doing right now get me closer to my goal?” To identify solutions ask yourself, “What is possible?” When you slow down to think about it you become much more aware of solutions your mind brings forward. When you become aware of these options it is time to make a choice.

Choice. This is America! The great thing about your life both personal and business – you have choices. When you realize this it takes a lot of pressure off your shoulders. With that being said, you still have to choose wisely. Just because you can do something does not mean it is a good move to make. This seems pretty obvious, but let’s face it, we all have made some stupid moves in the past, or as Larry Winget said “your success is your own fault.” Think about your favorite team missing a winning field goal and ending up with a big “L”. You wish they could do it again and make it right, but the game is over. In business, like in sports, there are no “do-overs”. Make a mistake and it could cost you a deal. In most cases you cannot recover. The speed of the game kills perfection. When it comes to choosing the right activities for the day, you want to make sure you choose the ones that will bring you the most results and get you closer to the goals you set. Once you make those activity choices it is time to become disciplined in your approach.

Discipline. Ever heard of New Year’s resolutions? Ever made one? How long did it last? The problem was not with a decision or choice you made, the problem was with the lack of discipline on your part. Great intentions fail without discipline. Whether it’s a physical exercise, dieting or business activities, they are all short lived without discipline. The meaning of the word discipline is “control gained by enforcing obedience”. We all hate “micro-management”, yet without self-enforced micro-management you are bound to fail. Discipline is sticking to the activities you chose and being obedient to your own rules. As rudimentary as it is, this is one of the most difficult things to master. The problem with most sales people who fail in business is the lack of discipline to stay committed to their process.

Commitment. When you become aware of your choices and choose activities that get you closer to your goals, you then focus on developing a disciplined approach that will ensure long term success. Discipline goes hand in hand with your commitment to your own success. The actions you take every single day and your commitment to executing them in a disciplined manner will ensure you will reach your goals no matter how long it takes. Unfortunately, some people lose commitment to their success. This self-sabotaging behavior will slow down your growth in business. Part of the reason why people become non-committal to their activities is lack of immediate results. It’s true with physical activities and it’s true in business. It is like the commercial that shows a man in a gym running a quick lap and then getting on a scale to see if he lost weight. Of course you can easily get frustrated with activities that don’t bring instant results. Remember this though, discipline and commitment imply long-term. In this “instant gratification” world it is hard to be patient for results. Some sales happen fast and some take weeks, months and even years to close. Whatever the time frame you are working with, you cannot afford to compromise on your disciplined activities.

In order to take control of your activities and generate better results for you and your team, think AC/DC – Awareness Choice/Discipline Commitment.

by Tony Troussov

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Monthly Goal = Daily Focus

Have you ever had a month where there seemingly weren’t enough days to hit your target? Can you imagine a professional golfer muttering to himself in frustration “I shot  72 and still have 4 holes to play.”  If you have felt this or can imagine what it must feel like, this article is for you.

In today’s competitive, customer friendly environment, setting a goal or having the appropriate expectation is paramount to the profitability of your stores. This naturally leads to an important starting point: how do you set a goal, and how do you ensure that you will reach your goal? While setting a goal may seem simple or unnecessary, it is the daily focus and discipline that having a goal provides that makes goal-setting a valuable tool-it focuses you on the very things that are within your power to control and provides a clear benchmark when you are not progressing towards your goal.

How do you set a meaningful goal? There are three critical steps. First, goal-setting should be done in a collaborative fashion with the management team. This participation will at once allow the management team to take ownership of the goal so that everyone will understand what he/she is responsible for and will go a long way to prevent the goal from becoming arbitrary or theoretical. This is a very intuitive point, and this concept is similar to someone who is trying to lose weight without even knowing his own weight.  One practical, useful way to begin goal-setting would be to take a look at the ADG Top 30 Report because this will give you an idea of what the top performing stores are producing.

Second, you need to track your production. Some of the tools you will use to do this include the manual logs, vision menu reporting, or perhaps your own measurement tool, such as an excel spreadsheet. Whatever your flavor is, make it easy to measure; you do not want to have onerous hurdles or mental pushups involved in your calculations.

Third, have your ADG District Manager show you the spread of business needed using the Calculator that we have developed. Think of us as a resource; we’ve spent time to make this an easier process for you because we do not want you to wear out your pencils and fingers with your phone calculator.

Now that we have a target, let’s get to the fun stuff!  Here is the list of Daily Actions to ensure you meet your goal/expectation:

1) Hold a morning “Huddle” where the management team gathers for 15 minutes reviewing the prior days deals, negotiations, and follow-up. Be specific on how the deals and menus were presented to the customers. Ask yourself: did your store use the standards you set?

2) Review where you are in comparison to your goal. After reviewing your expectations, ask yourself where are you trending, and (if you are not on your goal pace) what is needed to get back on track?

3) Warmup with your presentation; develop good habits. Do this by practicing your Menu and Objection handling techniques, prior to a customer coming in with you. Review the ADG Online Training site to assist in sharpening the saw. Having a world class presentation is paramount in today’s business environment.

4) Be active and available. Conduct regular flybys with the customers to break the ice.

5) Focus on the customer in front of you. This may be your only opportunity of the day, so make sure they get your best.

6) Finally, close out the day. Before you go home, calculate where you are for the month. Celebrate the victories and contemplate the defeats. Get prepared for tomorrow’s ‘huddle’.

If you follow the 6 steps outlined, you will be on your way to success.


by Francis Fagan