Turnover and attrition are two words almost synonymous with auto sales. It is an accepted fact of life at car dealerships to the point where the common attitude is, “Oh well. Next!” It would be naive to think you can hold on to every good person in your employ but you also don’t want to hire and train salespeople for every other dealership in town. For right now just focus on your store, not the industry as a whole or your region etc. just your store. Keep your eye on that which you have control. Depending on your tenure you can probably think of anywhere from a handful to dozens of solid performing sales representatives that moved on for one reason or another. Where would you and your dealership be if you were able to retain some or most of these quality peddlers? Okay, snap out of that daydream. I am in no way suggesting you will ever be able to keep all of your top performers. Stuff happens, life happens we know this but how about minimizing losses and keeping the majority of them? Below are three suggestions to assist in maximizing salesperson retention. Hire ‘em, train ‘em, keep ‘em.

You Have To Hold Them Accountable

The first area in building employee loyalty is accountability. Hold all your people accountable, the low performers as well as the top producers. Some of you may think that having standards and holding people to them with consequences for their actions will run off good people. Quite the opposite is true. I’m not talking about micro-managing people to death. Hold salespeople accountable to production, punctuality and professionalism. When your big dogs see that you don’t put up with tardiness, laziness and mediocre performance, you are providing them a place at which they can be proud to work.

If you run your store like it’s the lawless wild, wild west you will never retain any high volume salespeople. It can be fun to live by “pirate rules” for a little while but not for career minded individuals. You must be consistent with holding people accountable. You can’t be strict one day and loosy-goosy the next. Consequences and rewards must be equal from person to person. Keep in mind that some people respond differently to certain stimuli than others. I have salespeople that in order to get their attention I have to raise my voice and even pound my fist on a desk occasionally and I have others that I can simply look straight in the eyes and calmly say, “Come on dude, you know better than that.”

So when I say “equal” it is not always identical rewards or punishments. For those of you who have more than one child, you know exactly what I mean. You can send one child to their room and it is the most devastating day of their lives and if you send the other to their room, it’s no big deal. So, know your people and what motivates them but above all, have standards and hold people accountable.

Invest In Them

The next tactic to employ that will help retain top performers is to invest in them. Dave Anderson made a great statement, “It will take a lot less effort and stress to move a 15 car-a-month salesperson to 18 than it will to move a 5 car-a-month peddler to 8.” Too often we leave top performers alone because they can fend for themselves and then we spend countless time and energy trying to nudge a rep. from 5 to 8. Spend some time with your higher volume salespeople. They already have drive, motivation, integrity and selling skills so if you give them just a little of your time to critique and teach them some more advanced skills and closing techniques you will get a lot more bang for your buck. Obviously you need to invest in all of your staff members but don’t exclude the high volume veterans. Let them know that you care about them and their careers before another dealership does.

Pay Plans

The final area for consideration in retaining salespeople is (I saved it for last because it is the most sensitive and I didn’t want you to turn me off) pay-plans. I know, I know nobody wants to talk about money. Please read and process before you just say, “No”. What if their was a benefit for longevity at your store? Let me give a couple suggestions for you to mull-over with an open mind. What if you paid an incrementally higher commission percentage based on someone’s tenure with your company? What if after one year it went from 25% to 28% and at 3 years it moved to 30%? Some strong benefits here. First off, they will be less likely to leave because they take a pay cut for going somewhere else and if they want to bounce around and test the waters elsewhere, when they come back (if you let them- and you know you will) they start back @ 25%. Secondly, they will fight harder to maintain gross because they know they get a bigger piece of the pie. Otherwise, they can make the same money anywhere in town. This gives one more solid reason to stay. If you cannot wrap your mind around that concept how about paying a higher percentage or a flat constant bonus for repeat business? The longer a representative stays at one store, the more repeat business right? So pay them a higher commission or a consistent bonus for following up and maintaining their clientele. You pay significantly less in advertising dollars to keep a customer so, why not kick down with a little extra for the salespeople who help you keep them? It’s another step towards holding on to good people and it is easy to track whether or not the customer is actually a repeat.

Bottom line folks: You hired ‘em, you trained ‘em, you should keep ‘em.

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