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Three things that matter: Words, attitude and follow-up

Sam Dantzler, Columnist
March 12, 2012
Filed under Columns

I was at Starbucks, as I often am, taking stock of why I go to Starbucks. The “Caramel Apple Spice” is nothing more than steamed apple cider with a squirt of caramel. The coffee is too strong. The chai tea can be purchased by the one-gallon can at Costco. The average price of a “Venti” anything is around $5. The Shell gas station actually has great coffee for around a buck. So why am I here?

I look up to see a new poster that reads, “Treat yourself to a handcrafted mocha.” It didn’t say, “Hey Sam, How about a cup of coffee?” It said that I should, “… treat myself.”

That poster reminded me that I work hard, and I deserve … no, “have earned,” a handcrafted mocha. Then the 20-something girl says, “Good morning again! How’s your day going?” She knows my face. She’s smiling. She’s happy to have this job. I like her. I like it here. I don’t mind parting with my money in this joint.

Why is it so hard to get employees to understand the value of personal connection? “Can I help you?” vs. “Hey Sam, you deserve a new Arai XD4 and Scala Rider G4 communicator.”

I wonder which approach gets more of my cash out of my pocket? Takeaway: Words matter; attitude matters.

Cultivate or harvest?

Ah, but your staff is just there to ring me up, right? Where is the engagement? Where is the salesmanship to cause the sale on an item that I don’t know exists vs. clerking the item that I came in for?

My wife’s entire family is from Grand Junction, Colo., and they are all fruit farmers (apples and peaches mainly). Her uncle told me once, “We are either cultivating the crop, or harvesting the crop. There is nothing in between.”

That really hit home with me, as our industry seems to lack the mindset of “cultivating a crop.” We stand around and wait to harvest it. Here’s a question for your employees: Are they waiting for the door to swing open, or causing it to swing open? I speak frequently on the topic of outbound communication from your team (20-30 daily calls, etc.). I always get the response, “What would I call him about?”

The list of “cultivation” topics is endless. Anyone who has ever heard me present for at least a day of training knows that FSU (Florida State University) is my alma mater, and that I’m an insane college football fan. This January I watched my boys beat Notre Dame in a bowl game, albeit in less dramatic fashion than in years past. There are literally thousands of front line motorcycle employees that know both my affinity for FSU football, as well as my insane consumer purchasing patterns in our industry, and several people took this as an opportunity to engage me. My phone was blowing up with texts, emails and wagers on the game that day, from salespeople all around the country. They were simply using this as an excuse to “touch base” with me. Perfect.

How many sales got missed by your employees by not following up with their customers during the bowl games or the Super Bowl? You’ve got to find reasons to stay in touch, and stay engaged. Takeaway: engagement matters; follow-up matters.

Training critical

Did you “tell them” how to do it (engage, follow-up, deliver bad news, whatever), or actually “train them” how to do it? Walt Disney didn’t just tell his employees to be in a good mood. He required it of them. He called them all “cast members” in the show that is creating a family, fantasy vacation. Think of how the mindset changes when one goes from employee to cast member. Think of how your technician’s attitude would change if he considered himself a cast member of the show that is your powersports dealership.

If people were trained to present sales as a show, as much as it is a business, nobody would be told what to do. Instead, the employee would be directed as to how to play his part in the production. The hardest job in any dealership is the mindless repetitiveness of the job. Hitting it off with one person is easy. Hitting it off consistently with 100 people is pure talent. And the difference in attitude and ability to carry out the script is the difference between 1.2 LIPT and 3.2 LIPT. It’s the difference in an 8 percent closing ratio and a 12 percent closing ratio. It’s the difference between an $80 P&A per repair order and a $180 P&A per repair order. All of that adds up to huge profits for the dealership.

If “telling” were enough, coach Chris Carmichael could have just “told” Lance Armstrong how to ride, and he’d have won the Tour seven times. My favorite Nike commercial is the one that ends with Lance saying, “People want to know what I’m on. What am I on? I’m on my bike … busting my ass eight hours a day. What are you on?” Repetition and practice creates mastery.

Your staff acts the way they do, because you allow it, period. They need to be trained/directed on how to do these things and held accountable to doing them the same way, every time. This creates consistency, which we all crave (remember, McDonald’s fries don’t taste different in Kansas or Vermont). Words, attitude, engagement and follow-up breed loyalty.

A good friend of mine, Jeff Lewis, once told me, “There is nothing that I can do 99 percent better. But I’m certain that there are 99 things in my store that I can do 1 percent better.” Small changes … huge impact.

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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