Traditional roles in dealership culture are changing rapidly, and current employee structures need to adapt accordingly. In the past, it was not uncommon for a dealership to foster a culture where most employees operated within siloes. For example, sales associates and finance & insurance (F&I) personnel traditionally were relegated to two separate departments with little-to-no interaction between them (except for the initial customer hand-off). If someone from the sales side didn’t properly prepare the customer for the F&I side, the process could seem overwhelming or uncomfortable and cause customers to walk away.
Pigeon-holing employees into one specific role in your dealership hierarchy can also cause riffs between staff members and create internal dissonance. The notion of separate departments and roles does little to establish synergy or teamwork within a business. Instead, it often leads to employees not fully understanding the importance of the work being done by each party and results in them blaming each other when a promising deal falls through.
The Evolution of the Dealership Employee
Recently, the auto industry has experienced the rise of the product specialist. A product specialist is a position that replaces the “old-school car salesperson.” Instead of pushing to make the hard sell, like dealerships commonly do, the product specialist instead is a resource for car buyers, providing in-depth information and insight about each and every vehicle line.
The product specialist is a great addition for customers because they can take their time to explain all the features and finer points of a vehicle instead of trying to push them to immediately buy. They serve as the first point of contact for customers and help create a low-pressure atmosphere, while coming across as both helpful and knowledgeable.
The role is an example of an employee being trained on all things related to the product and the dealership to help better prime customers to be sales ready. Since the product specialist is not only knowledgeable about the vehicle features but has also been trained on the entire buying process, they understand exactly how to present information to a customer.
The product specialist can introduce situations early on in the sales process that relate to the purchase of F&I products. For example, thoroughly reviewing the technology components of a vehicle plants the seed for a service contract. When it comes time for customers to weigh their dealership insurance options, they will already have vehicle technology fresh in their minds and not need to be overly convinced of its importance.
That can only happen in a cohesive and open work environment where employees are communicating with each other and employees have a thorough understanding of their roles in a certain process. Giving dealership employees a more in-depth understanding of what each role entails creates a smoother customer experience – not to mention more synergy among their co-workers.
The Next Step
As far as this new generation of dealership employees is concerned, cross training should be the new normal. Training staff to be well-versed in all aspects of the car buying process allows for the creation of a cohesive unit. Instead of just sticking to one aspect, such as sales or finance, training employees to take on responsibilities beyond their role is a way to encourage teamwork and make the most of your current resources.
The “traditional” structure has been proven to exhibit inefficiencies, and this has resulted in a growing number of dealerships around the country to implement a single-point-of-contact model. This new system effectively merges the sales and F&I roles together to create a consistent and more efficient process for car buyers. This new consolidated role allows one point of contact to show the car, run credit reports, review bank deal structures, and get customers in their new cars and on the road more quickly.
Finding the Right Talent
Dealership roles are constantly evolving; don’t let “tradition” stunt your business’s growth. The right model begins with the right employees and then educating and engaging those employees so they can grow beyond the defined roles of the past.