Who Needs Training at Your Dealership?
By Ted Ings, Executive Director
The Peter Principle states that in a hierarchy people tend to rise to “their level of incompetence.”
This basically means that as people are promoted they become less and less effective because performance in one job does not automatically guarantee performance in another. And one of the big reasons for this is lack of training. If you want your sales team to perform to their potential you need to train them properly.
How to Train the Trainer
You might have years of experience, and an incredible amount of knowledge at your fingertips, but that is not enough to be a successful trainer. You need to make your training sessions interactive, engaging and sustainable if you want to get your message across effectively.
I have personally spent many years mastering the science and technologies of dealership training, having delivered thousands upon thousands of successful workshops and in-dealership sessions globally. I speak from experience in that I have made all of the mistakes ahead of you. So these are my best practices which I will share with you today.
The key to effective training lies in applying the Three P’s of Training: Plan, Prepare, and Present.
Step 1: Plan Your Training
The importance of proper planning should never be underestimated. Battles have been lost and economies destroyed through lack of planning.
Effective training within your dealership requires an effective plan.
Your planning phase is an opportunity to look at the big picture and identify your training needs and objectives by asking the question, “What do I want to achieve through my training sessions?”
The best way to do this is to have a brainstorming session with your managers. This will help you narrow your focus and determine where the deficiencies lie within your organization, and which individuals and groups require training.
Only once you have identified your training needs can you create a comprehensive training plan.
Break your training needs down into categories and decide what areas will be covered in each session. There are various ways to do this and you need to decide what works best for your organization.
You can train by the department, such as:
Business Development Center (BDC)
Service Advisors and Support Staff
Alternatively, you can break it down by People, Products, Process, and Self. Under each category, you then need to create subcategories that you can prioritize by importance.
When you initially draw up your lists, don’t limit yourself. Each category could have ten, twenty or even fifty potential topics. Once you have it all down on paper, then you can narrow your focus and edit accordingly. This may seem like a time-consuming exercise but you will quickly realize the value of proper planning. These lists will help you focus on the right type of training and ensure that your dealership team has the knowledge and tools to do their work effectively.
Example for the Sales Department:
Onboarding and Orientation
Dealership Sales Process
Product and Technology Training
Follow-up (including CRM)
Overcoming Objections and Closing
Increasing demonstration rides
Introduction to F&I
Sales to Service Handoff
The Master Training Calendar
After you have prioritized your training needs, you can create your training calendar. You need to decide how often training sessions will take place and who will attend each session - not all training will be relevant to all members of your team.
Organize your calendar so that training is always on the same day of the week or month and at the same time. If everyone in the dealership knows that training takes place on the first Thursday of every month, from 8 am to 10 am, it will make it easier for the entire team to plan and prepare for training sessions. Choose a time when customer traffic is generally low and organize for other departments to cover those shifts or take messages.
Step 2: Preparation
No matter how much training experience you have, you still need to take time to prepare for a training session. Lack of preparation by trainers is one of the things that has made training a dirty word in many industries. There is nothing worse than a training session with a trainer who is unprepared or constantly goes off topic.
When you train your sales team, you always need to bring your A game, or no one is going to take you seriously. If you can’t get the information across in an interesting and engaging manner, your audience is going to learn nothing.
If the training session deals with advanced sales techniques, your team expects to learn advance sales techniques and walk out of the session with a better understanding of sales psychology. Being prepared for every training session also shows respect for your team, and the more you respect them, the more they will respect you and the more seriously they will take what you are telling them.
If you are going to present a powerful training session, you need to have a clearly defined purpose and objective.
Ask yourself, “Why are we here?” “What is the best way to present the information?” and “What type of role play, activities, and discussions need to be included?”
Once you have put together your session, check that you have answered these questions:
Who should attend?
What is the topic or topics that will be covered?
What materials will I need to have available?
When will the meeting begin and end?
Where will we hold the meeting?
Is it the right room size and configuration?
How will I deliver the message?
Activities for training
In discussion groups
All of the above
Great training preparation is not just about what you will say. It is also about taking care of the practical aspects, from the checklist above, such as, who will attend the meeting, what materials will you need, where will the meeting be held and is the room the right size for the group and the activities you have planned.
Step 3: Presentation
Training should be as interactive as possible. I cannot stress this enough. You don’t want to stand up there and give a speech, and your team certainly doesn’t want to be lectured by you. People learn far more from being active participants rather than a passive audience.
Your presentation begins the minute you walk through the door, even if you haven’t said a word. The most basic way to demonstrate the importance of your training sessions is to start on time. Punctuality is a sign of respect. It shows respect for the value you place on your time and the time of others. If you start on time, every time, your team will take the training sessions seriously.
Make a powerful opening statement
You have 30 seconds to capture the attention of your audience, don’t waste it. Begin with a bang, and get the session going by interacting with your team as quickly as possible. Prepare an opening question that grabs everyone’s attention and gets them thinking, or a role-play to demonstrate your point rather than explaining it - the show doesn’t tell.
Be upfront about the objectives and benefits of the training session
Directly after your opening, when you have the full attention of your team, give them a breakdown of the objectives of the session and the benefit they will get from it.
Use many resources
You don’t need to be an expert on everything, you just need to know how to utilize your team. If you have people on your team who can cover a topic better than you can, give them the opportunity to showcase their knowledge and let them lead the session.
This will not only make your job easier, and the training more interesting, it will also demonstrate to your team that you respect their skills and recognize their talents.
Mix things up
The average attention span of most people is about 6 minutes. This means that you need to keep your training session diverse and interactive by having a combination of:
Role plays (pre-written with customer and observer checklists)
Guest Speakers (both from within and outside our industry)
This will keep your team engaged and fully focused!
Pull it all together at the end
End your training sessions with a quick recap of what you have covered. Don’t summarize the entire session, just pick out the most important points. Close off with a group cheer or an inspiring video clip that leaves your team buzzing and ready to take on the challenges of the day.