In part one of this series about why dealerships underperform, I shared some essential tips for hiring the ideal team members. Nothing happens until you have the right people. In part two of this series, I shared the first requirement to build a winning team: the willingness to release less than desirable team members. In this final installment of the series, we wrap up with the second requirement to build a winning team: team training and education.

What is the plan at your dealerships for training your team members? If it is what I have seen at most dealerships, it’s not enough. As a matter of fact, if you are operating at the industry standard, it’s embarrassing. Dealerships that struggle always have people who are not trained sufficiently or properly.

In 2011 NADA stated that the average automobile dealership in the US spent $654 per vehicle on advertising. How much per vehicle was spent for training? I don’t know the exact answer, but I know it was not much. In all struggling dealerships, the necessary capital requirements of time, money and effort have not been spent to create a winning team through better training.

Automotive buyers are more educated about the buying process and their vehicle of interest than ever before, however the average dealership is operating at about the same training level that has always existed. While dealerships have more factory requirements for product training, that should be considered a given since all salespeople know the product. The training I am referring to is what really improves your team and moves the needle: Sales skills, people skills, life skills and marketing skills.

The majority of automotive dealers are far more concerned with their advertising and marketing than their people. That may sound harsh but it’s true. Many dealers talk about caring about their employees, but do you really care about them if you are not giving them a chance to succeed? It may be that most dealers consider advertising and marketing as having an immediate pay back: advertise today and see traffic tomorrow. Most dealers spend a ton of money to bring customers in the door, but little on what to with them once they are there.

Many dealers are skeptical about investing in their sales people because of turnover. There seems to be a lot of skepticism around the ROI (Return On Investment) generated by training because once you spend money, then the employee may quit to work for the competition. This reminds me of the old saying “The only thing worse than investing in people who don’t stay is not investing in people who do.”

The other response I hear from dealers is “I expect my managers to train my employees.” I would agree that managers should definitely train every single day. However, let’s look at that idea a little deeper.

  1. What are your managers’ education and expertise related to employee training? Does being a manager inherently mean you know how to train?
  2. What do you want your employees to learn from your managers? Are there many areas like people skills, life skills and marketing skills they wouldn’t know enough about?
  3. Are your managers getting all the things accomplished you want them to now? If they are not, are they likely to prioritize the training duty properly and frequently?
  4. Is it smart to have all your ongoing training and education come from within your organization?

If you want to recruit, hire and retain A Players, then you must offer a road map for their future that includes training and career advancement. Good people are not looking for a job they are looking for a career, opportunity and to achieve their dreams. Employees can find a paycheck anywhere, but exciting dreams are hard to come by.

Take Enterprise Rent A Car as an example who is probably the best recruiting, dream-selling company there is. If you visit any Enterprise Rent A Car location you will find a college graduate, with proper attire, a big smile and intelligently working a trained process and actively pursuing their career goals. Enterprise recruits heavily on college campuses and offers a strong growth oriented career path. These college-educated and capable young folks are taking a rental clerk job because of a dream. The real numbers show that after two years while a large percentage of the employees leave because they don’t believe the dreams are going to happen, the rest wind up doing very well within the company. Compare what an automotive career has to offer in compensation, career and rewards. An automotive career is light years above Enterprise Rent A Car. So why don’t dealerships get those types of people most of the time?

Most automotive dealerships never even try to recruit better people. Many are still stuck in the dark ages of running an ad in the newspaper when they NEED people. Secondly, most qualified job seekers would never have a clue about the career and money potential in the auto industry. The hard truth is that the prevailing culture and environment of most dealerships will not allow those dealerships to recruit, hire or retain better people. The whole environment is set up to recruit needy, lower-level people which perpetuates turnover. (Although if that is not the case at your dealership, accept my apology and my congratulations on the effort you are putting in to improve your professionalism.)

If you don’t believe training works, then look at McDonalds. McDonalds takes lower level potential employees and combines training and incredible process to produce consistent results in thousands of franchises. If McDonalds can train, you can too.

Confidence comes from competence. Competence comes from training, with which frequency over time forms education. Training is like sunburn that wears off. Training is an everyday thing not a sometimes thing.

You must have full commitment from the leaders of your dealership to educate with full accountability and no excuses. When this occurs you change the dynamic of your dealership into one of a winning culture. Without constant education your dealership will always struggle. Winners educate and take action everyday.