Tag Archive | "training"

Northwood University, EFG Companies Partner

DALLAS — This week, Northwood University and EFG Companies announced a national partnership to host thought leadership forums, develop specialized continuing education programs, conduct joint industry research, and cross-publish content.

Under this new agreement, Northwood University has granted EFG Companies a seat on its National Automotive Marketing Advisory Board to represent the Finance & Insurance sector of the automotive industry.

“During this time of increased compliance oversight and economic recovery, it is imperative that we provide the auto retail industry with individuals equipped with leadership capabilities, and who can analyze current market trends to evolve their business for future success,” said Keith Pretty, president and CEO of Northwood University. “Our partnership with EFG Companies adds to Northwood University’s ability to prepare our students for a career in this critical U.S. industry.”

This partnership will allow both organizations to leverage the experience and knowledge of Northwood University’s dealer alumni, and EFG’s national dealer network for the benefit of the university’s student base. As the industry continues to rapidly evolve, this essential think tank will help drive innovation and cultivate adept leaders to challenge the retail auto industry to new levels of growth and profitability, officials said.

“Since 2008, the industry has gone through rapid, and, at times, painful change,” said John Pappanastos, president and CEO of EFG Companies. “The Great Recession forced dealers to significantly improve their operations, adopt new technologies and become much more analytical. There is no question that dealers today face an entirely different level of complexity than previous generations.

“Our partnership with Northwood will help our future industry leaders tackle growing issues like the evolving sales processes, the optimal management of digital assets, the increasing role of consumer protection products in the dealership profit model, and heightened regulation,” he added.

Both the EFG leadership team and the Northwood University faculty will provide input and guidance to ensure that Northwood students experience the continued benefit of retail automotive curriculum. In addition, EFG will provide internship and employment opportunities within its franchise dealer base as students seek to apply their classroom experience to the real world.

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Auto Services Agents and Their Challenges

Do you remember when your biggest challenge was to service a growing area of auto dealers without working more than 80 hours a week? When the only worry you had was finding, selecting, servicing, and retaining all of the new and used auto dealers that had a need and a demand for your company’s services and/or products and programs? Do you remember when you would get a lead from the corporate office, visit the prospective dealer/client, make your presentation and cover your marketing material and then have the dealer/client sign up on the first visit? Do you remember when just showing up monthly and taking care of the dealer’s/client’s problems, issues and customers was sufficient to earn his business?

How things have changed! The technology bust, terrorist attacks, new industry compliance issues and a seemingly endless parade of large and small competitive companies (all of whom are after your customers!) have converged to create a perfect storm. Those who can earn their living by selling professional dealer/client services are now facing the most challenging business environment in more than a generation. Incomes have been slashed and many agents are leaving to travel a different career path.

As the executive vice president for sales and marketing, I hear from the 123 agents who are currently enrolled in Peritus programs nationally on a daily basis. I hear a rumbling of despair from the sales reps in the field competing for their share of a much smaller and hyper-competitive auto dealer/client business pie. Common sayings are:

“I can’t get past the gatekeeper.”

“I can’t get a meeting with the decision-maker.”

“Everything is price, price, and price.”

“There is no way I can make my numbers for the month.”

“Thanks for stopping, but I have been with ABC Company for over five years now.”

However bad the situation may seem, I know there is still plenty of business out there for you on a daily basis. In fact, some dealer/client services companies are not only surviving in this turbulent market, they are actually increasing and prospering. What are these professionals doing to win more of the existing business? What are they doing to create new business?

Here are some of my thoughts on facing the street issues at hand.

Consumerism – Usually taking the form of an often misinformed and sometimes hostile dealer/client.

Unreasonable Competition – In the shape of the profit destroying, low-end, no-coverage dealer/client services provider.

The sheer dilemma of just trying to fulfill one’s promises to a dealer/client – Usually made impossible through this seeming inefficiency of a corporate support to the guys in the field and a non-understanding owner or manager. This is compounded by life’s everyday problems.

Whether real or imagined, it is  these negative forces that afford the greatest opportunity for the honest, serious “services” agent. The successful services agent realizes they are in a highly competitive business. They also know that these highly corrosive conditions are chipping away at their competition at the same time, and in the same manner. The intelligent salesperson is  aware that these circumstances chew at and significantly destroy his strongest ally –A POSITIVE ATTITUDE !

But, simply recognizing the problem is not enough. What to do about it is quite another matter. Self-confidence, empathy with the dealer/client, the ability to get the sign up and usage,  handling their customer issues promptly – these are all just broad terms. Unless they can specifically be brought into a workable method, clearly spelling out to the individual service agent an everyday, practical path that results in signing more dealers/clients and earning more commissions, then they are just meaningless.

To be a top earner in the agent arena, an agent must strive continuously not only to know the tools of his trade, but must know how to apply them effectively in a professional manner. The real professionals train constantly to improve their techniques while never forgetting the necessity of maintaining the agent’s relationship with the dealer/client. They must make the most of their industry knowledge, style and personality traits, maintain a sense of humor and most importantly, rely on their ability to establish and maintain “relationships” in order to convince the dealer/client to buy from them. The services agent knows full well that the difference between a “pro” and an amateur is the ability to hear the word “no” without surrendering. He or she recognizes that it is their task to make YES’S out of NO’S. The intelligent services agent quickly learns that deception, false promises, over-exaggeration or anything else casting a doubt on their integrity will work to their own great disadvantage.

The notable services agent takes the positive approach and is always careful to protect that feeling of trust and confidence they have projected to the prospective dealer/client. They utilize selling methods that make them aware of where they are during any part of the presentation, but they do it in an easy, non-threatening manner that is the mark of a pro. The services agent is intent on knowing their product and never falls into the trap of assuming the dealer is aware of all the benefits of their products or services. Each step along the way to a successful sign up, by their very language, manner and approach, is projected to the dealer/client sitting across the desk from them. Everything they do and say is for the benefit and well-being of their business and their customers.

As does every professional athlete, surgeon, lawyer or pilot, they continually train for perfection. They know that the selling climate in today’s auto industry is always in a state of change. The method we used yesterday to close a deal might be obsolete and possibly even destructive to their own territory sales growth. The services agent is not afraid to challenge their own beliefs and techniques and accepts these adjustments as they occur, while intelligently adapting them to their own style and personality. They must be ever cognizant of what is going on in our industry and on the street. It is the dealer/client who ultimately decides who the best agent is for the company and what their territory sales and yearly earnings will actually be!

Fully aware of all these influencing factors, the true professional services agent measures his or her success not only by income but also by the satisfaction of doing the job to the utmost of their ability. He or she recognizes their own weaknesses and attacks them with all their tenacity and drive. They use all the tools available to them to ultimately reap high financial rewards for efforts that are truly attainable for the professional services agent – both now and in the foreseeable future.



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Hitting the Hot Buttons

The conventional wisdom of F&I has always been that consumers see the value of the product based on an extensive feature-benefit presentation. It’s easy to assume the reason people buy F&I products is because someone did a good job of selling value.

Create value, they buy the product. Simple, right?

However, our responses in interviews with “real” customers coming out of the F&I office over the last 20 years showed a different view. Very few of the people who bought F&I products expressed VALUE as a motivating factor. It had little to do with their decision to buy F&I products.

And the people who didn’t buy F&I products also told us why they decided against them. Here again, it had nothing to do with a perceived lack of value.

Now this threw me in the early years of our process development, and it is certainly a difficult concept for many of us to understand. The reason this concept is difficult to accept is that we in the business naturally tend to be sales oriented. And sales oriented people believe in a feature-benefit approach. Point out the feature, describe the benefit, create value, and sell the product, right?

The other, more important reason we don’t figure this out on our own is because the customers do not want to discuss their real motivation for buying F&I products. As a matter of fact, they don’t want you to know they are thinking about certain things.

There are three important areas of concern buyers express.

They are:

  • Rate: They know all about rate, don’t they?
  • Payment: They are simply looking for a payment they can manage into their budget.
  • But the one factor that is paramount in their minds is the one thing they don’t want to reveal to you or have you bring up. And that is: Security

You see, customers today are more security minded than ever. And most of them should be.

According to Harris Polling, nearly half of the US population actually admits they are living paycheck to paycheck. But they don’t admit that when they are buying a car.

As a matter of fact, most customers will try to convince you of just the opposite.

I often have F&I managers tell me that their customers all have a lot of money. Well, maybe some do, but many of them just want you to think they do.

One of the exercises I include in our two day sessions is a very simple analysis of our average customer’s budget. We just do an estimate of an average customer’s income and expenses to get a general idea of what they are thinking about when buying a car.

I hand out the form below and have small groups do a budget estimate based on their average customer’s income and fixed expenses.

For an example, I filled out a sample using a $50,000 annual income, which comes out to about $3,300 per month take home pay, (if the customer doesn’t contribute to an IRA or medical plan). I added just a few normal expenses and figured a car payment of $450 plus insurance and gasoline for a total of $800 for total auto expense.


As you can see, $50,000 doesn’t go as far as it used to. The point here is that the customer already knows what their income and expenses are. They pay those bills every month. As a result, they are inclined to say no to just about anything you try to “sell” them that increases their payment.

And you can imagine that there is a level of insecurity that they are experiencing in buying a car.

Here’s what they know, for sure:

  • If they die, their survivors aren’t going to be able to pay off that loan.
  • If they get sick or injured and can’t work, they’re going under, financially.
  • If the car is totaled somehow, they won’t have the cash to pay off the balance of the loan that the insurance company didn’t pay.
  • If they have a repair three years down the road, they won’t have the money to pay for it. They won’t even have the money for a rental car. (By the way, they view a service contract exactly the same as any other kind of insurance or “fear of loss” type product).

However, they don’t want the F&I manager to know any of that. As a matter of fact, when an F&I professional brings up security concerns many buyers will try, with great bravado, to convince them that, “If that happens, I’ll just write a check.”


So, why would they bump their payment to buy F&I products?

Simple, they buy them to feel more secure about their decision to buy a car. We have to understand that the customer is weighing increasing their payment, in a very tight budget, against their concern for security.

And F&I professionals have to be very careful not to inject themselves into their decision making process. You see, they don’t want anyone to know about, or bring up, those concerns. Overt sales techniques and anything that looks remotely like a sales tool will shut down that process and put them on the defensive.

In our process development, we learned to give the customer some options that can alleviate their concerns about those security issues, without an overt sales pitch, because we have found that if presented properly they will choose more products than with the traditional “value sell” approach.

Over the years of field testing and research, we were initially somewhat puzzled that a plain, disclosure type, menu outperformed all of the other types of menus we developed, by significant margins. However, what we have learned is that, if the menu doesn’t look like a sales tool, and presents the options as serious decisions about the customer’s security, it actually enhances the triggering of those security responses.

So, if we avoid a sales pitch, and don’t give the impression that there’s something in it for us, we allow some very powerful security concerns to kick in and motivate them to protect themselves.

That’s why in our training I say things like, “The less you care about what they buy, the more they will choose.” Or “Stop selling to start producing.”

You see, what we have learned is that, if presented properly, the customers will CHOOSE more products than we can ever SELL them.

Working with the top performers in the country, we have learned that when our process helps the customer feel better and more secure about their purchase, they “choose” a lot more products.

Oh, and they like the F&I process a lot more. I get reports all the time from F&I managers who are amazed when a customer will choose an option that includes everything and then thank the F&I manager on the way out the door.

When the F&I professional makes a nice back end and the customer says “Thank You. This is the best experience we’ve ever had buying a car,” they are well on their way to becoming a top F&I performer.

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Three Big Mistakes Salespeople Make In Negotiating

You can have the nicest customer, have done a great job of selling, and have a firm commitment to purchase (total mental ownership) and still lose deals once you pull out the paperwork and try to close it inside (negotiate).

Here are three of the most common and costliest mistakes salespeople make as they start working the deal.

1.   Most salespeople lose control.

To be more accurate, most salespeople never had any control. Your first two to three minutes pretty much determine your outcome with every customer. Control starts with your greeting and first few questions. And if you can’t control the direction of the conversation there, good luck negotiating, you’ll definitely need it.

The person asking questions controls the conversation and the direction of the conversation – and that means by asking questions, you control the selling process.

Most salespeople don’t know how to ask questions, but their customers sure do. How much is it? What can I buy it for? What would payments be? How much down? What’s my trade worth? The list is endless, and if you just become an answering machine – you’ll lose almost every sale you could have made.

2.  Most salespeople are allowed to take shortcuts.

Too many salespeople take a deal to the desk, and then they work their manager harder than they work the customer. Instead of doing it right, they bring a loose deal, with no paperwork and no real commitment to the manager and say, “I can’t get a commitment, but he’s gonna leave if I don’t give him a price.” So instead of making us do it right, too many managers let us do it wrong in hopes of making the sale.

If you don’t understand the correct way to work a deal, that’s a subject that’s way too big for this article. So get to a sales class and then a closing and negotiation class. Don’t try to shortcut things again, learn to close first and then negotiate. Negotiation is hard if the vehicle wasn’t ‘sold’, or if the deal wasn’t closed correctly. Stop taking shortcuts in your career and you’ll make more money in sales than you ever imagined.

3.   Most salespeople focus their selling and negotiating on price.

I know everybody brings up price in some form, every time, on every deal, but price is not what customers buy and it’s almost never their primary concern.

Price wasn’t even on a recent JD Power Top 10 Survey that looked at what buyers want, and it’s #16 on most customers’ priority list after they find a vehicle they want to own. And then when you get to the negotiation, no matter what they say, or even agree to about price, for 94% of the people, it will still depend on fitting the vehicle in their budget because they’ll be making payments.

Learning how to work with price is critical to selling cars, and there are three things you have to learn to do with price:

  • Bypass… You have to learn to answer their questions like, “How much is it?” and get right back to following the process. It’s extremely easy if you learn how to ask the right questions.
  • Rephrase… When you get a price objection when you’re closing, you need to rephrase their objection to budget for multiple reasons. That’s easy, too, if you ask the right question.
  • Refocus… You work deals on price, but their decision to buy will always be based on budget. You have to learn the right questions to take the focus from price back to terms.

When you work this list backwards and learn how to ask questions, learn how to deal with price, and stop taking shortcuts, you’ll have more control and you’ll sell more cars.

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Joe Verde Releases New eBook

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — Joe Verde Sales & Management Training Inc. released a new eBook titled, “The 10 Technical Skills Every Automotive Sales Manager Needs.”The eBook is the second in a planned series, and one of the most popular excerpts from Joe Verde’s guidebook for auto dealers and managers, “A Dealer’s Guide To Recovery And Growth In Today’s Market.”

The new eBook explains that when a salesperson develops or improves a skill and grows, it only affects their sales. However, when managers develop their management skills, it affects all of their salespeople’s production. The eBook explains in detail the 10 technical skills every automotive sales manager needs.

“Here’s an example of the Power of Management: When managers decide to improve all 10 salespeople by just one unit and 10% in gross, you have a 10% improvement in sales and gross for the entire dealership,” Verde explained. “In a 100 unit dealership with $2,500 gross per unit, that 10% improvement means the dealership goes from 100 units and $250,000 in gross to 110 units for $302,500 in total gross.

“That’s a 21% improvement in gross with 60% of the extra $52,500 headed to ‘net.’ Believe it, you really do control your success, and you’re sitting on a gold mine. Now it’s time to find out how to get the gold. I hope this eBook helps guide the way.”

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It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process

To the uninformed spectator it may look like professional football players have it easy. Play a game every week for a few months and make big bucks. But professional NFL Players are on the practice field 24/7. And when they’re not on the field they’re watching game film. These pros are the best of the best or they would not be where they are. Do they really need to practice and watch game film (training) when they have been running these same plays week after week for years?

Yes, for one simple reason: They play to win and it takes practice, practice, practice (training) to make sure they do. That’s what makes them better today than they were yesterday or even 20 years ago!

Given this proven concept, why do we, in our industry, either put training on the back burner or choose to not formally train our people at all – leaving the training to the untrained sales manager?

Because we are too busy – or maybe we are not busy enough. Or, perhaps we have sent our people to training in the past but we didn’t get the results that we had hoped for – the training was ineffective. But maybe it’s not the training that’s ineffective.

Training is not an event, a one-day activity that will change everything. It’s an ongoing process – day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, and year-to-year. We practice every day, not just when we are in front of a customer on game day, but more importantly when we are not in front of a customer. We want to be practicing (training) when we are not in front of the “opponent.”

Why? It’s simple: We stand to lose if we have not practiced the execution of the play – through training.

With all of this in mind, let’s discuss the key elements of training and what makes training – or practice – most effective.

The Kickoff

First we need to establish the foundation. To use Vince Lombardi’s phrase when kicking off the first practice session of every season, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

Before a training session takes place, you should have constructedyour process. In other words, you should have partnered with your training company and “white boarded” your process. By building your organization’s process with you (dealer principal) and your management team, you create “buy-in.” The process is yours, not some generic process. As a result, you and your management team take ownership of it.

Your process needs to be in writing. For example, if it’s a Road to the Sale process, you need to have it in writing and each and every individual has to have, using the NFL analogy, a copy of the “playbook”.

Once you have built your process, it’s time to have your trainer facilitate the training. Using TRAIN as an acronym, there are five key elements to effective training.

T – Train/Teach the Curriculum

One of the best methods of training is the guided discovery method, which is designed to create the “why” before teaching the students the steps to the sale and/or word tracks. If students, especially those who have experience, don’t understand the “why,” they will not buy into the new process.

Rather than have the trainer do all of the talking, encourage interaction from the participants. Before getting into the “steps to the sale” or “objection handling,” we need to allow the students to discuss, in an open floor environment, their “average customer” and the challenges and impediments to their performance. Once they are aware of and have discussed in a public arena their challenges, they want to know what the solutions are. The training course will provide those solutions. It’s called the “tell me more factor.”

There are a lot of great trainers out there who do all of the talking – the “stage show” approach – but there is little to no interaction with the audience. As an example, the trainer will role-play a given sales situation and impress the audience with his or her performance. However what the trainer or training program did not allow for, was for the student to learn, practice through role-playing and replicate the performance. This learning environment is not conducive to retaining the material. The training program should allow for the participants to role-play the presentations. As an added retention component, record each individual’s presentation and critique the video of it afterwards.

R – Repeat, Retain

Training should be conducted daily, weekly, monthly. No excuses.

Once the initial event (training session) has occurred, the most successful dealers have weekly training with videotape role-play and critique. When a dealer invests this time in his or her employee’s success, it has two very favorable results:

  1. The process is followed by all and the customer experience is positive.
  2. Employee turnover is minimized. Employees feel valued and morale is increased.

A – Accountability

If employees aren’t held accountable to follow your process, the training will be ineffective.

If you are going to invest in the training of your process and then not hold people accountable to follow your process to the letter, you have wasted your investment of time and money. It’s easy to let the “highest unit” sales person do it their way, versus doing it your way. Once this occurs it creates a domino effect. If you let your “big producers” break the rules, the end result is there are no rules.

I – Inspect What You Expect

If you don’t inspect your people’s presentation performance and instead base your evaluation solely on their sales numbers, you have again wasted your training investment. Have your people role-play any given sales situation “on the spot” to allow you and your managers to evaluate the sales persons’ or sales managers’ effectiveness.


Keep the process going. NFL Players are not just experienced, they are polished. It’s all about training. And more training.

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