Best PracticesDealership Operations & Processes

What Retail Automotive Can Learn from College Sports Recruiting

College sports teams turnover, a lot. With players limited to four true seasons, coaches are faced with the task of constant recruiting and team rebuilding.

Sound familiar?

Successful college programs find the right people for their strategy. They don’t go after the biggest and strongest, they look for people that add depth to their system.

A great example of this is the recruiting of Deshawn Watson. Watson, a standout QB from Georgia, was a playmaker even as a high school sophomore. He was heavily recruited by many schools, but the University of Georgia was not one of them. UGA was looking for a golden arm, pro-style QB. That was their style of offense.

Watson’s style aligned with Clemson’s strategy – a wide open, no huddle offense where the best athlete on the field is the Quarterback. Clemson recognized Watson’s ability to be a difference maker and began recruiting him during his sophomore year of High School.

In retail automotive we tend to go after whoever performs the best in the interview, or in desperate times whoever shows up to the interview. The lack of a Human Capital Strategy often results in the candidate turning over shortly after starting.

Developing a recruiting plan starts with defining what you need. Here are a few things to consider.

What is your selling strategy?

No two dealerships have the exact same selling strategy. Variables such as pricing, location, customer base and manufacturer will dictate process and customer interaction. Defining your selling strategy will provide consistency in process and ensure your sales team understands the expectations.

For example, if your emphasis is on new customers then you better find people who can hunt and prospect in addition to having closing ability. Candidates that sold business to business will be a better fit in this model then candidates who have only worked in retail.

On the contrary, if your market is small and you measure success by customer retainage, you should find people who are good long term relationship builders that can also follow process.

Leveraging a CRM is essential for maintaining relationships. You can hire the best people person around, but if they don’t believe in technology or don’t want to follow a process, they will not be successful in your model.

Candidates who have big box retail experience or have sold wireless devices are better trained to follow process than ones with a more entrepreneurial background such as real estate or advertising sales.

What is your coaching strategy?

Coach K is known for recruiting players with character. He takes the private school image seriously and holds this principle in high regard. He believes in setting standards rather than rules and has been recognized by his players as a coach who gets to know the individual strength of each player before finalizing the team strategy.

On the contrary, Dean Smith was known for developing the Carolina Way – a philosophy of loyalty and teamwork. His system was focused on the team, often driving up the score only to force his players to slow down and stall in order to preserve the lead. He called the shots and remained in control throughout the game.

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What kind of coaches do you have on your team?

If your leaders are big on philosophy, adaption and individualism (á la Coach K) then you should target candidates who are internally motivated and have already mastered the fundamentals.

Typically these candidates have a proven track record of success and can handle more autonomy. A good gauge is the level of responsibility they held in previous positions coupled with the reason they stayed or left an organization.

If you are attracted to junior candidates who may not have much, if any, professional experience, a better coaching alternative is the Dean Smith philosophy.

Leaders who prefer to focus on the basics in a controlled environment do better with junior or entry level employees. Inexperienced candidates need to learn the fundamentals and often times will respond best in a structured environment. The best way to set new hires up for success in this model is to introduce this philosophy in the interview process.

College teams plan to recruit. They define what works for them, identify what they need to sustain or grow, and put resources into finding the right people for their teams. They can’t afford to settle for what is available. They work hard to attract the best and most talented players.

These same concepts can and should be applied to recruiting for a sales team in retail automotive.

What’s your strategy?