The Covid Comeback – On-boarding New Employees

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The Covid Comeback - On-boarding New Employees from Alan Ram's Proactive Training Solutions

The onset of COVID-19 jolted automotive dealerships across the country. Some dealers were forced to close, while others were fortunate enough to be considered essential businesses and remained open.  Those that remained open had to do so cautiously and often had to operate a skeleton crew, which meant that dealers needed to lay off or furlough employees.  While never a pleasant task, this can be an opportunity for dealers to reset and when hiring again, make sure that the standard is set to bring in “A” players.

As an industry, we’re acutely aware of the high turnover that dealerships face amongst their sales staff. While JD Power states that 67% of new sales hires left their dealership within 6 months, ESI Trends and Cox Automotive estimates that number to be closer to 80%! While this is a shocking statistic, an even more shocking figure is ESI Trends predicts this lack of retention can cost an average-size dealership up to half a million dollars a year. That translates to billions of dollars we are losing as an industry. We need to do better for ourselves and for the future of the dealership structure. It’s time we look at our processes on how we hire employees and once we have the right people in place, how do we retain them. 

We’ve outlined three steps that you can take to set yourself up for success, which will largely be determined by your dealership’s culture and the importance that you are putting on hiring the right person, training them and providing a positive environment for opportunities to advance.  

1. Hire Motivated People

This seems like it’s easy enough, right? However, time and time again we hear from our clients that the hardest part is motivating their staff.  Would that mean that you’re hiring unmotivated people? How many of your staff opted not to come back to the dealership because they made more on unemployment? Those are precisely the sales people you do not want back!!! You should hire people who are joining your dealership because they want to be successful and they’re driven to do what it takes to get there.  Whether they’re motivated by money or by lifestyle, they should be motivated to work hard to achieve results. Now the magic question is how do you identify the motivated?  That is the tricky part since it’s very hard to ascertain during the interview process.

Your first step to attracting the right candidate is to make sure that you have a clear definition of the job description.  People will naturally gravitate and excel at things they like to do. With clear expectations set at the get go, your candidates will have a sense if this is the right job for them.  Make sure to include words that appeal to both men and women to broaden your pool of candidates. With women influencing 85% of household buying decisions, you’d be wise to have a diverse sales team.

Additionally, during the interview process there are several things that you can do as a manager to identify a motivated candidate. First, ask the right questions. For some of the major responsibilities that you’ve outlined in the description, ask them to describe an accomplishment in a like area. For example, if you want to get a grasp on how someone will do with prospecting, you may ask them their accomplishments that they had in their last job to get more clients or if they don’t have that experience you can ask what they would do. Perhaps ask them what they have done during the pandemic to improve their job skills.  Based on their response, you can evaluate their thought process and see if they have a proven record of showing initiative and/or if they are creative in their approach.

Another way to evaluate is to present the candidate with a task to complete at a later time. One of our clients will provide candidates with a script that they use internally and asks the candidate to learn it and come back and show how proficient they are with the material.  Some candidates they find are amazing and have clearly put in the effort, others have put in minimal effort which shows and another group won’t even come back. I know you know which to hire!

Finally, you may want to look at where you’re finding candidates for your sales team. If you live near a military base, it’s a great idea to visit base separation events. Veterans make great employees and are looking for an opportunity to succeed in civilian life.  Also, don’t overlook your star employees who could refer people to come and work at your dealership. “A” players attract other “A” players and if you build upon that, you’ll have a solid team.

2. Provide Training

You can hire the most motivated staff but if you don’t provide them with the tools to succeed, you are setting them up for failure.  Let’s say you hire the best contractor to build your house but you only give him some wood, a hammer and nails. Can they build you a house? Maybe. That builder would be a lot more successful if they were given some power tools. You should have a clear process for new hires and a timeline that is followed for each. Many companies will start out with an orientation period where the recruit gets to know the company culture, product info and the basic workings of the dealership.  This includes training into your phone systems, CRMs and any other technology that you have, like an up system.

Next, they’ll need to understand the day-to-day of their job. This should be tied to performance metrics. Be sure to inspect what you expect.  Perhaps this includes making a certain number of outbound calls or setting a number of appointments. Whatever your metrics are, make sure they know what is expected of them.  Training should be part of your dealership’s culture. Not only do you signal to the employees that you care about their growth but they will be better positioned to exceed at their job and in-turn stay loyal to your dealership. 

3. Culture Matters

Your culture should be driven from the top down. Your dealership’s culture encompasses a variety of elements, including values, work environment, ethics and expectations.  Prospective employees can get a sense of your culture by what you project online through your website and social media channels. For example, does your Facebook feature employees doing fun things or giving back to the community or is it a barrage of sales messages and messaging of deep discount prices? Also, what is the atmosphere when they walk into your dealership? Are there groups of sales people standing by the door waiting to pounce on the next customer to walk through the door or are they engaged with activity in the showroom?  Employees thrive in environments with strong leadership, solid processes, goals and a path for career growth. Culture is driven from the top down so you should look at who sits in management positions and make sure that they are upholding your dealership’s values and hire employees who also are in alignment.  If you’re setting the tone that salespeople are a critical part of the dealership and provide them with the tools and resources to be successful to grow and advance, you’ll be attracting the right people. On the other hand if your dealership expects a lot from the salesperson but has the culture to let the strong survive by figuring things out on their own, then you likely will burn through a lot of employees.  

How you hire, and who you hire, are imperative to your success as a dealership. A well trained team is your biggest asset and can be a huge differentiator for your dealership.  Make training a part of your culture so everyone knows it isn’t a suggestion, but rather something that happens every day at your store. By training your employees, you’re sending them the message that you care about their development, you will be setting them up for success, and they will be happier. People stay longer when they’re having fun and making money, and isn’t that what we’re all striving for? Schedule a demo to learn about our on-boarding process and continuous training for your sales team and management.

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