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Selling, Not Yelling

July 9, 2012

By Keith DeFreitas

Keith DeFreitas works with the employees to develop skills and tools to serve customers. He believes you should always start by fixing the process before you try to develop training.  He’s worked with many industries including banking,  auto sales, and soft drink distribution.

I once worked with a car dealership where the General Manager was frustrated that sales were not meeting expectations. New car sales, used car sales, truck sales—all sales were falling short. As the GM, he has the ownership and accountability to find ways to improve sales.  In his words, he wanted to “win every day.”

I was brought in to talk to the sales people and see if I could “motivate them to sell more cars”.  He wanted me to motivate them via a series of pep talks or, the opposite approach, to beat them up. I knew that wasn’t sustainable, not to mention the negative impact on morale. I had to find a different way.

It soon became clear that the 40 or so sales people had no sales process. They lacked a proven process to engage customers, understand their needs and sell vehicles.  Each sales person made things up for himself.

So I meet once a week for about two hours with the sales team about a sales process.  At first, they were skeptical.  “What do you know about selling cars?  How many cars have you sold?” I was asked.  That was exactly what I wanted to hear.

Success is not about me, I said.  Don’t trust me per se because I have sold millions of cars.  I haven’t sold a car.  But I have built processes.  Success is and will be about us all trusting the process we are going to create, measure, sustain and improve.  The process, as we diligently follow it, will produce the results we want and enable us to win every day.  They gave me the benefit of the doubt–due in part, no doubt, to the donuts I brought each week–and off we went.

We systematically crafted a sales process that was customized for their shop. We trained everyone on the process. We practiced until following the process was second nature. Trained and practiced is an understatement. We lived it.  The process was who we were, not just what we did.

Over time everyone saw the benefits and started following the process. Sales went up.  Morale went up. Turnover was a bit lower.  Customer satisfaction went up.  After about six months, the general manager said, “Keith, you’re brilliant.” I told him, “I’m not brilliant. The PROCESS is brilliant.”

Trust the process. Sustain and improve it relentlessly.  Reward those who follow the process.  Immerse new hires in the process.  The sales staff at that car dealership did and the process helped them to “win every day.”