From the desk of Bob Currie
Current economic data indicates significant growth for 2021, probably in the 6% to 8% range. Opportunities are surfacing rapidly but, organizations are not always prepared to capitalize on those situations. So, let us examine how we capitalize on those opportunities and the barriers internally (company culture) that may inhibit our success. Further, these opportunities are present in all departments – unit sales, service, parts, and rental. Much of this discussion is transferable between departments so make sure you concentrate on this transferability and the underlying cultural questions.
Generally, unit sales involve both and new and used. In fact, I believe the equipment business has evolved into a real separation between new and used and, each segment needs its own vision and plan. Used is not simply a way to get rid of trades. Further, used is not the same sales process as new only with an older unit at a lower price point. Used as a market has been transformed by the internet, yet many equipment dealers have not kept pace with this change and run the risk of becoming irrelevant in this market.
Starting with a clean sheet of paper, what is the vision and processes associated with used equipment? When I ask this question, I often get a one-page copy of the 2021 budget. The budget is not a vision or even an implementation statement. What I am talking about is a 2-to-4-hour conference virtually (soon in person) about customer segments, marketing process, repair/recondition process, selling and buying wholesale, geography served, major brand or all brands and other such issues. In this first discussion do not be surprised if people are silent. They may be trying to figure out where this discussion is going and whether they have a part in the vision. They are demonstrating anxiety. Begin this first meeting with the vision of the new and future used market.
The other part of unit sales is clearly new units. The principles here are in constant need of reinforcement. For example, coverage is critical. Are there “A” and “B” accounts currently not covered? How will “C” accounts be covered and, will all “D” accounts be covered electronically or with inside salespeople? Further, what is an inside sales process? Is it lead-taking, lead-qualifying, or maybe sales administration? Again, this is a subject for deeper discussion with Sales and Marketing Management and let me emphasize not just an answer but a well-rounded discussion about the content and intent of each item. Further, coverage is designed to get us in on most deals (every?) at the “A, B, and C” customers.
One of my career observations of highly successful, high market-share dealers is that they have sales managers who are in on every deal. To me, this is a firm, established principle of effective sales management–not if you have the time, but make the time for this so it is the highest priority. This leads to a related topic.
You may not be able to be in on every potential customer without more sales reps. Further, if you are in on every customer/deal and the sales manager is also in the loop, then, the sales manager will probably be overwhelmed, and the new sales reps will not be properly developed. The answer here, I think, is mentoring. This is not a new process for many sales companies (many successful sales companies), but the time is right to formalize this process. The question of “where do we find experienced, trained salespeople?” is moot in times of great opportunity. The plan is to hire people that can give you instant coverage, and then involve their mentor to move the process forward or maybe even close. This is basically the greeter/closer process used in many industries, except, let us not turn over the deal to the closer but add the closer along with the greeter to develop (mentor) the new sales rep for the future.
If the current company culture believes, “sales reps work individually and independently, sales reps are only paid for what they sell, customers will only work with one sales rep not a team” then you have work to do on this culture if you are to move to mentoring and teams. Remember, the new goals are:
- be in on every deal
- have management oversight on every deal
- mentor and train new sales reps continuously.
These new processes will not happen without your leadership and oversight.
Another question that has surfaced recently is related to answering the question of long lead times or rescheduling by manufacturers. Again, this is a collaborative process. Answering objections and questions is an extension of the mentoring process. Specific answers do exist (we have some) but developing the understanding of the answers is critical to sales rep development.
Certain principles are critical here:
- more coverage
- management oversight on all deals
- effective scripts (Sign your team up for our upcoming Essential Scripting for Dealerships webinar on Thursday, May 20, 2021 11 am – 1:30 pm EST.)
For the Service Department the issues are similar. We need to establish a continuous process of recruiting, onboarding, mentoring, managing, developing the service workforce. It is a critical part of your business today and into tomorrow. It is one of the main differentiating strategies. So, this technician process is not an occasional thing, but we hear that viewpoint frequently, “we need a new tech only when we need one.” The process must be continuous and should clearly integrate with technician career path where techs can see a clear path to attractive compensation and long-term employment.
In addition, day-to-day management of techs is moving toward teams (service advisor/coordinator model). Here, the distribution of work for new techs becomes the responsibility of the “team” and the execution of all work for their customer base is also the responsibility of the “team.” When questions arise about the capabilities of new techs, I go back to the repair data. Repair work requiring “A” level techs is about 15% of total work. Work requiring “B” level techs is about 25% and “C” level is about 60%. So, distribution of work to “C” level techs must be managed carefully. Again, this is a great opportunity for a robust mentoring process.
The key point of this article is that as we come out of the pandemic and see a robust growth in the economy and GDP, we must focus on building organization capabilities not in years but in months. Often, that starts with a simple discussion and consensus about the vision. Do not expect clear detailed answers in this early process. Expect discussion, open-mindedness and ultimately consensus. Avoid the questions that get you trapped in the weeds. Stay on the vision. This is the time to take on these challenging tasks.
For much of your management, their days are short-term oriented – phone calls, work assignments, problem solving and the like. They are not comfortable with this vision “stuff.” However, they must be aware of it, contribute to it, have consensus with it. They need to grow, and this year is a growth year. They need some guidance and encouragement to get there. This is where executives and perhaps Currie Management make contributions. Transforming organizations while executing day-to-day growth is a challenging but satisfying process.