Starbux Sells Cars (Who Knew?)

Corporations have hundreds of employees who show up at work each day and do a job. Car dealerships have salespeople who show up at work each day, and stand around. What differentiates a salesperson from a corporation employee? Likely, a job description and written expectations. And hourly or salaried wages in place of commissions.

In car dealerships, our perception is that we are successful if we can sell cars, and not successful if we cannot. Our reality is that most of us in this profession lack structure, operate willy-nilly, fail to complete the smaller tasks that lead to selling cars, and pat ourselves on the back for the luck we have when we stumble onto a car deal.

In sales, we believe our job description is to “sell,” but the reality is “sales” is the goal, while there are many smaller tasks that lead to the sale happening and the goal being met. In a corporate role, warehouse workers, desk jockeys, and even secretaries have job descriptions which outline their daily tasks and the expected outcomes and goals. The people performing these roles often accomplish their daily tasks, leading to goal accomplishment, without standing outside all day, leaning on cars with coffee and smokes in hand. So, if a written description of goals, tasks, and expectations works in a salaried environment, why should it not work in a commission environment where there very much is specific tasks, goals, and expectations, not to mention, the opportunity for more lucrative payout?

As car dealership employees in the sales department, our work days can often be described as “hurry up and wait”.  We rush to be on time to work (or close to it), to arrive and stand around, waiting for that juicy up to show. We rush through the steps to the sale (not a good idea, but a topic for another day), and then get frustrated for having spent hours with customers who do not pull the trigger, only to return to the pad and hope for another up — and for that next tire kicker to show up more than 45 minutes before our shift ends so we can go home on time. And since what most of our dealership visitors see when they arrive on our lot is a bunch of salespeople standing around – with all the time in the world – the assumption is made that our time is not valuable, and we are not treated as the professionals we attempt to portray.

Could a working theory be that if “hurry up and wait” equals lack of focus, then establishing and scheduling day-to-day activities could be the recipe for salespeople meeting expected goals and selling (more) cars?

What might happen if Skippy Salesperson arrived at work knowing that from 9am to 9:15 he has to do a lot walk to check out the new inventory, and that 9:15 to 11:15 is telephone time. Yes, a lot up can arrive at anytime – and this could be handled a number of ways, but if we know that customers with appointments have higher closing ratios (again, another day’s topic) then would it not make sense to schedule telephone time for contacting customers to schedule appointments? You can even schedule time to be standing on the lot to help those fresh ups. When the appointments are scheduled, vehicle prep becomes easier, or at least, easier to schedule.

Most of us know, or figure out quickly, our store’s traffic patterns. The trick is to make sure our heavy fresh-up traffic has coverage, while those tasks that help to create traffic are scheduled during the down time. And now that you’ve got 2/3rds of your sales staff’s day scheduled, you can fit in training — just because there is NEVER enough training in dealerships – or so it seems.

Taking a moment to touch back on that skipping steps issue, maybe our salespeople rush through the presentation and demo ride because they are not skilled to always be closing during these processes, and instead, rush to get to the negotiations. With some product training, with the skills training, even telephone training — it all adds up to the value and confidence in ourselves, our products, and our dealership which we want the customer to agree to purchase.

With lot time, telephone time, vehicle prep and delivery time, and training, scheduled, you can probably approximate when that one hour of lunch HR requires will be taken, and possibly even figure out those two ten minute breaks – which will undoubtedly take longer because of the coffee line at 7-11, Starbucks, or wherever! Yes. Scheduling the Starbucks run will help you sell more cars! What might happen if instead of people standing around doing nothing (smoking, coffee, chatter), customers arrived on the lot at appointed times, and saw salespeople in a professional mode of operation?

As the activities and tasks start to fall into place, as managers, we can begin to evaluate other marketing opportunities, and who may be a fit from our sales staff to take advantage. Examples might be to assign a representative to community networking (chamber of commerce events, weekly referral, etc), a representative (2, or 3) to create regularly scheduled Periscope broadcasts, and a rep or team to visit local businesses handing out promotional flyers. There are so many opportunities which are underutilized by dealerships because we don’t know where to find the time, yet the time is there for us to take advantage of when we have a general schedule in place!

Having covered the daily activities and how to schedule the day, it all reads nicely in a blog entry, but where do we start? We start with the job description. The management needs to come together and discuss the tasks that we expect our salespeople to complete, and how much time during each eight hour work day we feel should be dedicated to it. We need to create a list of these tasks – which would ultimately take the form of a job description. If you’re not sure what I’m describing, jump on CareerBuilder or and review some car salesperson job ads. You will easily be able to identify structured expectations from the unfocused “Your job will be to sell cars.” You can create a single written document, or multiple documents to identify the tasks, expectations, and goals for your salespeople. Once it’s created, the document(s) need to be presented to the sales staff, explained, and enforced. You can not enforce what you have not explained, and you can not explain what you have not presented. Like the proper steps to the sale, if you want this to be successful, you cannot skip these steps!

To align our reality with our perceptions, we need to help to mold and shape our sales staff from the willy-nilly guys with all the time in the world, into the structured professionals who know what is expected of them and enforce the requirement that their tasks be scheduled and completed. It’s not easy — it means we have to step up to be the managers who provide the tools needed for our sales staff’s goals to be met. We need to make sure our Starbucks runs are scheduled, and not just “whenever”, and when we’ve succeeded — or at least come close, we will stop tripping over luck, and start selling more cars.

Good Scheduling and Luck– if you need help, Dealer Quarterback is your strategy guide. Contact Dani Zandel at or 310-428-3362

Dani aka The Dealer Quarterback

Dani Zandel got her start in the auto dealership world on a rainy day in January, 1998. The rest is history, which includes jumping head first into running Internet Departments before CRMs became popular (using Yahoo! Mail)...before Internet Departments existed... before Internet leads arrived from any source other than the vehicle manufacture! Dang! This bio just aged Dani way too much! Since those early days, Dani has sold vehicles, trained in the F&I office, and excelled at Internet Lead Handling, while exploring other low-cost, high ROI opportunities to sell cars to the community. Some of Dani's accomplishments include Certificates of Completion for the F&I and Internet programs at College of Automotive Management, as well as the Human Resources program at Loyola Marymount University (extension). She has rank advanced as a representative of Send Out Cards, and believes every salesperson and every car dealership should consider the benefits of showing gratitude to car buying prospects and customers. Dani has had the joy and pleasure of working with great dealerships -- most recently training the BDC team at a prominent Los Angeles Cadillac dealership, and previously implementing a BDC from non-existence to operational success for a Toyota dealership, and before that, a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep Ram and Fiat dual rooftop dealership. Her combined experiences in HR Management, Telephone & Internet Communications, and understanding of the technical side of CRMs, in addition to her own car dealership experiences, give Dani a leg up in the organization processes involved to create and install BDC departments, and restructure Internet departments within car dealerships. Dani professionally seeks to work with car dealerships on the specific tasks of CRM Automation, BDC installation, BDC/Internet training, and Appreciation Marketing. Dani's future personal goals include travel to the crystal blue waters of Santorini, Greece, and acclaimed success as a consultant, trainer, and speaker on the circuit of Automotive Dealership Seminars, specializing in the topics related to Internet and BDC success. Dani is the author of "How to Create Customer Loyalty" (available on Amazon) and is currently working on her 2nd book (still untitled) targeting an audience of Car Dealership Owners, GMs, and Sales Managers.