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"We Can’t Seem to Hire the Right People." Sound Familiar?

Joe Basil
Written By: Joe Basil
Posted on February 19, 2015

How many times have you heard this from dealers, managers, and business owners? How many times has it been on the 20 Group agenda topic list? Hearing this statement so often, one would think that it is a priority in every business and car dealership to have a process and system in place to identify, select, and hire “the right people.” So what is it that keeps so many dealers and managers from learning the skill set, or even recognizing the fact that they lack the skills?

Look back and learn from your mistakes

Let’s start with how most dealers grew up in the car business. The majority of them came up through the sales, or front end, of the business. The front end is a very people-oriented area of the business. Anyone with experience in that department has probably hired and trained hundreds of people. When you examine training strategies and concentrations in the front of the store you will typically find that an overwhelming amount of time and money is spent on the sales process, sales desk deal management, the F&I process, closing techniques, word tracks, and other productivity-focused skill sets, often times, without determining if you are training “the right person.” If you were to ask dealers how much training time and money they invest in teaching managers who have recruiting, selecting, and hiring responsibility how to identify and select “the right people,” some wouldn’t know what you were talking about. Others who have invested the time and money to develop selection skill sets and processes, would know exactly what you are talking about. For those that don’t understand this approach, they don’t even realize that they may be investing training dollars and time in the wrong people to start with.

Poll your team

Let me share a story. I worked with a dealer who said “I can’t seem to hire the right people.” I asked him to explain his hiring process and who had responsibility for hiring decisions. The first step in the store’s process was an initial interview by one of three front-end managers, then a secondary interview by one of the other two managers and/or the dealer. I asked, “Who has final authority on the hiring decision?” He explained that it goes back to the manager who conducted the initial interview. So I asked the dealer to give me his description of the “right” salesperson. He responded, “They have to be energetic self-starters with good people skills who set goals and achieve; a good closer, good grosser, and they have to be a team player.” Next, I asked permission to ask the three front-end managers the same question. Here’s what I found ...

  1. Manager number one described the right salesperson as "someone who is organized, punctual, follows procedure, and covers all the details."
  2. Manager number two described the right salesperson as "someone who can gross, close deals, sell cars, and build a book of business."
  3. Manager number three described the right salesperson as "someone who is friendly with customers, always takes care of their needs, never has customer complaints, and has strong customer satisfaction."

So, based on four different descriptions of the "right" person, it’s no wonder this dealer couldn't hire the right people. One manager would hire a “neat nick,” the next manager would hire a “slammer”, and the last one would hire a “consumer advocate”—and no one would hire the dealer’s ideal salesperson!

Make your list and check it twice

Patterns indicate that most people with hiring authority tend to hire people that match their own description of the "right" person as opposed to hiring a person with skill sets proven to result in developing a “top performer” in their position. So how do you learn to identify “top-performing” skill sets? One simple answer may be right in front of you. Make a list of your best salespeople, not your top salesperson, your best salespeople. Now jointly, along with those people with hiring authority, describe the personality traits, tendencies, habits, preferences, skill sets, and accomplishments of your “best” salespeople. Assuming you have top-performing salespeople, you should begin to see a pattern. For a point of reference you could perform the same exercise on your “worst” salespeople. From my experience the most effective approach to implementing a recruiting, selecting, and hiring process is to hire a professional trainer or consultant. Going back to my earlier point about determining if you are training the "right" person, you may first want to have your management team evaluated to confirm that you are training the right people to start with. Should you have any hesitation about investing in a process to improve your selection skills, let me conclude with the following question: Between the date you hired them and the date you fired them, what did you discover about them that you didn’t know when you interviewed them? And how much did it cost you? This should be a no-brainer!

Want to learn more about hiring? Attend NCM Institute's next Hiring Top Talent class.

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