When asked this question, I default to my American Honda Kaizen Continuous Improvement training to give the answer. It is not a simple answer.  It is an answer based on a philosophy and new way of thinking.  When I became a Dealer, my GSM once said to me, “you don’t act or think like most Dealers.” I guess he is correct, because as a former Kaizen Trainer ... “I think it, therefore I am one with the philosophy”. 

Dr. W. Edwards Deming, PhD, who transformed the thinking of Don Petersen at the Ford Motor Company and transformed the entire Japanese automobile industry, taught us that for Total Quality Management to succeed you must first transform management thinking.  The Japanese called Deming’s philosophy Kaizen.

Kaizen starts with the respect for the human being and the understanding that we are born with intrinsic motivation, self-esteem, dignity, cooperation, curiosity, and a yearning for learning. Today's top performing managers now understand that intrinsic motivation comes from inside an individual rather than motivation that comes from management. This is the key in motivating people. People want to do a good job and they get pleasure working on a task that produces a common goal with others.  Management must be committed to supporting their staff by providing continuous improvement training and the tools needed to provide superior customer sales and service.

Another key point Deming taught Ford Motor Company was "Eliminate management by objectives". Deming saw production targets and sales targets as the path to encouraging the delivery of poor-quality goods and services. While this is a foreign concept to most of us in the car sales business ... the reality is that when we focus on the needs of the customer and ensure customer follow-up ... sales and gross profits dramatically increase.

But the problem is ... the measure of success for salespeople in the car business is the number of units sold by the individual.  Individual sales focus by the salesperson (me) = my focus is on me.  Because of this, self-serving sales force behaviors develop and become difficult for management to control. Self-serving behaviors include a lack of teamwork, neglect of important administrative sales duties, an absence of record keeping, lack of sales follow up, lack of customer focus, poor housekeeping and lack of customer problem solving.  “Things that make you say ... hmmmm”

So if Management wants a customer focused sales team, customer retention, top CSI scores, reasonable gross profits and retention of long term career oriented salespeople what is the answer ?   Is it a pay plan that is salary based with positive CSI score bonuses and incentives ?  Is it just training ?  Is it both ?

Well, decide for yourself.  The Nation’s top selling Suzuki Dealer must have been paying attention.  After a few minutes of studying their website (with eyes of a new customer) ... they sold me.   They have made fun of the stereotypical “sales shark” and their customers have responded.   “No commissioned salespeople are welcomed here.”   http://www.suzukiofwichita.com/

Why does all this work at Suzuki of Wichita ?  They started with hiring personnel with no previous car sales experience and no bad habits.  In addition, the Dealer and Managers are hands-on, with continuous training provided a few minutes every day.

When you view the contents of the Suzuki of Wichita website your first response may be “well that is all great for a Suzuki store, but it will not work in a highline dealership.”  Okay, but maybe one should consider giving salespeople the option of a salary plan or a commission only plan.  As Continuous Improvement Sales Training plans and processes are installed, new salespeople are started on one plan and graduate to the other.  However, as salaried salespeople are trained, monitored tasks must be accomplished every day and every week that will generate sales.  Management must continue to train and coach them to succeed.  We want to start creating a career oriented Sales Team for Life that is focused on creating Customers for Life.  So let’s train and pay them to make that happen, with a competitive salary to start.

I have never been to Suzuki of Wichita and they are not my client ... but they have confirmed the point of this blog.  Take a look ... the elements of their successful model will work for you.

"This old style of Management ... you cannot, any longer, get by with it ... the responsibility for quality service lays at the top ... your people are doing their best ... putting in hard work without knowledge ... there is no substitute for knowledge." Dr. W. Edwards Deming, PhD.