Best Practices

Change Please – Who We Hire and How We Hire

finderskeepersThe “change” we as an industry are experiencing is going to require us to step it up with how we hire, who we hire and the way in which we manage our Sales, Internet and BDC personnel. In the past we have not given the attention needed to attracting, hiring and managing our sales and customer service people effectively, we have done it by the seat of our pants.

We cannot afford any longer to over look these critical areas in our stores, it’s costly, time consuming and frustrating to everyone involved, management, employees AND the customer.

How we hire and recruit our Sales, Internet and BDC professionals, sets the “tone” for the entire store and how it performs as an employer and a place to do business.

I can walk into a store anywhere in the country and in less than 30 minutes, be able to identify -with uncanny accuracy, if the store has a hiring and employee management process in place that management religiously follows (Employee Life Cycle Management System). Here are the clues:

WITHOUT a hiring and management process in place: There is a “feel” to the store of dishevelment, chaos and negativity observed through the actions of the employees. Smiles are not in abundance and seriousness prevails. This is due largely in part to the “uncertainty” that being an employee in the store brings to their lives. Few minimum requirements are established with a solid performance game plan for employees and management alike to follow in order to achieve these goals.

Clue #2  SALES
WITHOUT a process: The stores sales are not anything to write home about, the struggle is constant, and the “struggle” is sensed in the “attitudes” of the employees in the store. Management and employees are stressed due to frustration and fear. Lack of a game plan leaves employees feeling out of control.

WITHOUT a process: The stores CSI and SSI scores are below minimum requirements. This is due largely to the fact that stores employees are NOT satisfied, do not feel valuable and operate in fear and uncertainty most of the time. This “fear” and uncertainty is always passed on down to the customers.

WITHOUT a process: Customers in the showroom and or service department do not appear to be at ease. Customers are in the dark as to “what to expect next”, this creates anxiety. Since the sales people are not “managed” consistently, they do not interact consistently with clients.

FACT 1 : Wrong hiring choices and mismanagement of employee’s are the leading factors in unsatisfied employees. Unsatisfied, mismanaged employees is the leading factor in low sales and low customer service satisfaction scores (CSI)

FACT 2 : It typically cost a dealership between $2500~$20,000 to recruit, hire and train a Sales, Internet or BDC professional, not to mention the hidden costs of lost sales, low productivity, poor customer satisfaction, and lack of repeat business.

THE CAUSE: Lack of a CONSISTENT hiring and management plan/process that they follow when hiring and managing Sales, Internet, and BDC professionals

We are notorious for “hoping” that we hired the right employee and that a manager will instinctively know how to manage…hope is not a plan! A simple Employee Life Cycle System is all the average dealership needs to hire more effectively as well as manage and develop employees consistently.

What is an Employee Life Cycle System (ELCS)?

An ELCS is a step by step process that is used to consistently, objectively and fairly recruit, hire, manage and develop employees- from the time they are recruited until the time they leave, voluntarily or involuntarily. and HireRite, Inc. will present to you as a four part series a complete “PLAN” or “Employee Life Cycle” to hire, manage and develop your employees more effectively and efficiently. Once implemented you will:

  1. Attract better qualified job applicants
  2. Decrease your recruiting time
  3. Conduct more effective interviews
  4. Effectively motivate, develop and manage your employees (in less than 2 hours per year per employee!)
  5. Decrease the cost of your recruiting
  6. Decrease your turnover and the high costs associated with it

The 4 part series will cover:

Part 1- Recruiting effectively– how to attract qualified sales and customer service professionals- to our industry and YOUR jobs.

Part 2- Interviewing and screening consistently and objectively- get the information you need to make, educated hiring decisions.

Part 3- Managing as well as developing ALL of your sales and customer service employees in less than 2 hours per year per employee! – eliminating “seat of the pants” managing and therefore “seat of the pants results”

Part 4- Employee retention– how to keep the talent you have AND the new talent you found.

Lets get started…stay tuned!

About the Author: Wendi Venable is the author of Finders Keepers “How to find and keep the best automotive sales and customer service professionals” and President of HireRite, Inc.

The crazy hours that the car business demands burns people up and makes it hard to attract and retain the best talent. Nobody wants to work the crazy hours 6-7 days a week like the car business demands.

We have a lot of employees that work for us that used to work in dealers. Everyone of them will tell you they don't miss the hours.
  • J
    John Scott
  • September 12, 2009
Ive been walking in on a lot of dealerships up and down the east coast the past few months and you really can tell quite quickly whether you would want to shop/work at the dealership you're visiting.

There's a lot to be said for investing in your storefront, not just for the customer, but for the employees as well. If an employee is walking in to work at a dump every day that will have an affect on their attitude. Likewise if they're working at shop that looks and feels like a million bucks they will feel like a million bucks and this will come out in their attitude when they deal with customers.

The difference in attitude and atmosphere I experienced when walking in a high end European dealership vs some of the Domestic brands was mind boggling. I have noticed a few Dealerships that do both well, but they are few and far apart.

If you can combine a great atmosphere with good management I think retention would go up.

People wont mind working long hours if they feel good about where they're working, and they'll be more likely to do it with a smile on their face.

A lot of the Silicon valley corporations realized this a long time ago.
Great topic! I spent the first 8 years of my career working for tech companies. In 2001 when the Internet/Technology bubble bursted I was looking for work...found the car biz!

Since the beginning, I've always been shocked at the culture of most dealerships. The biggest complaint is that most dealers/managers don't provide the right support, training, and motivation to attract and keep good people.

The hours can be ridiculous and the energy can be a drag. Not to mention how dealers operate from FEAR, not confidence and service! That's what leads to customer frustration and the "games" they complain about.

On the flip side, I currently work at a great dealer group and we are looking to make the environment a great one for productivity and for customer experience.

This is the key...what most dealers don't understand is that if your staff is happy, that will translate into greater revenue in parts, service, and sales!

Like John Scott said, he can tell within minutes what's going on.

Let's turn dealerships into a great place to work! It will benefit all involved.
"dealers operate from FEAR, not confidence and service! That’s what leads to customer frustration and the “games” they complain about." Joe you are right on the money!!!!!
FEAR- False Expectations Appearing Real!
We are notorius as an industry for "managing" when things arent going well, or when there is a hightened sense of "fear and anxiety". If a dealership would take the time to give managers a plan to use ALL the time, then management would feel more in control, less vulnerable to fear and less likely to rely on knee jerk "solutions". Proactive rather than reactive. Fear cannot be avoided but the destructive counterprodutive behavior it evokes certainly can be with a plan and a process!
@Wendi, thanks for the article and we look forward to the next one in a series of 4 breaking down Recruiting, Interviewing, Managing and Retention.

@Joe "The biggest complaint is that most dealers/managers don’t provide the right support, training, and motivation to attract and keep good people." - That too is one my my biggest grips. My first training at a dealer on the sales side was a week long of Joe Verde tapes from 1977 and then to go mystery shop a few dealers in the local area. It was all foreign language to me at the time and was basically useless. Truth is, most managers are just that...managers, not leaders and motivators. Though I doubt that only applies to our industry.

@Matt We have dealers in the VA area that are open 7 days a week. And you know there are most likely a few working all 7. This business (like many others) will wear you out and I too never understood the culture of the car dealer when it comes to the hours insisted upon, well..I understand it but I don't agree with it.

I worked for a small town dealer and we had 45 hours a week on the schedule, closed early on Wednesday and got off every 4th Saturday. I'm glad I was broke into the sales side of the business at that dealer or else I might have not stuck around (although that is the same dealer that used the Joe Verde tapes for training..HA!).

However, on the flip side..sales is a career and not a "job". There is a lot of self fulfillment involved and like with any career, you get out of it what you put into it. It takes time and dedication to be successful and if you want to make the big money...well you have to work hard at it.
  • J
    John Scott
  • September 15, 2009
I am especially looking forward to the recruiting installment. Perhaps a few tips for those of us going through the grueling task of relocation and job search?
The recruiting installment that will be posted is geared towards the dealer (employer) side of things. For a candidate:

HANDLE A JOB SEARCH AS YOU WOULD A SALES OPPORTUNITY!!!!!! Impecable timely follow up- professionalism- humilty with CONFIDENCE- and a positive smiling attitude

Know what "job" you are looking for and market yourself accordingly
Stress accomplishements on resume WITH numbers, our industry pays attention to numbers- be able to provide references and documentation to support those numbers i.e.
Average grosses
Internet hits to sales
Appointment to sales conversions etc
(true performance proof of area in which you worked)

Get and stay organized- have a process for your job search with appropriate follow up in way of a standard protocol for scheduled follow up, cover letters (2) standard thank you for telephone interview, face to face interview- hand written is best (email is appropriate if that was how you corresponded in the past otherwise- hand written snail mail for notes)
Create Excel spreadsheet with:
Date Applied
Dealership Location Phone
Source Monster/Referral/Paper etc.
Contact person
Resume/Cover sent via email, fax or website
Date 1st contact- interview
Result-Notes- Follow Up
Date 2nd contact-interview
Result-Notes- interview- Follow Up
Date 3rd contact- interview
Result- Notes- interview- follow UF

Create a standardized "process or plan" from beginning to end with all supporting correspondence templates and FOLLOW IT

Use your networks- get the word out there
Cold calling for a job is ok!!!!
(And remember that you are "selling" yourself and its a number game, just like any other sale)

Be prepared for the interview by knowing the store/group and possibly some key areas that you know they are looking to improve in and where your strengths will benefit them.

Keep eye contact and ask questions - engage

Role play the is a huge help before you actually walk in! Got a friend in the biz, ask him/her to help- review YOU- what you have done NOT what you are going to DO.

Any other questions? There are so many "tips" feel free to give me a call and I would be happy to go through some of them with you!

Good Luck!

I am a GM at an Independent dealer and we have managed to attract the top professionals in our area by being different and the word has gotten around. We offer a flexible schedule and rotate Mondays off for our managers and salespeople to spend time with friends and family. We also have a very open door policy and every salesperson feels comfortable coming into my office and giving me feedback and ideas for the business. When I see a problem with a salesperson or process the managers look at our responsibility in the situation change that first and then work on changing the behavior of the people around us. Happy employees make happy customers. Don't get me wrong we don't just bend over for our salespeople and let them walk on us, but they know that they are treated with respect and they in turn treat all the managers and their career with respect. This has created a great place to work and we are up double digits for the year while others are closing down around us. I came from outside the car business as far as my people management goes and I think that is why we are truly a "different" dealership. I really believe that there are only 2 reasons people don't do something. 1. They don't know how- so we make sure to give them the tools and encouragement to learn how. 2. They don't want to- so if we have given you the tools and you have proven that you know how and still aren't doing something that is the only logical reason why you aren't doing it. In that case it is time for you to go. This has created a stong team of people that I love working with.
@ Mrs. Jones - It's obvious you get it! Love that. More dealership's GM's need to take a que from you. And it's not just warm and're talking nuts and bolts! Your sales are up, so there's all of the proof. Great job on your Facebook page. I get the sense that it's a nice place to work and buy! Keep up the good work. =)
Mrs. Jones,

"When I see a problem with a salesperson or process the managers look at our responsibility in the situation change that first and then work on changing the behavior of the people around us"....WOW- this is an example of what "managing" is all about.
The most successful dealership I have worked in had this mentality- look at managements side of the street first, clean it up- then be able to address behaviors as they come up on the "employees side of the street" with a clear conscience and the respect of the employees.
Do as I say not as I do is never a winning formula in any business- exspecially ours!
Their is a magic bullet to internet sales success and it IS people. Hiring the right candidate is imperative to a profitable internet department, but it is so hard to find this talent. I wrote an article in Digital Dealer mag a couple of years ago called The Perfect Fit about some of the qualifications I look for in a candidate (many covered by Wendi above.
I decided to post on this because I just left two different dealerships today looking to hire qualified BDC candidates.
One dealership has a strong, up-and-coming ISM in charge, but is hamstrung by a poor pay plan for the new hires (essentially, if they achieve numbers in the top 10% of all BDC people based on lead opportunities, they still may fall under the Minimum Performance Requirement. Someone needs to teach them about proper expectations.)
The other knows they want to improve, is willing to spend the money to get someone, but isn't really willing to ruffle any feathers of their current team by bringing in new solutions that may help them grow.

These seems to be the two common brain cramps I see that many managers are suffering from when attempting to hire high-caliber folks.

I'll address this topic and more at the upcoming Digital Dealer Conference in Nashville where I will be speaking on Selection, Hiring, Orientation, and Training for the Internet Department.
  • J
    John Scott
  • September 22, 2009
"The other knows they want to improve, is willing to spend the money to get someone, but isn’t really willing to ruffle any feathers of their current team by bringing in new solutions that may help them grow."
-Joe Webb

People will always resist change, no matter the business, the department, or the industry.

They have to rip the band aid off, and just do it. The longer they talk about it, the longer they wait, the more time they give people to poke holes in it, or focus on why its "not going to work".
Even worse, they could set the new hire or solutions up for failure. Not consciously, or in a devious fashion, but just by their focusing on the negativity, or whats "bad" about the solution. Ive seen it happen.

If its the right decision it should profit all, which means in a few weeks they wont remember their ruffled feathers.