The Changing of the Guard – A Message to the Next Generation of Automotive Selling Professionals

Yesterday I received a comment and a question from Terrell to a post I recently made that was titled Redefining the Sales and Training Models. The gentleman wanted to know what advice or tips that we, as experienced professionals could offer to a future leader in our business. I have been asking a similar question of anyone that I meet who exhibit the qualities that I would like to emulate, and my question goes something like this: “Knowing what you now know, if you had an opportunity to live your life over and keep the knowledge that you currently have, what would you do differently?” The answers that I have received from that question has affected me so much that I have redesigned my life so as not to make the same mistakes that kept coming up.

Terrell’s question has impacted me because it is so important and relevant. I believe that we want different things when we are shifting our gaze from success to significance and it is only then we feel the need to sow seeds to grow trees, under which we may never sit. He is curious and still asking questions that we as leaders should be answering because our very way of life depends on it. Many leaders in our business will acknowledge the fact that they were self-made, but what they are reluctant to say is that they were self-made in a time that looks nothing like this. As one veteran use to say, “Selling cars in my day was like shooting ducks in a pond, all you did was show up and the chances of you selling a car was good.” All of us have to admit that it is not that way anymore, yet some persist on trying to sell, train and approach business development and customer relationship management in the same way that they once did. The next generations of selling professionals that will lead our industry into the future are different; they are smarter, technology savvy and curious to a fault. But most importantly, they will not take a brush off answer because they want to know why so that they can apply the answer to the next event.

So here is my answer to Terrell:

  1. Commit to your craft– Become a student of this business and when I say business I am not referring to the car business. This current model is broken and is being redefined so it will be important for you to understand other successful models so that you can be a player when it is time.
  2. Master the fundamentals– There are certain skills that you must learn in order to truly be successful as a selling professional. Take People Skills for example, you sell to other people but you have never taken a class on how to identify and communicate with the different human social styles so as to establish rapport quickly; doesn’t make sense does it?
  3. Learn to work by the numbers – You must learn the different processes that drive your business. Every activity that you engage in on a daily basis in the selling or business profession is either a process or a part of another process. Identifying what they are is the key to building a large and profitable book of business that can be sustained. I use the terminology Build, Maintain and Manage a book of business because that is exactly what you should be doing as a selling professional.
  4. Manage the System, not the person– As a manager, if you cannot identify specifically where the person made an error so that it can be fixed and improved upon for the next time, you are winging it. Systems and processes provide managers with the template they need to focus specifically on the real issues instead of the person. It is the key to producing results that are predictable, repeatable and track-able in every area of your business.

Terrell, I have been a part of this industry for over two decades and have spent the last 10 plus years in research, development and field-testing systems and processes that would standardize the required curriculum for new salespeople in order to give them a better fighting chance for success. Your question is being asked by many struggling salespeople who can’t figure out why they are not able to be consistent. So with that being said, thank you for having the courage to articulate what many are feeling but afraid to ask. The following story is true and will make sense if and when you question your commitment to your own success.

On June 16th, 1986, at about 2 A.M. in the morning, the biggest and scariest man I had ever encountered walked on to the green school bus and began screaming: “You have 10 seconds to get off this bus and on my yellow foot prints and five are already gone – Mooove your asses!” Those words were my introduction to the whirlwind of disorientation, awkwardness, physical and mental fatigue which eventually transcended into competence then confidence in order to be called a United States Marine. Back then, the transformation seemed like an impossible feat. I mean how do you go from being a clumsy, scared, undisciplined civilian to the polished and well-oiled machine that I saw on TV called a Marine? But that is exactly what happened. Thirteen weeks later I walked off that base wearing my uniform, 40 pounds lighter and never looked back.