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Stop the Bleeding!

Five Ways Your Dealership Might be Killing Your Employee Retention

Dealership sales can be a rewarding — and profitable — career path, but it’s not an easy one, and finding great sales professionals can be difficult in a tight job market. Worse, once many dealerships make the hire, they wonder why their employee turnover is out of control as they start the search yet again for a new batch of salespeople.  

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I’ve spoken with hundreds of dealers and GMs across the nation, and I’ve found that there are five areas where dealerships are chasing away employees and not even realizing it. When their sales teams come up against these obstacles, they’ll often look for easier ways to make a living in other fields.  

While any of these practices can be deadly to employee retention, some dealerships bundle them all together and wonder why they can’t keep good employees. Let’s take a look at some ways a dealership can focus less on hiring new employees and more on building their team

Update Pay Structures  

Many dealerships are still using the same pay plans as they did in the 1990s. After all, if it’s not broke, why fix it? The problem is that many dealerships’ pay structures are broken. When salespeople first start out, the vast majority are going to have rough months before they find success.  

If they are supporting a family, how long are they going to be able — much less willing — to work primarily for commissions that aren’t yet coming? There’s nothing wrong with providing some stability to keep desperation away and let them learn the skills they need to prosper. Giving a salesperson a salary plus commission still promotes productivity and allows the stars on your staff to shine, but it also gives new hires a fighting chance to stay in the game and see what they can do.   

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Build Better Schedules  

In a commission-based job, working more hours means having more opportunities to build that month’s numbers and pad that paycheck, right? Not necessarily. Many dealerships offer no flexibility in hours, asking their salespeople to work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. By the time customers come into the dealership after getting off work, the salespeople are already tired and probably not at their best.  

Studies have found that the first four hours on the job are usually the most productive. When customers come in during your salesperson’s eighth or ninth hour, they’re not going to receive their best presentation. Look at your employees’ schedules and ask what hours and days work best for them. You’ll build loyalty as your team builds sales.  

Allow a Life/Work Balance 

Millennials get a lot of flak because, as a group, they are not as motivated by money as older generations might have been. They value having a balance between their career and their lives, and don’t really want to go down a road where 80-hour weeks are the norm, no matter how big the paycheck. And other generations are realizing that they have a valid point.  

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There are ways to build sales without working a staff into the ground. Find ways where your dealership can assist your team in “working to live” rather than “living to work” and everyone will be better off.  

Manage Your Management  

Many managers come up through the sales ranks, taking leadership positions because that’s their next chance for career advancement. They’ve proven they can sell, but can they manage a team? Sales ability and a talent for leadership are two very different skill sets. Can one person have both? Absolutely. Does a great salesperson have a great management style out of the box? Probably not. Dealerships taking the time to train the people who are going to be leading their teams have a much better chance of building success and retaining those teams for the long run.  

Provide Proper Training  

Far too often, new sales hires are given a crash course on the dealership’s methods and are thrown into the deep end. While some learn to swim, others sink beneath the surface and find other, calmer waters to make their living.  

Training salespeople and bringing them on board should be looked at as preparing to climb a mountain. If they aren’t acclimatized to each level of the process and get used to the air, they are being set up for failure. New salespeople need to be shown the proper way of greeting the customer, learning their needs and then finding and presenting the right vehicle, as well as closing the deal and appropriate methods of following-up. Dealerships that don’t put emphasis on training will find themselves in a constant state of turnover and hiring.  

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Generating an atmosphere where a sales staff can prosper requires an ongoing effort, but by addressing these five areas, you should notice an immediate increase in employee retention. While other dealerships actively run off their team members, your business will be the one salespeople seek out to build their careers.

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