By Larry J. Feldman
Never has the sentiment of John Lennon’s “Happy X-Mas (War is Over)” been more welcomed. I think everyone will agree that the best thing about 2021 is that 2020 is now in our rearview mirror.
Looking forward, I have some thoughts and ideas that can both put you back on track and accelerate your growth and earnings as a salesperson. I’d like to start by taking a small step back into 2020.
Traditionally, one of our strongest retail selling weeks is the period between Christmas and New Year’s. Like many salespeople, I would also use the holiday season as a networking opportunity by sending out holiday cards to everyone I sold a car to that year. I believe that in a time when everyone emails, a handwritten card stands out and is appreciated by many people. The only downside to selling a lot of vehicles every year is I get a bad case of writer’s cramp in December.
Here’s my suggestion: If you choose to add this personal touch every year, get into the habit of making out a holiday card right after you sell each car, even if it’s in the middle of the summer. Then, in December, all you have to do is apply postage. Like all sales processes, consistency and being a completist makes our lives easier as well as creates more profit.
Moving ahead, what positives can we extract from the debris of this most challenging of years? When engaging with customers, one of the most important things we can take away from our experience with COVID-19 is that it taught us by necessity how to be more accommodating as salespeople, and that is something you need to continue; striving to make every customer’s experience better.
In my training classes, I frequently paraphrase Socrates, “An unexamined life is one not worth living.” For those of us who sometimes felt like not going to work, many of us discovered how much we actually missed work, especially when we were confined to our homes. And for every salesperson who complained about how difficult some customers were, they would soon find out just how difficult life would be without any customers at all.
While we are being introspective, let’s remind ourselves how transient things are, and that they can change in a minute, as we all found out last March. Unless you’re clairvoyant, you’re never really sure what lies ahead, which should spur us on to treat every customer and every situation with an equal sense of urgency.
That means do things right and do them right away. We need to plan better, work harder and smarter, polish our craft and (if we haven’t already done so) realistically assess our current and potential financial situation. Everyone who was financially unprepared for a break in their cash flow knows exactly what I’m talking about.
If you allow me to dip back into December, I’ll use an analogy based on my all-time favorite book, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, originally published Dec. 19, 1843. It often feels like we’ve been battered and bruised by the Ghost of Christmas Past via COVID-19 and a bitter political season. Hopefully, we and our families survived to enjoy, in whatever limited form possible, the Ghost of Christmas Present and we are now faced with the redemptive parable of the Ghost of Christmas Future – that we can always change for the better.
If you haven’t been a consistent presence in your service department every morning or followed up conscientiously with every customer; if you haven’t spent at least a half-hour every day prospecting; or you haven’t relentlessly tried to perfect your process; then maybe it’s time you took a hard look in the mirror. Surviving a pandemic and thriving in an ever-changing retail environment requires different skill sets. My father always taught me to be grateful not only for what I had but for what misfortune had not come my way.
Whether you’ve been tragically affected or have been lucky enough to have emerged unscathed, either way, we have to prepare better and take advantage of what comes next. There’s an old adage, “Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.” We need to be better, smarter, more prepared and more grateful.
Here’s wishing all of you a prosperous and successful 2021.
Larry J. Feldman is the author of “Inner Moron Demons” – How to Avoid Them and Live Your Best Life.” Feldman has been in the retail auto sales industry for 23 years in every position from salesperson to general manager to dealership owner. Since 2012, he has been president and CEO of Career Changers USA, Inc., one of the auto industry’s leading training and recruiting corporations.