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Tony Albertson

Are Your Managers Being Followed or Just Tolerated?

business team in meeting on dark background

So there I was, the third newly-hired General Manager in two and a half years in a struggling automotive dealership and faced with the task of evaluating the competence of the existing department managers. These were the managers that would be required to support the renewed vision of the dealer and institute the processes that would hopefully get the store on its feet.  I needed leaders. Were they worth keeping? Should I just blow them all out and start fresh? How do you know?  I of course wanted to give them the opportunity to be successful, but do temporary results lead to long term progress?  At one time or another in my career I have read and studied every management book I could get my hands on but the question remained. Where to start?  It is often funny where our answers come from…

As a young man I had this old guy that lived next door.  I would see him from time to time out walking his fuzzy little dog and didn’t think much of him.  What I didn’t know at the time was that he was a highly decorated retired naval captain and, typical of many combat vets, he lived in total anonymity being mostly taken for granted by the casual observer. At seventeen years old I was just as self-obsessed as anyone my age, but one day this “old guy” got my attention. Initially it was a result of his slightly dark, self-deprecating sense of humor.  I noticed this first as it was being directed at me and my frustrated attempts to get a stubborn lawnmower started.  I thought to myself, “Wait a minute…the old dude that lives next door, that I don’t even know, is making fun of me.”  When I looked up to proffer an indignant teenager scowl and snappy retort, I was greeted by the ornery smile of a mischievous schoolboy pasted to the face of, well, an old guy. I liked him instantly.

Over time, the old captain shared many sea stories and descriptions of combat that would keep me enthralled for hours at a time. He shared both the horror and the glory with a deep sense of humility and grace. Fast forward many years to my current situation in taking over a new dealership, and one particular conversation stood out.

I had asked him what was more difficult, following orders or as his career progressed, assigning the people to carry out the orders? He thought about this for a moment and shared a about time he was required to pick two young lieutenants to lead men into harm’s way. The mission was important, dangerous and had to be accomplished, but who were the right officers to lead it? He had many young lieutenants under his command to choose from.  Some were all spit and polish, some were by the book and cautious, most were equally trained, and all wanted the opportunity to prove their worth as officers.  Every officer under his command understood the importance of planning, logistics and execution of a plan, and all, in theory, should be able to lead the mission.  But the question came down to this; if, in theory they can all lead…who would be followed?

We have all seen this at one time or another; an intelligent manager with all the knowledge given the responsibility of leading a group to an expected result and falling short. Ultimately because he or she was not being “followed” by their subordinates—they were just being “tolerated.”

These same managers have read all the books, attended the seminars and in the end were pronounced a “qualified leader.”  If you happen to work for one of these qualified leaders they frequently feel the need to remind you who the boss is because you are obviously not smart enough to remember.  If they happen to work for you they are the first to sing their own praises, point out the deficiency in others, and the validity of their own ideas. It is not unusual to see people roll their eyes as they pass and the so-called leader remains oblivious.  Would you follow this guy?

At the end of the day, what is a leader?

Simply put, a leader is someone that is being followed, not just tolerated.  Take a look at your managers.  Are they just being tolerated because your employees care enough about you and the store not to leave?  The net results of this situation are mediocre at best.  Or are they following the person that you appointed to carry out the company’s mission to its highest result?

A manager can have all the knowledge, bright ideas and understanding of your vision, but it is the ability to build conviction in others that makes the leader.

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Dave Anderson

Building a High Performance Culture (Part 16)

This article is part of a multi-part series titled “Building a High Performance Culture” by Up To Speed Guest Expert, Dave Anderson, of LearnToLead®.


Words that Work: Discipline

In this sixteenth post on building a high performance culture, I want to put in the “words that work” column a word that fuels the consistency that separates good performers and organizations from great ones: discipline.

I’ll expand on discipline momentarily, but to improve your perspective on this culture series, please review the following “words that work” from past posts.

  • These concepts must be consistently woven into your culture to strengthen it.
  • The “words that hurt” and their ensuing mindsets, must be just as diligently weeded out of your culture.
  • These two categories are designed to build an evolving portrait of what a high performance culture looks like so you can evaluate your own, and strive towards the ideal.

Words that work:

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something. 

Words that hurt:

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest or concern.

Discipline is defined as: an activity, regimen or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.

To help grasp the importance of disciplined people working within a disciplined culture, consider the following points on discipline:

  1. Discipline serves as fuel for consistency. It powers the development of healthy habits and routines instrumental for reducing the wide up and down swings of business performance.
  2. A narrower focus on who and what matters most stimulates discipline. The marriage of narrowed focus and more discipline makes decision making easier; it helps you know what to say “yes” or “no” to so you can stay on track and do more of what matters most.
  3. Discipline without direction is drudgery. Discipline simply for the sake of discipline does not inspire. But when discipline is developed because it leads you towards a compelling purpose it can help make you unstoppable.
  4. Discipline isn’t about doing a lot of things every day; it’s about executing the handful of daily activities most necessary to move towards your goals.
  5. Disciplined people have more, not fewer, options as they progress through business and life. Discipline isn’t a jailer, it is a liberator.
  6. Disciplined people, pulled forward by a compelling purpose, consistently do what is right day-in and day-out; not just when it’s easy, cheap, popular or convenient.
  7. Discipline isn’t “punishment,” it’s a morale builder. You always feel better about yourself when you do what is right, what you’ve committed to do; whether it’s saying “no” to the cheesecake when dieting, or making the ten calls you said you’d make before leaving for home.

As a final thought on discipline, I’d like to suggest that the alternative to discipline is disaster. Evidence of this principle abounds in the lives of businesses and individuals who waste time and resources chasing silver bullets, quick fixes, and implementing successions of failed flavors of the month, while their disciplined counterparts steadily plod along to new performance levels.

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Steve Hall

Is There a Disconnect in Your Automotive Dealership?


Being an instructor at the NCM Institute has some definite advantages. I am blessed with an abundance of information, from all levels of the dealership. Week by week, we get to interact with owners, general managers and department managers. Not only do we share our information and best practices, but listen and learn about what is going on in your dealerships.

As our students attend class, you can actually see the ideas start to click in their minds. The light bulb comes on and they start to visualize how the content, systems and processes apply to them. They see how to make THEIR department or store better. It is an inspiring sight to see.

As they leave class on the final day, we often hear comments concerning the information covered, such as this:

“My owner came back from a 20 Group meeting and was excited about this ‘great’ idea, but after he explained it for ten minutes, I couldn’t see how it would work for us, and so I just didn’t do it. Now that I’ve been able to see the whole picture, I understand what he was trying to say and how good it can be for our store. Thanks for filling in the gap.”

The gap (or disconnect)… that is the problem. When asking owners why more best practices aren’t instilled in their stores, I often get the response, “There seems to be a disconnect between what we tell them and what they understand.”

Is this disconnect possibly the result of “abbreviated communication”?  An example: A dealer goes to a 20 Group meeting and they are shown a presentation about a subject. The presentation is 1-2 hours long and is filled with great numbers, facts and examples. It seems like a slam dunk. During the remainder of the meeting, the owner talks with other dealers that have used this idea and are prospering. Now he is convinced this could reap benefits in his store.

Convinced the idea is great, he gets back to his store and summons the department manager. He talks about this idea, and even gives the manager a printed copy of the Power Point. Now he sends the manager on his way to launch this new idea. “Let’s start it now” are the parting words.

At this point, does the manager fully understand how this idea will integrate into the store? Or what the real benefits are? The information that was presented over a couple of hours and the follow up inquires that lasted a couple of days, have now digressed to a 20 minute “get this done” talk. None of the idea details were covered thoroughly enough for the manager to successfully understand.

Now the manager goes to launch this new idea. What does he do? Generally, he flips through the Power Point slides, not fully understanding the information, and then dilutes the information from the 20 minutes that was given to him, down to a 10 minute version for his staff. The staff tries to make the process work, but they are unprepared and often times uncommitted. They just don’t get it.  Are we starting to see the disconnect yet?

Rather than the flow of information getting smaller with each level, shouldn’t it get larger, just like a river does? As tributaries add into a river it grows in power and strength. If we have a great idea, as we feed the information down to our employees shouldn’t the idea grow? Aren’t two minds better than one?

The next time you are launching a great idea, remember to give more than you received.

Take the time to instruct, explain and follow up with the people that are involved. Apply accountability management principles and see the great ideas prosper, not wither away without ever gaining the needed traction. Bridge the gap and remove the disconnect.

At the NCM Institute, we try to give more information, explaining the “how” along with the “why.”  If you are tired of the disconnect, check out our courses and let us help bridge the performance gap in your store.

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Tom Hopkins

Diagnosing Your Clients’ Needs


When people think about making a vehicle purchase, they aren’t likely to compare talking with you to going to the doctor, but you should make that comparison when preparing to talk with clients. People trust doctors. They usually accept the diagnosis and prescription for wellness with few questions asked. That’s because they recognize doctors as experts in their fields. Your goal is to have your clients see you the same way. When they have an ache or pain related to their mode of transportation, they should immediately think of calling you. That’s because they’ll be confident you have the right prescription for their ailment.

To earn this level of respect and trust, you need to start every relationship with the right skills. These skills include a caring manner, a confident air, and your diagnostic tools. The tools you use in diagnosing the automotive needs of your clients may be as simple as a pad of paper and your product knowledge. They may include your past client experiences, personal experiences, or memories.

The most powerful diagnostic tools used by all people in sales are questions. Like a doctor, your use of questions begins with general areas of need. Then, based on the answers you are given, you narrow your questions down to where you can readily determine the right cure or solution for the clients’ needs.

Average car salespeople have this fantasy in which they think they should be able to simply present the wonderful features of their vehicles and the customer, seeing the value, says, “I’ll take it.” If customers made buying decisions based on features alone, that might work, but it’s a rare occasion when that happens.

The reality of it is that most buying decisions are based on past experiences, the experiences of others the client trusts, advertising, gut feelings, and hundreds of other factors that you can’t do much about. So, you have to start with questions to get them talking about their needs, wants, and perceptions of your product or service. The answers to these questions will help you put yourself in their shoes. Once you’re there, you’ll see what steps you need to take in order to help them make a sound buying decision.

Be sure to ask, “What past experience do you have with this type of vehicle?” It could be that they’re very well-versed on the features of an SUV or luxury sedan, even owned one in the past, and are seeking a new one of the same type. If they know little or nothing about the vehicle they’ve come to see, you’ll have to invest a bit more time in educating them as to the features and what they can expect.

Ask very specifically what they hope to accomplish with an investment in this particular type of vehicle. It could be that one of your vehicle’s key benefits is sought after by most clients. However, that feature does nothing for this particular client. You won’t want to turn them off by talking about something that doesn’t matter to them.

I like to use the analogy of a torpedo when talking about this subject. A torpedo leaves a ship in the general direction of its intended target. It bounces a signal off in the target direction. If the signal doesn’t come back, it corrects its direction to get back on course and sends another signal seeking feedback.

That’s what questioning does for you. You take off in a general direction with your questions. The answers you receive either tell you that you’re on target or that you need to take another track. Rarely will you take a direct course from initial contact to the vehicle sale. More often than not, you’ll find yourself zig-zagging but all the while heading in the general direction of the sale until you find just the right answer for each and every client.

Take a moment to think about the quality of the questions you are asking. How quickly and accurately are they bringing you back the information you need to move forward with a sale? If you continually get hung up in one aspect of your presentation, invest some non-client time writing out the questions you’re using now. Then, think about how you could rephrase them to get better feedback. An even better strategy is to make a list of all the information you need to have before asking for a decision. Then, work backwards, writing out the questions that will provide those answers. Either way, you’ll soon find yourself with better questions to ask, and a shorter, more efficient sales process.

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Steve Hall

Sales Management Responsibilities of the Service Manager, Part 2


Last week at the NCM Institute, we talked about six of the “35 Responsibilities of the Service Manager”.  Today, I would like to go over five more of the sales management responsibilities on this list. These processes are not in any particular order of importance, but realize that if you want to become a world class service organization, they will all be important. Let’s get started!

Labor Pricing System

In continuation from our last six responsibilities, the next responsibility is the labor pricing system.  Ensure that a proper grid labor system or precision labor rate for non-competitive repair work is in place and followed consistently to improve the effective labor rate.  Also, verify your factory maintenance service and high visibility repair work is priced competitively.  You can sum this up by saying, have a well thought out method to your pricing, employ different target effective labor rates by category, and then make sure your employees follow it.

A.S.R Process

Responsibility number eight for sales management in the service department is the A.S.R. process. A.S.R. stands for Additional Service Request. These are the needed items found by your technicians during the multi-point inspection process.   Ensure you have a documented process for these requests, and that it is followed consistently by the technicians and advisors.  This is a crucial process to maximize sales opportunities. As with any crucial process this must be measured and inspected every day. You should track average requests per vehicle and the closing percentages on these requests as a department, along with by advisor and technician.

Extended Service Hours

The ninth responsibility is extended service hours. Always have extended service hours with early bird and night owl services, along with Saturday hours that will accommodate your customers. You don’t have to be open longer than your competitors, but you should be open the same.  When a customer needs help and you aren’t open and your competition is, you run a real risk of losing that customer.  In conjunction with providing great customer service, the incremental gross profit that can be obtained in these additional hours can have a large positive effect on your net profit. Just be aware that if you aren’t currently doing this, it will be a culture change and you must communicate well with you staff to make it succeed.

Internal Repair Orders

The tenth responsibility under sales management focuses on internal repair orders. You must ensure you are retaining 100% of all available internal work.  This should include all reconditioning, pre-loaded accessories, aftermarket items, and detailing.  You must also make sure all reconditioning work is being completed within three business days.  The quick turnaround of reconditioning helps to maximize the opportunity to turn the inventory for the pre-owned department. As a result of that, you have an increased opportunity to gain additional vehicles to recondition.  This will make both the service and pre-owned departments more money.

Fleet and Commercial Accounts

The final responsibility we have under our sales management of the service department section is fleet and commercial accounts. In an effort to achieve incremental sales and gross profit, you should pursue these volume accounts.  Guaranteed this is somewhat easier for certain brands, but if you look hard enough you can find fleet vehicles for every manufacturer in the market. Some places you might look into for this type of work include, local and state governments, rental facilities, construction companies, medical transportation companies, and the list can go on and on. That covers our 11 responsibilities that fall under the service sales management category, even though these are just the tip of the iceberg.  Again, as you work towards taking your dealership to the next level, feel free to reach out to NCM, and all of its professionals, to see how we can help. Did you miss the first six responsibilities? Watch a recap from CBT News here:

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Jody DeVere

Is Buying a Car a Battle of the Sexes?

business team

Is Buying a Car a Battle of the Sexes?

Shopping for a new car is still a hassle for many women. Women purchase more than 50% of all new cars or influence the purchasing of about 85% of all new cars sold in the US and 48% in Canada. Many women don’t even look to a man for opinions on what to purchase because they are single or run the house.

Topping the list of gripes: Time. 21% say buying a car is not quick and effortless.

Of the women surveyed, 15% said they didn’t like or trust their salesperson.

When women decide to go out to a local car dealership to buy a car, they are most often ignored as if invisible. If they do bring a man (just to get noticed!) but try to dominate the sale (because it’s their car, after all), they are treated like a mouthy kid, or worse yet, expected to allow the man to do all the talking.

In today’s competitive auto industry, I can’t understand how salespeople can discriminate based on gender. If anything, they should cater to women or risk missing a sale and the opportunity to recruit a loyal customer. With so much information available to women to conduct research before they buy a new car, women are becoming much more car savvy and they deserve the respect of car dealerships.

Here are some facts about women car buyers:

  • Women spend approximately 17 weeks on the new car buying process (3 weeks longer than men.)
  • Women are more inclined to purchase cars that they consider fun to drive and that are well made. In contrast, men prefer vehicles that are a good value for the money, are comfortable, have nice exterior styling, good fuel economy, and display a certain image.
  • Women, more than men, place a high value on a vehicle’s reliability, durability, passenger seating capacity, safety features, and availability of four-wheel drive.
    Women rate safety as the most important aspect when shopping for new vehicles.
  • Female buyers seek advice from automotive authorities (57%) before buying a new car.
  • Female auto buyers will shop an average of 3 dealerships for best price and best treatment.
  • 1/3 of female buyers read an average of 4 automotive magazines for 12 months before purchase.
  • Females place the most importance on dependability, functionality, and economic factors when buying.

With these facts in mind, what is your dealership doing to attract, sell, retain and, create loyalty with women car buyers?

Being properly armed with the right tools and training your dealership can increase its share of the largest and fastest growing demographic of new vehicle buyers in the US – Women Consumers. The Ask Patty Certified Dealer program was designed specifically for car dealerships to attract, sell, retain and, keep loyal women consumers.

What Is An Ask Patty Certified Female Friendly Dealer?

An Ask Patty certified dealer is a dealer that creates a safe and comfortable environment where women feel welcome, while making the experience of purchasing and maintaining her vehicle a pleasant one. Ask Patty trained and certified dealers are held to a high level of customer satisfaction for women consumers. To find out how to become an Ask, Inc. certified dealer, email us or contact us at: or phone 888-745-1928.

Jody DeVere – CEO
Ask, Inc.

Data Sources:, Road and Travel Magazine, Detroit News, CARMAX Survey 2013, LipSticking – Marketing to Women Online



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Steve Hall

Sales Management Responsibilities of the Service Manager (Part One)


At the NCM Institute, we have something we call the “35 Responsibilities of the Service Manager.” Today, I would like to go over six of the sales management responsibilities from this list. These processes are not in any particular order of importance, but realize that if you want to become a world class service organization, they will all be important. Let’s get started!

The Road to the Sale Process

In the sales management category, the first process the management team must “own” is the road to the sale process.

I’m sure your dealership has a fully documented road to the sale process for the sales department and that every salesperson can recite it back to you and they follow it to maximize your sales department closing percentage.  But, do you have a documented road to a sale for the service department?  In our nearly 4,000 dealerships that we process data for, the average service advisor generates more labor gross profit per month than the average new and pre-owned sales person generates selling vehicles.  Consistently, the advisors average about 20% more gross profit than the vehicle salesperson.  This disparity is much larger when you consider the vehicle salespersons’ average includes the F&I gross profit generated, yet the service advisor’s average doesn’t include the parts gross profit they generate.  With so much riding on the service advisor, shouldn’t they have a documented, trained, and followed road to the sale process to drive increased dollars per repair order and customer satisfaction?

Sales Training for the Service Staff

The second responsibility under the sales management category is sales training for the service staff. Performing consistent, let me repeat that one word, consistent, sales training for all service customer contact personnel to improve their skills in recommending services, overcoming objectives and closing the sale is a key, yet often neglected responsibility.  Unfortunately, too often service managers know how important this training is, but often don’t know how to perform it effectively, so they just don’t do it at all.   With this in mind, don’t be afraid to involve other people for this training.  Whoever performs sales training for the new and pre-owned vehicle departments could be used for a portion of this. You might also consider some outside assistance.  Your tire supplier will generally provide no cost training on tire sales and presentation.  Other suppliers offer sales training, just be sure their content and tactics match what you want.

Vehicle Walk Around Process

The third responsibility I would like to share is the service vehicle walk around process.  Do you ensure the vehicle walk around process is part of your service sales culture?  Do all of your advisors understand that performing a vehicle walk around with each client is a condition of employment?  Many times when we talk about walk arounds, we never explain the “why” to our employees.  They typically come to the conclusion that it is to look for damage on the vehicle and to “protect” the department.  Though that can be a side benefit of the vehicle walk around process, the real reason for the walk around it to build the relationship with the customer.  This is why you must have the customer present when preforming the vehicle walk around.  Take the time to train your people on the real reason to do this and they will be more likely to actually perform it.  Encourage them to use what we call the F.O.R.D. system during the walk around.  The F.O.R.D. system is just an acronym standing for Family… Occupation… Recreation…. and Dreams.  When performing the walk around, teach your advisors to look for car seats, sporting equipment, bumper stickers or other items that will give them insight into the customer’s interests and activities.  Use these to start a relationship-building conversation.  Remember, people purchase from people they like and trust. You must build that relationship and it all starts at the vehicle during the vehicle walk around.

Menu Sales Process

The fourth sales management responsibility is the menu sales process.  Do you have a menu sales process?  Is it consistently followed by all of your service advisors?  Do you track menu closing percentages versus opportunities?  Let me define what NCM considers a menu opportunity.  We consider a menu opportunity to be any vehicle that is within 1,000 miles plus or minus from its factory recommended service.  In order to maximize this opportunity, you must build your menus on a competitive basis.  You will need to price shop your competitors on this, particularly the franchised mass merchandizers and local independent repair facilities.  In addition to selling the factory scheduled maintenance, you should also use the menus to support the selling of detailing, tires, accessories and other ala cart items.

Today’s Special Board

The next responsibility I would like to cover is the ‘Today’s Special” board.  You should have a professional, daily special board to offer items you need to sell seasonally, that have little activity, or that you wish to otherwise promote.  Think of this as the gum, candy and magazines in the register line at the market.  The items displayed on the daily specials board are typically impulse items along with reminders of often forgotten items like wiper blades, detailing or tire rotations.

Tire Merchandising

Item number six is tire merchandising.  You must make sure your customers immediately see that you are actively in the tire business as soon as they enter you service write up area.  Having a great looking tire display with installed prices for show-and-tell greatly assist in the selling of tires.  Tires are a major point of defection for clients.  We must make sure they know you are in the tire business and are highly competitive.  If you do tire price matching, make sure that is displayed for the customer, and used to build value in the way that you price your tires.

As you can see, these six sales management responsibilities are very important to follow to reach success in day-to-day operations and will set your business apart from the competition.  Please join us next week as we discuss five more sales management responsibilities.  As you work towards taking your dealership to the next level, feel free to reach out to NCM, and all of its professionals, to see how we can help.

Want to learn more?

NCM OnDemand provides virtual interactive training that translates into better productivity and higher dealership profits. Take a free test drive by clicking here.

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Jonathan Dawson

How Introducing Objections Removes Objections

mature salesman showing new car to a couple

Do you know the difference between reactive and proactive service? Understanding it will make a big impact on your sales career and your customers’ experience.

Let me use a common example of going out to dinner to illustrate it. Imagine arriving at a new restaurant in your town you’ve wanted to try with your friends. You walk inside and are immediately struck by the great design, décor, and ambiance. You get seated at your table and after a couple of minutes you notice you don’t have a menu, so you ask the waiter walking by for menus. He replies politely, “My pleasure!” and with a smile hands you and your friends some menus.

Have you noticed anything not quite right yet?

The menu offers a wonderful diverse selection: prime steaks, fresh seafood, and homemade pastas. Even the pricing is a pleasant surprise as all the options seem affordable. As you discuss the options with your friends, you reflexively reach to grab a drink of water. But there isn’t any on the table yet. You ask your friends, “Have they come by to take drink orders yet?” Your friends say no. Once again, you stop a passing waitress and ask her to bring drinks. She responds with, “I’m happy to take your drink orders. Your waiter is Mike and he’ll be right with you.” She takes your drink orders and brings them back right away.

What is missing from this experience?

Now you start to notice something about this place. Despite the amazing ambiance, superb food choices, and the staff always smiling, something is not quite right. Mike shows up, apologizes for the delay, and takes your orders. As he walks away from the table you notice your glass of ice tea is almost empty and try to get his attention, but he’s gone. You flag down a waiter walking by and ask him to have Mike bring you a refill. Mike brings out the refill and the food too. It’s piping hot and smells delicious.

The table is ready to dig in when you all notice there is no silverware on the table. By now you feel irritated. Once again, you signal for Mike and ask for silverware. He offers his apology and brings it with a smile. As the night continues, you ask for refills, desert menus, and finally the bill.

It is not just about serving the client, it’s about the type of service you provide.

In this restaurant the staff were friendly, courteous, and willing to get everything that was requested WHEN it was requested. But your experience will never be excellent if you constantly have to ask for things.

Some salespeople are just like the waiters in this restaurant. They wait for the customer to bring up a concern or to offer an objection. Then, they try to overcome them. This is providing reactive service.

Reactive service is service in response to a request. Once the request is made, the salesperson reacts to it or satisfies it. Reactive service is the most common kind of service salespeople provide.

How could you tell if you provide reactive service? If you constantly hear any of these things from a customer on the lot, it’s one of the signs that your service is reactive:

  • I’m just looking
  • This is my first stop
  • I just want your best price
  • The car is not for me
  • I don’t have much time
  • I just need a trade-in value
  • All I need to know is payments
  • Just tell me about your programs
  • You don’t have what I am looking for
  • I’m only gathering information

Do you like hearing these things and then having to overcome them? I didn’t think so! And there is a better way! The better way is to become proactive instead of being reactive.

Proactive service is offering service PRIOR to a request. Being proactive means anticipating instead of waiting for something to happen. My Sellchology Training philosophy is based on the idea of being proactive.

How would it change your experience if that restaurant paid attention to your table and brought menus, offered refills, and made sure you had everything else to enjoy your dinner BEFORE you had to ask for it? It would have transformed  your experience!

A salesperson who offers proactive service does not wait for the customer to bring up common issues or objections. He learns to anticipate them and to bring them up FIRST!

By doing this you can completely transform the entire buying experience for you and your customer. Just as every waiter should know that a customer will need menus, silverware, and refills, so should a salesperson know that customers will mention price, shopping around, or being pressed for time! Instead of waiting for the customer to bring up these concerns, you do it first!

I call it becoming a PRO, a PRO-active salesperson. Anyone can become a PRO by learning how to positively introduce common questions or objections FIRST. What can you expect to happen if you learn to do this?

Proactive salespeople see these results:

  • Objections are minimized or removed entirely
  • Customer experience is transformed
  • Salesperson no longer feels rejected

Here are a few examples of reactive vs. proactive approaches when greeting a new customer on the lot:


Reactive: Offer generic help to a customer only to hear them say, “I’m just looking.” Result: You feel rejected and there is no rapport building happening.

Proactive: When you approach the customer, say this first: “Are you doing some looking or shopping today?” The customer will probably respond with, “Yes, we are.” Result: You’ve brought up the idea of shopping around first, and it will not make sense for them to respond with “I’m just looking.” You have positively engaged the customer by saying something they were probably about to say to you.


Reactive: Offer to help a customer only to hear them respond with, “This is my first stop.” Result: You are now in a defensive position having to justify your help. This is a poor start!

Proactive solution: Be proactive in bringing up the question of whether it’s their first stop: “Do we get to be your first stop or have you been to a few dealerships already?” Result: if you phrase it that way, you turn a potential objection into a compliment – we “get” to be their first stop. And regardless of their answer, they’re responding to your question and engaging in a dialogue with you. You’ve just removed the objection of “This is my first stop.”


Reactive: Offer to help with vehicle selection but the customer says, “No, thanks, I don’t have much time now.” Result: You’ve just heard an objection you now have to overcome.

Proactive solution: Say this first, “I know your time is valuable. What would you like to accomplish with the limited time that you have and how can I help you do it?” Result: Customers cannot bring up the time constraint because you already acknowledged it! Plus, you came across as a professional who wants to offer a solution based on their needs. Nobody wants to talk to a car salesman but everybody wants to talk to someone who has solutions!

This is the simple beauty of learning how to become a proactive salesperson: Objections are removed or minimized, customer experience is transformed, and the salesperson becomes a solutions provider.

Virtually all sales situations are better handled with proactive service. Take the list of common objections you hear and start practicing the proactive approach – mention it FIRST in a positive manner.

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Dave Anderson

Building a High Performance Culture (Part 15)


This article is part of a multi-part series titled “Building a High Performance Culture” by Up To Speed Guest Expert, Dave Anderson, of LearnToLead®.

Words that Hurt: Apathy

In this fifteenth post on building a high performance culture, I want to put in the “words that hurt” column a word that creates barren cultures, performances and customer experiences: apathy.

More about apathy in a moment, but to bring yourself up to date with this series, please review the following words that work from past posts. These must consistently be woven into your culture to strengthen it. The words that hurt, and their ensuing mindsets, must be just as diligently weeded out of a culture. These two categories are designed to build an evolving portrait of what a high performance culture looks like so you can evaluate your own, and strive towards the ideal.

Words that work:

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something. 

Words that hurt:

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy is defined as: a lack of enthusiasm, interest or concern.

Apathetic followers are often the result of numerous leadership failures:

  1. The leaders fail to create a vision that inspires followers to higher performance.
  2. The leaders fail to create and live a mission that unites followers behind a common cause.
  3. The leaders pledge allegiance to the status quo, learning to live with what is average rather than improve or remove it.
  4. The leaders spend so much time with “stuff,” they have no time to build relationships with followers.
  5. The leaders spend so much time with “stuff,” they have no time to motivate, impact, train, coach or mentor followers.
  6. The leaders fail to engage followers by holding them accountable for their actions and results.
  7. The leaders fail to remove dead weight, lowering the morale of all who must work with the incompetent, corrupt, or inadequate.
  8. The leaders fail to live core values, or lead by example, disconnecting from followers and breaking trust in the process.
  9. The leaders stop learning, and so have nothing new to bring to the table to challenge or inspire followers, or to help them grow.
  10. The leaders routinely start and quit new programs, creating a credibility crisis as followers become drained by the latest management “flavor” (failure) of the month.
  11. The leaders fail to respect and take care of customers, fanning the flames of cultural apathy far and wide.

The list could go on, but this is a good start.

It is also entirely possible that the leader is doing everything right and still has an apathetic follower simply because he hired and is keeping the wrong person; but that in itself is another blatant leadership failure. As you can see, cultural and corporate apathy starts and stops with the leaders and their many potential failures. The good news is that leaders can also fix cultural apathy by caring enough to put their coffee down, get off their backsides, and do their jobs with consistent excellence.


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Alan Ram

Is Your Dealership in Conflict?


Here’s the problem at many dealerships: In our heads, we know what we want our people to be doing on a daily basis, but our actions and processes (or lack thereof) contradict what our heads are thinking, and we end up sending our staff conflicting messages. What do many of you see as you walk through your showroom? You might see five salespeople standing out on the point for three hours, waiting for one customer while discussing their upcoming fantasy football draft. As a dealer, that should make you crazy. What do you want to see? You want to see your people working the phones EFFECTIVELY and driving better quality traffic to the dealership.

Here are a couple issues I see at play at many dealerships. First and foremost is your open floor. There is absolutely no benefit to you as a dealer in having an open floor. NONE!! All an open floor does is encourage your people to stand around and do nothing while they wait around for a floor up that was coming in anyway.

I see this happen all the time; a dealership has my training and their people are excited to work the phones. A couple salespeople, who don’t necessarily think it’s part of their job to actually follow up or generate anything, continue to stand out on the lot…and wait. Luckily for them, they don’t have to compete anymore for floor traffic with all the salespeople who are doing what you want them to do on the phones. Let’s just say that one of the salespeople standing around happens to bump into a customer that buys a car. Pretty soon the salespeople who are on the telephone, doing what you want them to do, start realizing that they’re not having a chance to even get an up. Now human nature takes over and they start the migration back to the front door. They indirectly feel that they are being punished by doing what you asked them to do. Your open floor is hurting productivity and needs to go.

Have you ever had to bribe your kids to get them to eat their candy and ice cream? “Now Billy, if you don’t eat your ice cream, you’re not going to get any candy.” I doubt that’s a conversation that happens at anyone’s house. It’s more like, “If you don’t eat your Brussel sprouts, you don’t get dessert”. You don’t need to convince them to eat their candy and ice cream. They were going to eat that anyway. To me, spiffing your salespeople for selling your floor ups is the same thing. They’re going to take your floor ups whether you spiff them or not! If a salesperson that sold 25 cars off strictly floor ups was to leave tomorrow, how many deals would you lose? Probably none. Why? Because those customers would still come in. They would just be distributed differently. What about that salesperson that sells 20 cars a month off primarily their own efforts to repeat and referral clients? If that salesperson was to leave, how many deals would you lose? I would say all of them. Therefore, a salesperson that sells repeat and referral customers is far more valuable to you than one that sells floor ups. If you’re going to have a spiff program, let’s spiff them for what you want them to do versus what they were going to do anyway! A referral spiff for example. If it really is a referral your salesperson generated through their efforts, wouldn’t it make sense to spiff them for it?

We also all want our sales staff doing a better job at working (mining) their sold customer base. What if we spiff them for selling repeat customers or for turning service customers back into sales clients. Now you have your salespeople thinking, “I make more money by selling a repeat or referral client than I do a floor up.” That’s when they’ll start focusing on those things you want them to focus on. That’s when you’re using your spiff money to change their behavior and ultimately change the culture. You will not sell one less car by eliminating a unit bonus, but you’ll sell a lot more cars by instituting a repeat and referral spiff.

The key to this coming together and getting the results you want is obviously training. Your people need to be trained on how to get results on the phone. When they’re trained it gives them confidence. When they have confidence, they’re much more likely to be successful and they gain momentum. It all starts with training and having processes in place that are consistent with, and not in conflict with, what you want to see happening on your showroom floor.


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