Opinions & Advice

Why Don’t They Want to Learn?

I’m sitting in my living room right now, possibly feeling a little melancholy. As with any person who lives their business, my thoughts turn to training, which I love more than anything.

To set the stage for my rantings, you should know that I’m not new to the business. I spent 10 years in the dealership as a salesperson and manager, where I won awards for every car line I sold, and won a national walkaround competition for a major manufacturer. I will be celebrating my 20th year in the vehicle sales training business, so I feel I’ve stood the test of time, and know a little of what I’m speaking. Over the past 22 years, I’ve developed successful sales websites for my company (autosalestraining.us), performed numerous large group seminars for manufacturers and major training companies, developed products that have successfully sold around the world, and worked with dealerships to train their salespeople and managers and develop their internet departments. In essence, I love this business and everything I do for the industry.

Throughout my career, I’ve experienced many of the frustrations other trainers in our industry have, mainly on how can we get our salespeople and managers to want to learn more. Now as I begin speaking about this, keep in mind that I have met many salespeople and managers who actually want to learn and are excellent examples for our industry. But as with any industry, the Pareto Principle (80-20 Rule) probably applies. We have 20% of our salespeople who do 80% of the work. So we likely have 20% of our salespeople and managers who I would consider truly professional. So if you are one of the 20%, please don’t take this article personally because it has nothing to do with you.

So my thought begins; why don’t most salespeople and managers want to learn more than they already know?

They resent it when they are sent to training away from the dealership, they won’t buy a sales book or audio with their own money, they won’t go to the library to check out a book, they won’t even search Google for free articles on sales and management. Is it that they already know everything there is regarding their jobs, or do they feel it’s just not important to learn more?

This year I developed a program called, “How You Can Make $100,000 Per Year in Auto Sales.” I created this program because I got tired of salespeople making $40,000 per year in an industry where they were promised an “unlimited income potential.” This program, which I’m very proud of, comes packaged with a 289 page workbook which incorporates selling skills, business skills and internet skills training, and 6 audio cd-roms that talks about “running their business like a business” as well as hours of training on negotiating, closing and handling objections. It is the most complete program I have ever seen and would help every salesperson reach new levels of sales and financial success.

I sell this program in a sales meeting format. We offer a dealership a free 30-minute sales meeting that’s motivating and inspiring. The only requirement for the sales meeting is anyone who wishes to purchase this program, which I currently sell for only $129, the dealership will agree to payroll deduct their investment over the next couple of pays, making it easier for them to acquire.

Now I must admit, I’m proud of the way I present. My training is high energy, my message is real world, and I do have credentials. I’ve been an NADA and RVDA presenter, so I know how to work a room and keep their attention for an entire day. And in 30 minutes, I’ll leave them with enough solid information to at least start thinking about how to earn more money than they currently make, even if they don’t buy the program. So you would think with all this going for me, salespeople and managers who were interested in their careers would want to hear from someone who is a solid contributor to our industry.

When I look out at the group, what do I see? Closed minds, eyes down, salespeople looking at their watches, some even have their backs turned to me, and some even create an excuse to leave the meeting. Don’t get me wrong, I will have some devotees in the meeting that do buy my products; people who smile and nod their heads in agreement, people who are looking at me straight in my eyes, those who take notes and sign the payroll deduct forms before the meeting is even finished, and those who even productively comment on issues I’m speaking of. These are the ones that keep me going and make the meeting worth-while. But what about the other ones? Why would they take such a negative approach to learning? Am I an imposition on their time? Do they think they know more than I do? Do they think they’re already successful that they don’t need to learn more?

As I’m writing up the invoice in the manager’s office for those who purchased the program, I overheard one of the salespeople say as he passed, “If he really knew how to sell, he wouldn’t have to be a consultant!” Is that really the way they see us, as failures rather than successes? Is the adage, “Those that can, do – those that can’t, teach” really the rule?

So as I looked at the attitudes of some of these salespeople, I was wondering what the trickle- down effect could be that may cause them to think that way. So I went back to the initial call to the dealership to setup the free sales meeting. Aside from those managers who treat us rudely or hang up on us, only 10% of the managers we call welcome the opportunity to have their salespeople listen to an outside trainer. Why do 90% of managers turn the sales meeting down? Do they not want their salespeople to learn anything more? Are they afraid we’ll say something that goes against what they believe? Could it be that they don’t believe that training and motivation works? These sales meetings are absolutely free, there’s no financial risk to the dealership. Plus it’s done before the dealership opens, so it’s not even an imposition on their time. If I walk out with a few sales, great. If I don’t, then I know I’ve left them with some good information, and a motivating and hopefully inspiring sales meeting to start their day. That alone sounds like a win-win situation to me!

So, we setup a sales meeting. When I walk into the dealership, I normally will sit with the manager for a few minutes and explain the program so he/she knows exactly what I’m going to talk about. I’ll always ask the manager if the dealership has a policy of splitting the cost of the program with the salespeople as an educational perk. Sixty percent of the dealerships will say no. Why wouldn’t they want to help with a training investment? It really doesn’t cost the dealership that much, and it would show the salespeople that they believe in them enough that they’re willing to help with their education. But some of the reasons I’ve heard include: “Why should I invest it my salespeople when I’m not sure that they’ll even be here tomorrow.” And, “If they want to learn they can purchase it on their own.” Some managers won’t even come to the sales meeting. I wonder what message that sends?

I do some management training for a state automotive association. I wrote the book, “Under New Management: Sharpening Your Skills as an Auto Sales Manager”, but I don’t bring it with me. I simply provide the training workbook. But what I will do is offer all the managers in the seminar a free ebook if they’ll just email me and ask for it. If I have 20 managers in the seminar, only two will email me for the free ebook. 99% of the managers won’t even take learning if it’s free. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that most managers have never received any training on how to be a successful leader. So if they don’t believe in education, I would imagine that mentality would trickle down to their salespeople.

Sometimes I ask myself why I continue to stay in an industry that doesn’t want to learn. Well, here’s why. Every so often you get to be a part of a life changing experience. You trained a green- pea that went on to have a successful career. You receive an email from a despondent manager who’s ready to quit. And because of something you said, and the way you made him feel, he took a new approach to his career and continued his good work. Or you get a call from a salesperson that was #6 in the dealership, and because you taught her how to run her business like a business, she is now #1. Or you developed an Organizational Planbook that helped someone become better organized and therefore, increased sales. And the countless many other success stories that keep me wanting to help that one additional person achieve a rewarding career in auto sales.

My job as a trainer was created the moment one of my salespeople asked me a question when I was a sales manager. To respond to that person who made the “consultant” remark, all I can say is I was an excellent salesperson. But being in sales was way too autocratic for me. I’m the type of person who loves helping other people succeed. My degree is in Education and Speech Communication. So after learning the auto sales and management business, training was the next logical step for me. Along with being a trainer, I’m also a writer, product developer and instructional designer. These talents provide a way for me to give back to an industry that has been so very good to me. It’s a career I have a great passion for. It’s the same type of passion I wish for everyone who pursues a career in vehicle sales.

“To be successful, you must always remain a student of your craft.”

So I ask you, why don’t most salespeople and managers want to learn more than they already know?


I am NOT from this industry, but, I've been in this industry for 8 years now. Your problem is complex and so are the answers.

It all traces to culture in our vertical. If you want to freshen up your senses, step out and find a friend in the Real Estate industry, mill about and be prepared to be amazed at the differences.

IMO, here is why sales reps can get old and crusty. It all traces to leadership (or lack there of)

PROBLEM: Franchise protections isolate owners/management from stresses other industries are forced to face (e.g. aggressively cutting the dead wood)

This is compounded by...

PROBLEM: Everyone needs to drive and cars wear out. Ups are everywhere. (compare that to hot tub sales)

PROBLEM: Bitch Circles. Why is it the 20 a month car guys are never in them? Bitch Circles are a hallmark of relaxed management.

PROBLEM: Too many dealerships, too little profits (as compared to days of old), yet old school techniques are used daily (see Franchise protections).

PROBLEM: Sales fatigue. Customers lie, cheat and grind and grind and grind (go to the grocery store, ring up 220$ in food, present your coupons and THEN and ask for a manager for a better price!)

PROBLEM: Sales fatigue. Managers can grind shoppers and put reps in the middle. Reps can endure 10-12 hours of mind numbing and emotionally exhausting posturing... and not get paid.

Mike, our business is a team sport. Great teams set high goals don't allow bad attitudes. The malaise your seeing starts at the top and trickles down.

When a sales rep qualifies a customer they access needs and suggest solutions. In your business, when you qualify your customers for your program, find ways to create a score on the managements desire to find and train WINNERS.

Maybe your campaign should shift to training managers how to win!

Book a flight to Acton Toyota or AuctionDirectUSA or CityAuto and see how amazing leadership can percolate all the way down to the guys in cleanup. Then, you'll have found why you see so many reps that are all crusty and down.

It's a product of Poor leadership.

Also... Consider your program's "hook".
PROBLEM: What is free has no value. Your free offer may be a door opener, but, it's a poor qualifier. Present your amazing stats, you testimonials and referrals and make management buy in, they are the problem (and they know it), they need skin in the game!
  • J
    Jeff Collins
  • September 17, 2010
Normally I choose to observe vs post. Mike, I enjoy your postings you speak from the heart. Joe, I must say you make me giggle.(It all traces to culture in our vertical??)

Mike you referenced the the Pareto Principle. Overachievers in the 20 percent category are just wired different. You see them in every industry. Take athletes for example. Jerry Rice is arguably the best WR ever to play. His work ethic and attention to detail is what he attributes his success to. Drive, purpose, desire and mental discipline are properties that these individuals have and the avg &quot;Joe&quot; lacks. I highly recommend a book named &quot;Overachievment&quot; by John Eliot <a href="http://.www.overachievement.com" rel="nofollow">.www.overachievement.com</a> A very good read. Mike I hope you take the time to read this book. It&#039;s one of those Aha! kinda books.

You speak of how an individual stands out (in every industry), yet, you don&#039;t address why Mike sees a plague of apathy all around.

Ooops, I did it again Jeff, your giggling! Sorry, let me rephrase that. Mike sees a lot of players with their heads up their asses.

The overachievers are not the problem, it&#039;s the players in the middle of the pack. Its the sales team as a whole. When the team is bad, I trace it to lazy leadership.

Watch a snippet of Jack Welsh&#039;s famous Six Sigma management techniques where he talks about the role of leadership: <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNMULFcLuIM" rel="nofollow">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNMULFcLuIM</a> Success for a team starts at the top and trickles down (aka lifts everyone up).

If you have a team of grumpy, pissed off under-performers that you don&#039;t fire, understand they are grumpy and pissed off because you&#039;re a shitty manager.

It&#039;s part of our auto-dealer culture. How many killer sales reps are upgraded to management status and SUCK at being a manager??! Managers need training too!
  • J
    Jeff Collins
  • September 17, 2010
I agree with you Joe but understanding the psychology behind mediocrity will minimize anxiety and frustration in any leadership role. Are you giggling? BTW its Welch not Welsh. I have attended several of Jack&#039;s seminars and again you are right. Pace of the leader pace of the pack. I don&#039;t think that Mikes frustration stems from morale as much as it does from attitude. There&#039;s a reason why people like yourself and Mike are where you are in your careers. It&#039;s the way you think.

&quot;My how perfect this world would be, if everybody thought just like me&quot;. The day I understood that the bulk of my frustration stemmed from not realizing that everyone didnt think the way I did(SHOCKER!) was the turning point in my career. Is this where I&#039;m suppose to quote the Serenity Prayer?

I will ask that you do this... LET THE OTHER GUYS KEEP DOING WHAT THEY&#039;RE DOING!!! and help those that want to be helped.
There&#039;s your nugget Mike &quot;...help those that want to be helped.&quot;
&quot;&ldquo;My how perfect this world would be, if everybody thought just like me&rdquo;. The day I understood that the bulk of my frustration stemmed from not realizing that everyone didnt think the way I did(SHOCKER!) was the turning point in my career. Is this where I&rsquo;m suppose to quote the Serenity Prayer?
I will ask that you do this&hellip; LET THE OTHER GUYS KEEP DOING WHAT THEY&rsquo;RE DOING!!! and help those that want to be helped.&quot;

This is a huge part of what holds many Managers back.....you need to realize you can&#039;t have a team who all have the exact same strengths and weakness&#039;. Even more so you can&#039;t have a team with all the same strengths and weakness&#039; of the coach.

So many rookie managers remain a rookie manager their whole career because they can&#039;t get past this hurdle. Sometimes letting some things go empowers your salespeople to want to be more for themselves instead of being ordered to be more from above.

I attended Toyota training yesterday, not because I need to be Certified for Toyota.....I need to be Certified for myself and our salespeople who we require to be Certified as well.

Joe, Thanks as always for the kind words......anytime you want to take your own advice you&#039;re welcome to swing in.
Mike, were are ya? We&#039;re stirring the pot out here over your rant, any thoughts?
Sorry for the delay. My internet is down and I&#039;ve had to use dial-up for the last several days.

Apathy is such a great word that describes many low producing salespeople and managers. I find it difficult to go any amount of time without wanting to learn something new, something more. For me, I need it to give my students another perspective on the same old things. Many (keeps me from using the word &quot;most&quot;) sales managers don&#039;t do much training, if any. We hire individuals and call them &quot;independent consultants&quot; which makes it their responsibility to learn on their own. You guys are right when you talk about the &quot;trickle down effect.&quot; Dealers don&#039;t bother training the managers, and the managers don&#039;t bother training the salespeople. It&#039;s been the practice in our industry for years.

I have a forum called salesmeeting.org. It&#039;s a one-stop shop where anyone can register for free, and read over 2200 vehicle-related articles by some of the best writers and trainers in the world. I started this forum several years ago and have given this address to tons of salespeople and managers I&#039;ve trained or sold products to. I think right now I have around 177 members. When auto people won&#039;t even take free training, it makes it hard for guys like us to take in personally. Yet we&#039;ll keep putting it out there hoping one will jump on board.

It&#039;s caused me to get away from the training part of the business and just stick with developing books and audios. As long as the credit card clears, it becomes their responsibility on whether they read or listen to them. Damn, I sound cynical.

BTW, Jeff, I&#039;m glad you decided to start posting. There&#039;s nothing like putting your words down on paper. That&#039;s our commitment to what we believe, and we don&#039;t mind sharing it with the world. Joe and Craig, I can tell that you have your heads on straight. I imagine as long as we keep talking, someone is bound to listen.
  • M
  • October 21, 2010

Great article my friend. I have to say, I remember you coming to the dealership I was at somewhere between 1998 and 2000 and I thought your information was good and common sense. Plus I learned about replica watches from you way back then LOL (it was appreciated at the time).

I have been in retail automotive since &#039;94 and training since about &#039;99 and I have wrestled with the same questions you pose and I have to say that the only answer I can come up with is us trainers looking in the mirror.

Companies like JGV and Cardone Group have been around forever and while not everyone buys in they do have a cult-like following from others.

When it comes to training it&#039;s not the manager or salesperson&#039;s responsibility to be excited about it....it OUR RESPONSIBILITY as trainers to get them excited about it.

We sell training. We sell a vision of showing them an income and lifestyle they don&#039;t currently have.

If they don&#039;t buy it; it&#039;s because we didn&#039;t sell it correctly and if we can sell them on something we know they want - they shouldn&#039;t buy training from us should they?

I like where you&#039;re going by opening up this dialogue my friend. I just think that there are too many of us trainers that blame the manager and salesperson for not engaging.

We just have to sharpen our selling skills and help them see the value in getting better.

That&#039;s my $200k (I like to think I offer more than 2 cents :)