Tag Archive | "Joe St. John"

Meet the Trainer: Joe St. John


Meet Joe St. John, the director of training at IAS. His passion for the auto industry began when he was just in high school and has only grown since. Get a glimpse into the IAS approach to training that St. John believes in. See why St. John’s diverse background and his company’s position in the industry puts IAS at the forefront for dealership training.

How did you get your start in the auto industry and how/why did you specialize as a trainer?

At sixteen, I was hustling produce out of the back of my pickup, when the New Car Director at the store my dad worked at asked me if I’d be interested in selling cars. After my first paycheck, I was ruined. I actually remember, during a high school football game, the ref called me over and asked, “son, don’t I know you from somewhere?” I responded, “James, I sold you your Tundra!” He was flabbergasted, “you’re in HIGH SCHOOL???”

To my parents, higher education wasn’t optional, it was mandatory. I went to Oklahoma State University, where I served as student body President and studied abroad at both Cambridge and Oxford. In 2004, I was named a Truman Scholar, and continued my education with a Master’s in Accounting from the University of Southern California. I’m also a graduate of the NADA General Dealership Management Academy.

My specialization as a trainer really comes from a unique perspective derived from my distinct position at a cross roads between the car business and academia. On top of my vast front line experience, from Salesperson to General Manager, I was also a top rated lecturer in the Marketing Department at OSU, teaching Professional Selling and Sales Management to non-traditional college students. This helped me leverage the best techniques in modern higher education to help students have higher material retention and executable skills. My passion is translating tough concepts into digestible components that connect with my audience. I genuinely love repositioning ideas in order to spark students to develop new ways of attacking “real world” problems. I aspire to inspire, especially when it comes to unlocking results. I believe so strongly that the car business can be a path for many people to a better future for their families because I’m living proof of it.

What areas in F&I do you focus on with your training?

In F&I training, we focus on developing skill sets that translate to real results. We recognize that the F&I numbers on the financial statement are the result of specific behaviors that happen in the microcosm that is the F&I office. Our F&I training maximizes the probability of positive outcomes within this office. We strive to raise the profitable penetration with truly value added solutions to the end user. We do so in a way that is incredibly efficient and customer friendly. Being fast, being effective, and being customer positive is not mutually exclusive, in fact, in our training it’s simply the process.

Why should an agent call you for a training assignment?

The agent that would call us is the agent that is invested in the complete success of their dealers, from BDC to salespeople and from sales managers to F&I. That is where our strength genuinely lies. If an agent is happy with the status quo, and content with the way things are, then our training offerings might not be a good fit. If an agent is looking for real competitive advantages and values a partner that is relentlessly pursuing improvement, a partner that never settles, if they truly want to be on the cutting edge, as pace setters of our industry, then we will be perfect for them.

What are the top three messages you try to give at each of your training session?

The main thing we focus on immediately during training, is challenging students to understand that changing is not only necessary, but good for them. For them to understand this, we have to really zero in on the reasons for them changing being their own. Secondly, we help them to understand that what they’re learning is key to making their own situation better and advancing their career. And finally, that if they commit the right time, effort, and focus to what’s being taught, they can immediately apply these skills to their specific situation.

What changes in the industry do you foresee that will impact your training the most over the next few years?

The only consistent thing about our business is that it’s consistently changing. Outside of the constant rumblings about the CFPB threatening rate participation, the current hot topic is billionaires entering the retail dealership business. These extremely deep-pocketed companies have the ability to start and win wars of attrition against their small undercapitalized competition.

The biggest factor impacting F&I has nothing to do with these two things. The biggest thing impacting F&I training is that we are currently enjoying a warm fuzzy period of false security. This is the easiest environment to succeed at F&I ever. Interest rates are incredibly low, terms are the longest ever, and banks are giving huge carries. According to many sources, rates will increase by four to five hundred basis points by 2018. Combine that with contracting terms and lower carries, and the current profit center of most dealerships may well become the overwhelming sucking sound of dollars being removed from the bottom line. Our training prepares our partners with incredibly tight systems and processes, so when forces destabilize the industry, they are in a position of power instead of weakness. Our clients will be able to seize this opportunity to grow their enterprise, and those that aren’t prepared will evaporate into the history books.

Tell us about yourself and the kind of activities, hobbies, and interests you pursue outside of training.

The driving force behind everything I do is my family. We enjoy a vibrant life filled with music, food, and being outdoors. In free moments we head to the woods to camp, hike, hunt, fish, and forage. We love live music, and in our house, there is always something playing. If we aren’t preparing delicious meals at home, we’re always seeking that perfect ephemeral dining experience.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Training is way more than a job for me. It’s incredibly personal. Everything I have, the degrees on my wall, the experiences of my childhood, the life I’ve been so blessed to enjoy; can be traced directly to the automotive retail industry. Helping our front line be the best prepared they possibly can is simply my way of giving back to an industry that has given so much to me and my family.

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Agent Summit V Wrap Up


To all who attended – thank you for making Agent Summit V the best yet. Since its inception, the number of attendees has increased with each passing year – and with close to 900 attendees, this year was no exception. Agent Summit was launched in 2010 and was designed to provide Independent Agents, who serve as an extension of F&I product providers, with a forum to come together to network, share and learn. Today, many now regard Agent Summit as the one must-attend industry event of the year. This year’s show highlighted the latest training techniques and addressed the newest trends and most pressing challenges that Agents face as they serve their dealer clients.

Attendees were welcomed to the show’s upscale new location at the Venetian Palazzo. Complete with cobblestone streets, footbridges over canals, blue skies, and gondolas, attendees couldn’t help but feel as if they had just stepped off the plane in Venice, Italy. Jaws dropped as Agents who had taken advantage of the Agent Summit room block entered their stunning suites. Words like “lavish” and “spectacular” were heard describing the Palazzo as Agents arriving on Sunday evening gathered for welcoming cocktails.

Much like the Palazzo’s five star reputation, show sessions featured “five star” industry experts with every detail of the show sessions ultimately spelling “Profit!”

The third annual Reinsurance Symposium once again preceded Agent Summit; this year featuring two expert speakers. Greg Petrowski, senior vice president, GPW and Associates Inc., and a veteran speaker at Agent Summit, returned to the stage, and was followed by Brian Feldman, executive vice president, Spencer Re – a seasoned executive who has been a part of just about every facet of the reinsurance space.

With more than 20 years of industry experience each, Petrowski and Feldman shed light on the often confusing benefits of controlled foreign corporations (CFCs) and non-controlled foreign corporations (NCFCs).

At the conclusion of the half-day Reinsurance Symposium, Randy Crisorio, president and CEO, United Development Systems Inc. (UDS), and returning advisory board chair, got the show underway with the official opening address.

This year’s show focused on four major areas, 1) Selling to dealers; 2) Training; 3) Coaching and development; and 4) Technology. Each topic was explored first in an individual feature presentation, and was then followed by a panel session.

Morning presentations featured strategies for closing more business and practical steps for getting in front of dealers. Jimmy Atkinson, COO, AUL Corp, stated, “You have to look at a dealer’s DNA – ‘Dealership Needs Analysis’ so you can provide them with products and solutions to meet those needs. This requires pre-call planning and a targeted presentation.” His mantra for agents was “Be prepared. Be flexible. Be confident.” AE readers can look forward to Atkinson’s further expansion of this topic in an upcoming issue.

Days one and two closed with a cocktail reception in the Expo Hall. Throughout the show, crowds filled the expansive Expo area as agents took advantage of the buffet of networking opportunities. With more than 75 tabletop exhibitors and just shy of a hundred sponsors, the exhibit hall was full to overflowing. Exquisite breakfasts and lunch were served alongside the Expo Hall, thanks to show sponsors.

Known as the “World Greatest Closer,” keynote George Dans jump-started day two out with a bang. Dans was a whirlwind of energy, as he crossed the stage, leaving a flurry of excitement and emotion in his wake. He shared personal stories of both success and failure. In his fast paced, energetic address, Dans got the audience pumped up with a revitalized enthusiasm for closing every single deal. He encouraged attendees to be at the top of their game, “We become what we think about all day. You need to say to yourself, ‘I’m good. I’m gifted. I’m talented. Fear, doubt and worry are behind me.’” Dans urged attendees to step out of their comfort zone and to change their way of thinking so they could come out not just ahead, but at the front of the pack. After his presentation, Dans signed hundreds of copies of his book, Just Close It… Ask and You Shall Receive, which were available to all attendees.

Day two also featured two sessions on training, which emphasized the foundational importance of establishing good relationships in order to get buy in from all parties. The sessions covered themes, frequency, and the needs of retail personnel in service, sales, desking and F&I management.

“As an agency,” stated Ron Reahard, president, Reahard & Associates Inc., “you have to help your F&I managers address the challenges they face on a daily basis, and give them the skills, the knowledge, and the confidence to be successful… Performance doesn’t improve because you or a dealer demands it, it gets better because you put a plan in place to ensure it happens.”

A panelist urged, “Make sure the dealer and GM see you as a partner, and know that you are there to make them better.”

Joe St. John, director of training, Innovative Aftermarket Systems (IAS), and seasoned academic, delivered the feature presentation on coaching and development titled, “Xs and Os – Brain Science for Better Coaching.” This dynamic presentation was definitely an audience favorite. St. John’s unconventional yet proven approach focused on the “why” that drives a customer’s decision to make a purchase. He used a lively combination of humor, experience, and science to demonstrate how to reframe common scenarios for success and forge a unique roadmap for the road to the sale.

The coaching and development panel session explored topics ranging from dealing with underperforming veteran F&I managers, strategies for facilitating collaboration between the sales department and F&I, and how agents can ensure their efforts are recognized by dealers. ”Communication,” urged panelists, “is key.”

After a lunch that rivaled any Vegas hot spot, names were drawn for two $500 gift cards, courtesy of Old Republic Insured Automotive Services, and two weeklong deep-sea fishing trips, thanks to Performance Automotive Management. The lucky recipients of the gift cards were Glen Tuscan, president, Dealer Commitment Services, and Greg Liverett, vice president of marketing, SGI Services. William Kelly, partner, Automotive Development Group, and Anna McMillan, president, The Milby Group, were thrilled to win the fishing trip prizes.

Jim Maxim Jr., president, MaximTrak, showed agents how to use cutting edge technology to set themselves apart from the competition, increase profits and operate more easily and efficiently. In addition to examining today’s technology landscape in industries across the board, he presented innovative technology solutions for agents and explained how they could be integrated into everyday business.

The technology panel session dissected topics ranging from the impact of compliance on menu usage, to data analytics, and the increasingly popular move towards customer driven presentations in F&I. Panel members were in agreement that in any type of business, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

The day concluded with a drawing for a Surface Pro 3 sponsored by Endurance Dealer Services. Tom Clark, the owner of Prosperity Dealer Services, was named the prizewinner.

Day three of Agent Summit ushered in the second annual agent principal only session, featuring round table discussions during a sponsored breakfast. The new format was informative and engaging with top agents brainstorming solutions for common issues agents face in their day-to-day business operation. Agents entered the room on high alert as they scanned topics by table to decide which one was most relevant to them. After thoughtful collaboration, each table captain shared their group’s recommendations for making the most of the given challenges. Discussion topics included selling in the service drive, provider relations, dealer expectations, effectively managing a remote sales force, staffing, competition and more. As one table captain took the podium, he pointed out the vast amount of wisdom and experience in the room, stating that his table alone represented more than 81 years of collective industry experience.

Show sponsor, ECP, ended the third day by sending several attendees home with new timepieces. Tension filled the room when names were drawn for the recipients of a Tissot Sailing Touch watch, a Luminox Deep Dive watch, and a Rolex Explorer II. Derek Doberstein, account executive, Back End Builders, took home the Tissot; Brian LoBaugh, partner, Auto Group Services pocketed the Luminox; and Mark Swannie, president, Karbiz took home the grand prize Rolex.

At the end of the show, Crisorio shared his thoughts on Agent Summit V with AE, “The feedback I’ve received is scary. We’ve set the bar so high that future Summit planning will be challenging. Nonetheless, I was told over and over again that Agent Summit V was the best industry event EVER! That says it all and is a credit to the industry professionals that left their knowledge and talent on stage.”

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St. John to Bring Brain Science to Agent Summit


LAS VEGAS — Organizers of the annual Agent Summit have announced that Joe St. John, director of training for Innovative Aftermarket Systems (IAS), will present a neuroscience-based Coaching and Development session at this year’s event, which will be held March 2–4 at the Venetian Palazzo Las Vegas.

“To remain relevant and prove oneself indispensable to one’s dealer clients, agents must ride the leading edge of technology and training,” said David Gesualdo, show chair and publisher of Agent Entrepreneur and F&I and Showroom. “Joe’s presentation is guaranteed to captivate our attendees and, hopefully, pay dividends for their dealer clients.”

“Xs & Os: Brain Science for Better Coaching” will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3, and will be followed by a panel session on Coaching and Development. St. John is expected to cover a myriad of brain science topics, including biology, behavioral patterns, effective skills training, personal motivation and more.

“Strap yourself in as Joe puts a charge into how you approach Coaching and Developing your F&I Superstars. While we all know inspiring others to perform at a higher level can be challenging, Joe breaks down the roadblocks and speaks both from experience and his lofty academic achievements,” said Randy Crisorio, president and CEO of United Development Systems Inc. (UDS) and chair of the Agent Summit advisory board. “Don’t miss it.”

To register for Agent Summit or for more information, visit AgentSummit.com. Attendees who register on or before Feb. 1 will enjoy a $100 early-bird discount. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, contact Eric Gesualdo via email hidden; JavaScript is required or call 727-612-8826.

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