We have reached the end of another successful week of training and achieved some great results. Now it is time for the close-out meeting with the Dealer and Fixed Ops Managers. After a productive meeting of evaluating employees and reviewing recommendations for the drive, the time has come… All eyes are on us to answer the dreaded question. The Dealer is always the one to ask, “How often should we have training sessions with our advisors in order to continue to improve?” Don’t get me wrong I love this question! It shows that we are working with a group that understands the need for a continued commitment to training. So why is this a dreaded question? Because we know that every Manager is listening with anticipation and considering the consequences of the answer.
Consistent training could mean more hours for them as they prepare material, handouts and team exercises. It also means more hours for their advisors as they come in early or stay late for meetings and most of them are already working 50-70 hours a week! Current research shows that in order to recruit new talent we need to offer more flexible schedules not add more hour to our already long weeks. It also means they have to find time to prepare meeting topics and learn how to role-play. This usually is way out of their comfort zone, as most service managers do not have a sales background.
Often this topic isn’t even mentioned in a Service Manager’s job description because in past decades we didn’t think of Service Advisors as a sales staff. The reality is they are your most important sales staff because they often see more of your clients in a day than your sales team members see in a week. This alone makes them one of your most important customer relations representatives in the dealership! Also there is a big difference in your sales clients and your service client’s agenda. In service they are there for one reason, to buy! Nobody stops by a service department to just look around; they are there because they have a need and they are ready to invest. Even if it is warranty work, someone is paying. If you have a well-trained advisor who can educate your clients about the importance and benefits of maintaining their car every time they come in, they will buy. More importantly they will make an informed decision that they feel good about.
Everyone who has run a sales department knows that in order to keep their sales staff productive; meetings, role-plays and continued motivation are crucial. If our goal is to teach our advisors to become professional selling consultants, they too need to be trained, motivated and directed. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be an inconvenience. Once the routine is established the benefits become clear.
The First Step is to schedule the meetings solely for training. If you do not set time aside for training, it will become a good intention that never gets acted on. My most successful clients hold sessions once a week that are dedicated to selling. They are usually a half hour to an hour in length and are held before or after business hours. Mornings are best because advisors are more alert and not distracted by guests or wanting to get home. Many clients avoid the extra hours by holding two lunch meetings once a week for half of the staff at a time. This is a good option because no extra hours are involved. I suggest you talk to your advisors and see what the majority would like to do. The more input they have, the more willing they are to participate. We have found Tuesdays or Wednesdays to be the most productive days to train. Mondays and Fridays are never recommended.
Step Two is preparing the meetings. Pick a specific item that you need to help your team sell or a subject matter/technique to work on. For example, you may hold an entire meeting solely focused on how to approach and greet your guest. Make sure that you have good materials, such as training manuals that are process oriented and offer word tracks. If your store has specific standards for the process being reviewed, then discuss it as a group so that everyone is clear about your expectations. New material should be introduced often but processes and dealer standards should be reviewed consistently.
The following points have helped many or our clients get started.
- Start your weekly sessions with a discussion of the results from the previous week’s training. Share success stories. They will learn and be motivated from each other’s experiences. Never accept the negative “One time” stories. Focus on the majority of your client’s responses.
- The trainer needs to be able to perform the process and word tracks effortlessly (We must lead by example).
- Always let the advisors know what the topic of the week will be and that everyone will be prepared to participate.
- Reward the advisors who prepare and perform well.
- Make it fun and informative. Incorporate games like throwing a ball to each other. Whenever they get the ball they have to give a benefit or close. If they give a good answer, consider a reward although it may be enough to know they get to throw the ball to the advisor of their choice.
- Mix up the routine and menu (Food stimulates the brain and everyone likes to eat).
- Let them perform most of the meeting through role-playing and selling to each other.
- Always start critiques with the positives first.
- Set a goal for the week as a result of the training.
- Reinforce training during the week by holding discussions or quick role-plays during down time on the drive.
- Consider a reward for the person who is the most successful in achieving increases in the area of focus for the week.
Once your meetings are established let the advisors take turns leading the meetings. This will lead them to study and practice so they do not look silly in front of the others. It also gives you managers a chance to do something new as you sit back and listen to your professional consultants while you enjoy your meal. Training may start out as a chore but in the long run the rewards are worth it!