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Do your employees know how to engage customers?

Sam Dantzler, Columnist
January 23, 2012
Filed under Columns

Editor’s note:
Join Powersports Business in welcoming our latest addition to the Solutions section, Sam Dantzler. Dantzler is well known throughout the industry for his dealership operations insight. His current lineup of duties includes moderating 20-Groups for Harley-Davidson’s Performance Consulting, as well as contracting with Polaris, Triumph and Harley-Davidson. Dantzler also performs in-house training at dealerships, and presents at dealer education events throughout the industry.

A former president of Lemco Management Group, Dantzler spent 10 years with the group (RPM Group and Assurant 20-Clubs). He now operates as an industry consultant, dedicated solely to powersports.

I just saw the Chiefs beat the “undefeated” Packers. Excuse me? Who? Beat Aaron Rodgers? How, exactly, did that happen? I’m no analyst (not a paid one, anyhow), but I have my suspicions. The Packers looked right past the Chiefs to the next match-up with the Bears. The Chiefs however, with an interim coach and a newly planted quarterback, had a statement to make. I’m going to guess that the Chiefs watched every piece of game footage they could get their hands on, ran a select few plays over and over again, then came out on Sunday and executed. Take that, Chris Berman.

How many times do your employees “look right past” customers on your floor? Oh, they give plenty of reasons why, but I’ll tell you the No. 1 answer: They don’t know how to engage them. Let me say that again. Your people don’t know how to engage the customer. They want to do a good job, but they just lack the training.

Look, nobody comes to work thinking, “I’m going to suck today!” Well … maybe the Colts do, but that’s for another day. For the rest of us, we actually want to do a good job. But what does “good” actually look like? Ever had that training session with your crew? And then ever follow it up with relentless role playing and training until they executed perfectly? “Uh … well … we had a meeting about it.”

Sales managers are typically pretty good at “deal management.” What they tend to be absolutely terrible at is training. I’m not talking about the deal-by-deal training. In football, when the offense comes off of the field, they sit down and go through and train on the last series of downs. Then they get up and go back on the field. That’s the equivalent of your deal-by-deal training. What I’m talking about is the kind of training that looks at the trends of the employees, finding out where they are falling short and subsequently helping them get better. Then, running the “plays” over and over and over again, until the finished product comes off polished. The NFL practices five days a week for the opportunity to play one. That’s a 5:1 training:playing ratio. What’s yours? Is it even 1:5?

The No. 1 reason that people leave their jobs is a “Bad Boss/Manager.” Dive deeper and you’ll find that the labeling of a bad manager has a lot to do with lack of training and being reprimanded only when the employee “… screws up.” In addition, the No. 1 way to retain your customers is to have a well-trained staff producing amazing experiences. Imagine if everyone who ever bought from you only came back to buy from you. Give that some real thought. That takes training, and in the absence of training you get novice questions like, “Can I help you?” or the ever popular, “Are you guys finding everything all right?” This isn’t selling — it’s somewhere between clerking and pure laziness.

If you look at any sales process, they all start with some version of an engaging interaction. The Lemco & Cardone versions both start with a Greeting. H-D’s first step is Connect. Joe Verde will tell you to Identify the Prospect. Hear me on this — every sales process out there works, just like that treadmill in your basement that you’ve got your clothes drying on. It doesn’t matter which piece of exercise equipment you use, but you’ve got to actually use it! You can summarize every one of these “first steps” into one word: Relationship. And if you have a relationship with someone, what do you know about him or her?

Try this on for size. Which of these scenarios leads you to believe that I have more of a relationship with a customer? More importantly, which do you think means more to him?

1. The fact that I know he rides a Hayabusa, or the fact that he’s taking classes for pre-med?

2. The fact that he’s looking for ventilated leather jacket, or that his dog’s name is Junior?

3. The fact that he’s here for his first service, or the fact that he took his fiancée on a trip to Mt. Rushmore? Which do you think puts a smile on his face?

A greeting of substance takes practice, role-playing, and is quite engaging. You owe it to them to get them the training to engage customers on a level that’s above that of a clerk. If not, it puts them in an awkward scenario, and they resort to politely (I hope) finding out which direction to point the person so that they can ring them up. This doesn’t create loyalty. It doesn’t create upsells or add-ons, and it doesn’t create a fun environment for the customer. It is supposed to be fun, right? Unless you’re a Packer fan….

Sam Dantzler is the founder of Sam’s Powersports Garage, a membership website dedicated to best practices and all-staff training. He can be reached at sam@samspowersportsgarage.com. 

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