Think for a moment about the investment the average dealer makes in his or her company. It’s not unrealistic to assume the following:

  • Real estate - $1.5 million

  • Used vehicles - $1 million

  • New vehicles - $2 million

  • Monthly operating expenses - $250,000

  • Monthly advertising - $20,000

    In addition, bear in mind the value of community goodwill, business reputation and a priceless investment in owner loyalty.

    “Auto 101” starts with the dictum that “nothing happens until somebody sells something.” On that assumption, it would appear only logical that the most critical element in the organization’s success strategy is the salesperson and that he or she receives the best available technological and intellectual processes to maximize the ROI opportunity. Are you confident you’ve got the best and brightest sales staff available?

    If not, you’re not alone. With turnover running close to 60 percent at many dealerships today, it’s no easy task to find the right person at the right time. Presuming your managers have the skill sets they need to be effective might be a mistake. Without the proper training and tools, they’re at a serious disadvantage.

    The cost of hiring the wrong person can be devastating. Estimates run from $28,000 to more than $60,000 — annually. Considering the damage, sometimes irreparable, done to your organization’s image and operating effectiveness, the numbers only escalate.

    So what does it take to “nail” the hiring process? While no one can guarantee a successful outcome, it just makes sense to follow some fundamental guidelines that inarguably close the risk gap.

    Begin with a clear and accurate job description.

    If you don’t know precisely what behaviors you’re looking for, you’ll never know if you’ve found them. Balance these needs realistically when considering a candidate, and refer to them often during the interview.

    Use a qualitative assessment tool.

    Trying to “size up” a prospective employee is really more science than art. Employees who fail are likely to have been poor hires at the outset. Procure a verifiable test to determine not only ability but personality traits that you’ve discerned to be requirements at your dealership.

    Get several opinions.

    Never rely on the judgment of one person to make employment (and, possibly, termination) decisions. Selection should be more than personal. It should be objective, and objectivity often requires several viewpoints to come to clarity.

    Don’t settle for second best.

    Despite the sense of urgency that sometimes accompanies a hiring campaign, never fall into the trap of bringing an employee on board to simply “fill the hole.” You and your customers are done a great disservice when the necessary effort isn’t spent on finding the right person. You are far better off to delay a hiring decision than to settle for the wrong individual.

    Training, training, training.

    Many managers feel the actual hiring signals the end of the employment initiative. In fact, it’s only the beginning. Every new employee should be given the opportunity to become familiarized with dealership policies and procedures, then enrolled in behavioral training prior to having any contact with prospects and customers. Product training should accompany this process as well, and for the best results, be provided externally to avoid unwanted behaviors through internal mentoring alone. This is a key element to allowing a new hire to succeed.

    It’s not always about getting more ups. It’s really about making better use of the traffic you’ve already got. Accomplishing that requires competent, motivated and manageable sales personnel. Only a structured process of screening, hiring and training can get you to the finish line. You’re going to pay someone anyway, so why not get the best?

    Dr. Andrew Blazsanyik is the executive director of training for Resource Automotive. As a professional in the field of adult learning, he constructs business courses and training programs for audiences including salespeople and F&I managers.

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