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Tom Hopkins

Closing is the Name of the Game

Shaking hands

In the selling profession, closing is the winning score, the bottom line, the name of the game, the cutting edge, the point of it all. We all know plenty of techniques for prospecting, meeting new people, building rapport, qualifying, demonstrating our vehicles and services, and overcoming objections.

But, if you can’t close, you’re like a football team that can’t sustain a drive long enough to score. It does you no good to play your whole game in your own territory and never get across the other team’s goal line. I’m here to tell you that if you don’t love the closing process enough to master it now, start falling in love with it because, this is where the money is.

True professionals are closing most of the time.

They close for names and contact information. They close for appointments. They close for opportunities to demonstrate vehicles. They are constantly trying test closes, and they can kick into their final closing sequence anytime they smell success.

Average salespeople get so wrapped up in their presentation sequence that if the buyer decides to invest before they’re through, they won’t let them have the vehicle. They just keep going in their set pattern of telling, telling, telling – instead of selling. When you’re new, doing that is understandable because you lack experience. After you’ve had the opportunity to work directly with potential buyers, you need to become flexible enough to alter your presentation according to their needs.

Some clients get sold quickly. If you keep talking instead of getting the final agreement, you might unsell them just as fast. More talk triggers more objections. Pay close attention. When the prospect is ready, stop talking and start filling out those forms.

I’m going to give you the eight most important words in the art of closing. These are the most powerful words spoken on the complex, demanding, and well-paid art of closing. If you’re just skimming this article and haven’t marked anything yet, get your highlighter out now. Here they are:

Whenever you ask a closing question, shut up!

The important words are “shut up.” That is why the late J. Douglas Edwards used to shout them at his audiences. I was sitting in the front row the first time I heard these words. I was already jumpy from the excitement of the seminar, and when Doug shouted “SHUT UP!”, I dove for cover. That memory is carved into my mind, along with those words. They explain the single most important element in turning my disastrous sales experience at that time, into the record-breaking success it soon became.

Ask your closing question then – keep quiet! It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Believe me, it isn’t. I had a real challenge in this area and I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing wrong until I heard J. Douglas Edwards say those words.

The first time I tried to ask a closing question and then keep quiet, I was prepared for the prospect’s reaction. I expected them to keep silent. What I hadn’t prepared for was the intensity of my own reaction: The silence felt like wet sand being piled on my chest. My insides were churning, I had to bite the inside of my lip, and I was acutely aware of every nerve ending in my body. It was a gargantuan struggle not to fidget. Finally, the prospects did decide they would invest and I never again dreaded that awful silence after asking a closing question.

Why is it so important to keep quiet?

Say the prospect hesitates for a few moments, wondering when they should take delivery. You become uncomfortable and assume they are questioning the investment so you blurt out that you’ll see if your manager will let you reduce the investment, when that wasn’t even the issue. You can’t know what they’re thinking when they’re quiet so don’t try to guess. Just sit and wait.

The average salesperson can’t wait more than ten seconds after asking a closing question. If “Mrs. Jones” hasn’t answered by then, they’ll say something like, “Well, we can talk about that later,” and go on talking, unaware that they have just destroyed the closing momentum. And it’s probably not just the one close that is destroyed. “Mrs. Jones” can certainly keep quiet for a few moments—almost all undecided buyers can. If you’re true Champion material, you can sit there quietly all afternoon, if you have to. It takes concentration, but the actual silence after asking for the sale rarely lasts longer than 30-40 seconds.

Having the skill, courage, and concentration to sit still and be silent for at least half a minute is the single, most vital, skill there is in selling. Practice this until you get a feel for how long 30 seconds is, and then it won’t be so nerve-wracking when money is riding on how calm and quiet you remain in a real closing situation.

FO Roadshow 4

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Lycia Jedlicki

What has a Better Return on Your Investment: Training or Advertising?


If you ask a dealer how much their monthly advertising budget is, they usually can tell you that number right off the top of their head, along with approximately how much they spend with each vendor.  However, when asked how much they spend on training each month, you will probably get an “I don’t know” or “not enough” answer.

Truthfully, most dealers do not have a monthly training budget. Dealers for the most part don’t like training; they just expect their people to know what they are supposed to do and to know what it expected. Training just isn’t as exciting as advertising. But let me ask a question: If your advertising brings in a lot of show floor traffic and vehicles through the service department, and your people just do a “so-so” job with them, is it a good investment? Wouldn’t we be better off transferring some of our advertising budget to training? After all, don’t we want to make sure all of our customers get treated properly?

We as dealers spend thousands of dollars monthly to bring people into our show rooms and service departments, yet when we mystery shop ourselves, most of us cringe at the results. So again, I ask you this question:

Are your people properly trained, and if not, why not?

I have two dealers in different 20 Groups that  took money out of their advertising budget and moved it to training. What were the results? A Volkswagen dealer from Chicago, Illinois is going to have his best net profit year, while Volkswagen is having a very tough year. A BMW dealer from Florida also invested some of his advertising budget in training and his net profit is up 51%.

These dealers did not just invest in automotive training. They did leadership seminars through local colleges and the BMW dealer brought Toast Master’s into their dealership so he could make sure his people knew how to communicate with their customers.  These dealers decided to invest in their people, and it has paid off handsomely.  As the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida says, “Happy employees make happy customers.”

Challenge yourself with this question when doing your advertising budget this year, “Are my employees going to handle my customers the way I would like them to all of the time?” If not, maybe it’s time to rethink how you are spending your money so you can get the best return or your investment.

FO Roadshow 4

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Dave Anderson

Building a High Performance Culture (Part 11)

This article is part of a multi-part series titled “Building a High Performance Culture” by Up To Speed Guest Expert, Dave Anderson, of LearnToLead®.


Words that Work: Loyal

In this eleventh post on building a high performance culture I want to discuss a word that works well for organizations, buy only when people are measured by its true definition and not bestowed its designation recklessly. The word is loyal.

More about loyal momentarily, but to bring yourself up to date with this series, peruse the following words from past posts that work and consistently weave them, and their ensuing mindsets, into your culture to strengthen it. The words that hurt, and their ensuing mindsets, must be just as diligently weeded out of a culture. A quick review will give you a clear picture of a rare and robust culture, well worth the effort to build.

Words that work:

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Words that hurt:

Fault: responsibility for failure.

To use in a sentence: ”It’s not my fault I had a bad month.” In other words, “I’m a victim.”

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

The word loyal is defined as “faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.”

Notice there is nothing in the definition relating to how long someone has been with a company. While years put in may signify seniority or tenure, it does not automatically mean the long-term employee has been loyal unless he is currently faithful to his duties and obligations. Consider these thoughts on the true concept of loyalty, and assess your team members to determine if those you’ve been calling loyal because they’ve been with you for many years still qualify for this designation when assessed by the word’s proper meaning:

  • Loyalty is more about what someone puts into the time, than the actual time someone puts into an organization; quality over quantity.
  • At the end of the day, loyalty is performance; it’s possible for a long-term employee to have stopped performing years ago, but wrongly be considered as “loyal” because of a faulty understanding of what being loyal really means. Frankly, there’s little more disloyal than failing to perform for the people signing your paychecks.
  • Tenure can become a license for laziness, and oftentimes long-time employees take their jobs for granted and think they should be able to borrow credibility from past performance or yesteryear and substitute them for results today.
  • If years of service are your prime criteria for labeling one as loyal then the brand new, highly performing employee couldn’t be considered as loyal since he hasn’t been with you very long; an absolute unfair characterization of that person.
  • If someone has been with you a long time and still is faithful to their duties or obligations, that person is your “A” player; it just doesn’t get much better than that. This person should be a priority and deserves your utmost appreciation and respect.
  • If you have to choose between performance and old-time’s sake and sentimentalism you owe it to the rest of the team to opt for performance and insist on a standard where everyone comes to work to prove themselves over again each day, regardless of position, past accomplishments or years of service.

High performance cultures understand the true definition of loyalty, establish that standard and consistently hold others accountable for delivering the performance that makes them worthy of being called loyal teammates and employees.


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Robin Cunningham

Five Tips for Creating a More Predictable Work Environment


Most Monday mornings I find myself standing in NCM Institute’s beautiful training facility in Kansas City, welcoming a new class of dealership managers who come to us for formalized training specific to their job responsibilities. Even before introductions, sometimes I will ask the class some questions:

“How many of you, when you interviewed for your first job in the car business were shown a written job description and job objectives or expectations that you would be expected to perform?”

Typically, almost no hands are raised! Then I ask them if, in the dealerships they now are in management positions, if written job descriptions, objectives and written processes are regularly in use. And guess what… very few hands are raised!

Think back to your first interview for a job in a car dealership. What was the discussion like? What did they tell you you would be doing? Was that in writing? Were you coached and trained on that consistently? Now reflect on the organization or department that you now lead, manage or coach. What are your hiring discussions like? What is in writing? How consistently do you coach and train on these expectations?

At the NCM Institute we focus heavily on the Six Primary Elements of Accountability Management. Today  I’d like to focus on one of these:

Clearly Defining and Communicating Your Expectations

I am sure we have all heard something to that affect numerous times in our careers. But this element seems to get little focus, and therein lays a lot of, shall we say, “unrealized opportunities.” We believe this is such a big deal, we devote an entire training module just for this subject. We begin by identifying a number of tools any business can and should use to accomplish this. The first one being an Organizational Chart.

1. Implement an Organizational Chart

It is a rare dealership we work with that has a current, updated organizational chart in place that every associate has a copy of. In our General Manager Executive Program it is a requirement that one is created between the first and second class. We had a very experienced, hands-on General Manager return to class to proclaim he picked up 2.5 hours per day of productive time by putting this in place. He essentially said that he had made himself too available to everyone, spending much of his time out of his office doing hands on coaching. When the rest of the associates began to see how the organization was actually structured, they began going to their immediate supervisors as a first contact and he picked up more productive time for leading the organization.

2. Use Written Job Descriptions and Objectives

The next tool, which we have already talked about, is written job descriptions and job objectives. These tools are created with the associates so that there can be some feedback, which ultimately helps create buy-in. Again, almost none of the dealerships we work with have these in place and if they do they certainly are not current. Remember, we are looking for opportunities, not “gotchas!” So this is a really big deal.

3. Define the Parameters of Authority

Then we need to have well defined parameters of authority. Who is in charge? What do they do? How do they fit into the whole? How are they perceived by the organization?

4. Keep Track of Daily Tasks

Next, is a daily tasking enforcement. We call these tools, D.I.T. sheets or “Did It Today” sheets. These are daily recaps of associate’s daily responsibilities.  The primary things to focus on are:

  • These are the opportunities I had
  • These are the items I sold
  • These are the activities I performed
  • This is where and how I compared to my plan
  • This is how I “won” at work today
  • This is where I could have done better
  • I need your help with this

Note the last one: “I NEED YOU HELP WITH THIS.” Imagine the trusting relationship you could have with your associates if that was part of the daily discussion. These can and are created for every single associate in the dealership by some clients we work with.  The truly revolutionary part of this is each of these DIT sheets is handed in to their manager each day before the associate goes home. This gives the manager daily coaching opportunities they otherwise would not have.

5. Review Performance

The last tool is having a timely objective and subjective performance review process.These are sit-down, one-on-one meetings that are performed depending on the associated position: weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. These are very common in most corporate environments and almost unheard of in retail automotive dealerships.

We work with a number of very successful organizations who do none of these things and when they see this part of the class, they see how quickly their opportunities to improve would be and they get very excited. But how you clearly define and communicate these changes will absolutely be the determinant of their acceptance and therefore, success.

We believe the one thing we can control is the daily environment within each dealership department. There are a lot of your existing employees who are starving for more leadership, coaching, mentoring and structure in their work. If we want to have more predictable profitability, we are going to have to have a more predictable work environment for all our people.

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Jeff Cowan

Who’s Failing Who?


I have a friend who called me up in late June and asked me for some help. His daughter Tammy, who had graduated college the year before, was having trouble finding a job.  He knew I’m in the automotive industry and wanted to know if there might be an opportunity for his daughter. Knowing Tammy, I was thrilled to think that this bright young woman would have an interest in an industry that I love so much.

Although her college had been paid for, Tammy, not one to be idle, worked a part time job as she went to school. She worked at Starbucks for a while, but worked the bulk of her college years at an electronics and appliance store. She started out in customer service but quickly moved to the sales floor, as the managers saw that she had a work ethic and personality more suited for sales. After making that move, Tammy earned more than her share of spiffs and small awards for her ability to work with and sell to customers. This did not surprise me, as I had always known Tammy to be a happy, outgoing type of person; the type that could one day be a great salesperson if that is where her heart lead her.

Anxious to help, I recommended she give writing service a try. I told her how she could earn an income of $50K plus annually, and over a short period of time, 50% more than that. I explained to Tammy all the benefits of the job, explaining that although it might be tough, it could be a very rewarding career choice for her. Being the motivated, hard-working person she is, she immediately started applying at dealerships in her area. She was hired within one week of looking.

Tammy started at a GM dealership in July. This particular dealership has about 50 vehicles visit its service department every day. The pay plan she showed me was one that would allow her to make the $50k plus annually, just as I had told her, with a decent benefit package. She was stoked to say the least. With this job, she could accomplish her dream of being totally independent and on her own.

As I write this, it has been just over three months since she started. It has been nothing short of a disaster. She is averaging about $1,700 a month in gross income with no big upswing visible in the near future. Everything I had portrayed the job to be has not panned out. What went wrong?

1. In three months’ time, she has received one hour of training. That training came from the factory rep. He happened to stop by the dealership 35 days after she started. He was kind enough to spend an hour with her to show her some “tricks” on her computer.

2. With it being July and right in the heat of the summer, the advisors she shares her day with were supposed to help her learn the job. They did not. My assumption is that either they did not have the time, simply did not want to, or most likely, did not know how to do the job themselves, since their numbers are ridiculously low as well.

3. Her manager, who seems to be always missing or putting out fires, has spent zero time with her beyond normal chit-chat and monthly team meetings where he talks about the importance of better numbers – “Talks about,” yet gives no instruction on how to get these better numbers. The General Manager, however, taking a liking to Tammy and seeing her struggle, bought her a copy of the book “Gung Ho!” He felt by her reading the book, it would help improve her survey scores.

4. Morale is understandably low since no one is making anything close to the money they were told they could make, and would make with some training. What is even more demoralizing for the service staff and Tammy, is that they witness every week how the vehicle sales staff get endless training, endless spiffs, and have regular Saturday auto sales contests with hundreds of dollars in cash being handed out.

I have advisors write and call me all the time with similar stories, and although I have always felt for these advisors, it never quite resonated with me until I saw it happen first hand. I know that not all dealerships are like that, but by my best guesstimate, I believe that somewhere between 30 to 50% are, just based on the communication we have daily with dealerships who are seeking us out to improve their service profits.

Personally, I don’t get it. Why would someone go to the trouble of finding the land, building the facility, inventorying it with millions of dollars of inventory, spending thousands to get people to walk in the door and then stop short by a very few thousand dollars to train their employees to be prepared for their customers? We in the auto industry cry and scream for people to come and join our employment ranks. We are stunned that more would not want to, with all the industry has to offer. Yet it is easy to see why they do not. Just like an untrained salesperson will run your customers off, any business who does not train their employees will run those employees off.

As far as Tammy goes, she is now talking about leaving the car industry, not because she wants to, as she sees great potential in it. She is leaving it because her whole reason for going to school and working is not being met; the need to be independent and live without a handout, or the aid of others.

What a shame. I thought young, educated people were what we wanted and needed in our industry! If they truly are, we will never attract and keep them with our current approach. I did give Tammy access to my training, but as I was not able to be with her on the drive every day (living 2,000 miles away), I could not show her how it worked and coach her the way she and the rest of the staff needed to be coached.

All this to say: If you’re wondering why your advisors or service department is not meeting your goals, here are a couple of things to think about or address:

  1. Do you actually have a solid and ongoing training process for each advisor hired at your store – for veterans and rookies alike?
  2. Does your Service Manager hold daily and weekly meetings where they coach, critique and role play?
  3. Do you have clear, concise goals for your staff to meet?
  4. Do your managers themselves understand the profession of selling?
  5. Do you as a Dealer, General Manager or Fixed Operations Director fully understand the opportunity missed by not having a fully trained staff, prepared to meet and handle any situation in a proactive way?

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Steve Hall

Customer Retention in the Service Department (Part Two)

This is the second installment in a two-part series by Steve Hall. To read Part One, click here

Service Advisor 2

This is the second installment in a two-part series by Steve Hall. To read Part One, click here

Now that you understand the importance of custom retention, the next logical question is how do you capitalize on these opportunities? The most common way has been express service. It is probably the single largest retention tool we have available.

Express service is a business we know we need to be in. If we don’t offer, and actively pursue this work, our customers can and will go to the aftermarket competitors. For the most part, we aren’t losing our customers to other dealers, but rather to Jiffy Lube, Goodyear, Pep Boys, Meineke and independent shops. It’s not uncommon for a metro dealership to have a couple hundred of these types of shops within a five mile radius of their dealership. This makes the competition fierce.

The advantage we have, as dealerships, is all of the customers start as ours. Let’s think about this. Every vehicle that is on the road was originally sold by a dealership. It was what we did after that point that allowed us to either retain or lose that customer. In an effort to retain more of these customers, express service became a battle cry.

The Advent of Express Service

Virtually every manufacturer and most dealerships started some sort of express service system. The problem with this was twofold.

The first problem is, because the state of the industry a few years ago, dealers had to accelerate their implementation of express service to try and get more customers, immediately. As vehicle sales plummeted, and due to better quality of vehicles being produced, warranty work continued to decline. Virtually overnight, industry contraction had mandated that we must fight for every customer we have. The years of continual industry growth and a strong economy had ended; a true focus on retention had begun, and thus express service became a mainstay.

This happened so fast that the dealer body didn’t have a chance to really learn how to implement a profitable express service program.  We didn’t have time to start by learning to crawl, then walk, then learning to run. Instead we had to start running immediately, and this caused many to stumble.

The second problem was that the automotive business was so tough, we got really focused on metrics. Unfortunately, traditional service metrics and express service don’t correlate well together; they don’t truly relate how the business is doing. The very acts of becoming more price competitive and pursuing more oil changes and light maintenance work, negatively effects metrics like: hours per repair order, effective labor rate, and gross profit margin. Though there are ways to negate this downward pressure, most dealers didn’t have the time, forethought and information to understand or implement the solutions.

When we start to focus on express service and drive a higher number of low mileage vehicles or light maintenance vehicles to us, these are the circumstances that commonly occur. Drops in hours per repair order and effective labor rate start the cycle of stress and the conversations of “What is happening to our business? Why are our numbers falling?” This is the common. How we react to this can make or break our retention goals.

Doesn’t every vehicle eventually wear out or break down?

Tires, brakes, batteries, air filters, wheel bearing, cv boots, transmissions, head gaskets… the list of items that wear out or break goes on and on. If we have done a great job of retaining our customers, we will get the repair work and that will help keep our overall mix healthy.

It seems many times we take the short term view and give up just before things get good for us. But how do we avoid this? If we follow our processes, give great service, present the items needed, develop a great relationship with the client and know that even if they don’t buy today, we will be the one they contact when the car won’t start, or the tire finally blows out, or the brake squeal gets so bad they must have it repaired. They will do this because we have the relationship with them and we have earned their trust. At that point we are their “go to” place and they are still ours to lose.

Even if the customer decides not to repair anything, they WILL need another vehicle, so keep this in mind. Never forget the CNW Marketing Research study that we talked about earlier. Remember the key results: 86% of regular servicing customers that you originally sold will become repeat vehicle buyers. Yet, it falls all the way down to only 8% of customers you originally sold will become repeat buyers if they never service their vehicle with you.

You can easily see that once we do a great job with retention, by utilizing express service as a retention tool, we will be able to grow not only our service department but also our complete dealership for the long term. Utilizing better metrics will allow you to do that with less stress and more understanding of the real picture of what it takes to build your business.

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Jonathan Dawson

The Five Ingredients of a Personal Brand

Personal Brand

You should know by now that you need to brand yourself. (If not, then read my last article!) For a salesperson, branding simply means doing a few things to separate yourself from all the other sales people in your field, and even at your store. But how do you start developing a personal brand? There are five basic brand elements or “ingredients” you should consider implementing:

The first ingredient is a nickname.

I know we all like to think our name is memorable, but the sad truth is that people forget names all the time. Common names, unique names, short names, long names – Your customers WILL forget your name unless you give them something else to remember.

Consider using a nickname instead of your name. My student Nate Allen goes by the nickname of the “Official Singing Salesman.” As you’ve probably guessed, he likes music and enjoys performing custom made songs for his customers at the dealership. Just think about it. If someone told you to go in and ask for the Official Singing Salesman, how likely are you to forget it?

The second ingredient is a slogan.

A salesman in Atlanta uses the slogan “You will get the royal treatment.” The slogan goes with his nickname, ”King Stinson.” Imagine customers telling their friends, “Go see King Stinson and he will give you the royal treatment!” This is unique and is not something customers will easily forget.

The third ingredient is a logo or imagery.

Creating unique business cards, key chains, bracelets, or buttons that have your brand image on them is a fantastic way to become unforgettable. My student Monti Hansard uses pigs with purple wings as her brand image. She has them on her custom business cards, her personal vehicle, and on her desk. Everyone knows to come in and ask for the lady who loves pigs.

The fourth ingredient is having your own website.

For example, check out You’ll see that Kevin uses this website to share his story, customer testimonials, and contact information. Having your own personal website means you have a central place where customers can learn about you, your brand, and your product.

The fifth ingredient is color.

Bill Stout from Wichita uses gold and black as his brand colors. He’s a fan of the Wichita State University basketball team and uses their colors for his brand. He will only wear gold and black and uses these colors for his website and business cards. He calls his desk a “shrine to WSU.”

I know it’s overwhelming to figure out what your brand should be, but the key to developing a brand is to start small. Do not add all five ingredients at the same time. Instead, start with just one idea, such as a nickname. As you get comfortable with one ingredient, start adding more over time.

Here are a few questions to help you get started:

  • Is there something interesting or unique about you that people tend to notice or comment on?
  • Which one of these five elements immediately resonated with you?
  • What would be a unique way for your customers to remember you?
  • What could you have fun with?

I believe that spending time and effort on developing a brand will produce better results than begging customers to buy from you.

Upcoming NCM Institute course: Principles of Service Management Mastery, October 28-29 in Kansas. City. Click the banner for details.


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Steve Hall

Customer Retention in the Service Department (Part One)


Is YOUR service department’s overall gross profit growing year-over-year? The automotive industry as a whole has been in a growth mode for the last five years.  Unfortunately, too often we want to continue to look back and blame the financial meltdown of 2008-2009 for what we are doing today. Although that did take a hard toll on us, currently we are actually in a good place going forward in the service department.

Since new vehicle sales have been on a steady rise for the last five years, the number of vehicles that are less than six years old coming into our service departments have continued to increase. These vehicles are our core target vehicles and allow us our highest retention possibility. So the question remains, is YOUR service department steadily growing year-over-year?

Looking at the big picture, we are able to see the overall industry growth pattern, but let’s take this a step further. The next question is what does YOUR retention look like? I’m going to quantify what I mean by retention. In my opinion, the definition of what a retained customer is varies depending on your manufacturer’s service interval. For instance, if your manufacturer recommended maintenance interval is 5,000 miles, then I would want to see two customer paid visits, per year, to be considered a retained customer. If your manufacturer recommended maintenance interval is 12,000 miles then I would consider one customer paid visit per year a retained customer. Looking at it this way, you will be able to find a figure that correlates with YOUR brand.

Why is this so important? I’m going to give you two thoughts on this; both are critical to the growth of a dealership.

Future Sales and Service Loyalty

The first reason I’m going to share is sales based. CNW Marketing Research studied owners of General Motors vehicles and correlated future sales with service loyalty. Here were their results:

  • Customers who regularly serviced their vehicles at the selling dealership became repeat vehicle buyers 86% of the time
  • Customers that occasionally service their vehicles at the selling dealership became repeat buyers 46% of the time
  • Customers who seldom serviced their vehicles at the selling dealership became repeat buyers 18% of the time
  • Customers that never serviced their vehicles at the selling dealership became repeat vehicle buyers only 8% of the time

Those numbers are just staggering. As we have just seen, service retention absolutely drives repeat dealer vehicle sales. And vehicle sales are a great long term by-product of service retention.

A Focus on Retention Leads to Total Dealership Growth

Now let’s look at the second reason that retention is so critical. It’s the immediate gratification that comes from increased service and parts gross profit. These two components make it so that if you are truly focused on retention, it will feed the whole dealership, both in the short term and long term.

Think about it this way, a retained service customer creates service and parts gross profit, they are more likely to repurchase from the same dealership and when they do, you will more than likely get the trade in. Over time, this helps every department within your dealership! So, if we know the “pie” or market is growing, and we know that increased service retention gives us an even larger slice of that larger “pie,” we start to see a positive pattern of current opportunity within our fixed operations.

Stay tuned for Part Two to learn how to capitalize on these opportunities. Subscribe to the Up to Speed blog to get our best practice articles sent directly to your inbox! 

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Eric Schmitz

Revised OSHA Rule Brings Changes for Dealers

warningEffective January 1, 2015, OSHA will require all employers, including dealers, to report work-related fatalities to OSHA within eight hours and to report work-related hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of eye within 24 hours.

In the past, new and used car dealerships, among other industries, had been exempt from completing and posting the OSHA 300 log based on their Standard Industry Code (SIC). However, under the new regulatory change, dealerships have lost this exemption and must keep this accident and injury form up to date.

Injury reporting will also change under the new rule. Under the current regulation, employers are required to report work-related fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees within eight hours of the event. Under the new rule, employers must report all work-related fatalities to OSHA within eight hours of the event and all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, as well as amputations and loss of an eye to OSHA within 24 hours of the event.

What is an OSHA 300 Log?

The OSHA 300 Log is used to catalog and classify injuries and illnesses of any full-time, contract, or temporary workers over the course of a full calendar year. This log is required even if Worker’s Compensation Loss Runs are maintained at your facility. OSHA 300 Logs are now required for all facilities to allow OSHA to track and measure injury and illness rates throughout the country for multiple industries. The OSHA 300 Log is a more reliable way to track theses rates than workers’ compensation records because workers’ compensation records vary from state to state. OSHA will use the data from the logs to determine the following:

  • The number of workers who are injured or made ill in the workplace.
  • The types of injuries and illnesses sustained.
  • Departments and jobs that have the highest occurrence of injuries and illnesses.
  • Priorities for correcting job hazards.

To stay compliant with the new rule, the following injuries and illnesses must be listed on the OSHA 300 Log:

  • Death
  • Work days missed
  • Restricted work
  • Job transfers
  • Medical treatment beyond first aid
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Significant injury or illness diagnosed by a licensed medical professional

As the rule change approaches, KPA will be providing a variety of training and webinars. Please visit to view a webinar, or contact to learn more.

KPA is a business services provider for more than 5,100 automotive, truck and equipment dealerships, and service companies. KPA provides software and consulting services through two industry-specific product lines: HR Management and Environmental Health and Safety. KPA joined the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest growing companies in 2012. To learn more, visit or call 866.356.1735



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Robin Cunningham

Are Win-Win-Wins Possible in the Dealership World?

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Is it just me, or does it seem like so much of what we take for granted in life is a zero-sum game? Meaning, if and when we or somebody wins… somebody else has to lose.

Football season has just started and baseball season is winding down; and it’s all about who is winning and losing. We take that for granted and quite honestly, don’t think much about it.

Even in our world of the retail automotive industry, there is a lot of zero-sum game thinking at work. We see the competition of Ford F-150s outselling Chevrolet Silverado; Camry outselling Accord; BMW, Lexus and Mercedes battling it out for the Luxury crown every year. In our local markets, dealers battle each other for the right to call themselves the number one selling dealer in town or the number one CSI dealer in town, of every brand. These are pretty innocent competitions really, but a lot of dollars are spent each year by the manufacturers (and some dealers) to make sure someone knows who the winners and losers are.

For the last three years I have worked as a lead instructor at the NCM Institute. I spend all my time with dealership managers, showing them how they and their associates can WIN in their department or, in the case of general managers, the total dealership. It became apparent to me some time back that the way we approach everything here is: NOT a zero-sum game! In fact, we believe there can be a win-win-win for all of our efforts.

  • A win for the customer
  • A win for the dealership
  • A win for our associates

As the Church Lady used to say on Saturday Night Live, “Well, isn’t that special?”

Church Lady - Dana Carvey

Yes it is! Let me give you a couple of examples.


Around 90% of all customers do all their pre-shopping of used vehicles on the internet. When we price our vehicles at “market-based” prices, we show all of our cards up front on both our website and any third-party sites that we use, including:

  • Pricing
  • Pictures
  • Vehicle descriptions,
  • “Why buy from us” marketing messages

When customers send e-leads, call us or walk in the door, they can interact with dealership personnel who have been trained on value-selling. That includes our salespeople being trained to anticipate that the customer has been on the internet, to acknowledge that, and reinforce that by using Value Folders that include:

  • Car Fax, service records
  • Reconditioning reports
  • Data confirming how competitive our pricing is

Week in and week out, the dealership managers we work with are confirming that they are discounting up to $700 average off of internet pricing…without the customer really even asking for it! When we price and sell our vehicles at or near the average price to market, especially within the first 30 days in stock, we get to turn our inventory dollars up to 12 times per year. Our salespeople get a commission from the highest average gross the car will ever have, and our customers are value-sold cars that they found themselves on the internet at a price they feel good about because we showed them all the supporting documentation to support their decision. Win, win, win!


Most service advisors are working with too many customers per day and taking inbound phone calls.  This pretty much guarantees that they do not have time to build the crucial relationship with each customer, which is their number one priority. Because they are too busy, there is rarely a walk around with the customer on each car; rarely is a menu or any recommended maintenance discussed; rarely is a multi-point inspection performed – and if it is, it rarely produces many additional service requests because our relationship with the customer isn’t that great.

When we slow down the service drive process and mandate that each service advisor perform a walk around with the customer, a trusting relationship begins to be established. If an appointment coordinator or BDC is taking inbound service calls, they can establish if the customer’s car needs anything based on time, mileage or history – over and above what they originally contacted us for. We can inform our advisors of this information and hold them accountable for communicating this to each customer. When we perform multi-point inspections and communicate any findings back to our clients, they will take that information more seriously due to the trusting relationship begun by our advisor. Our advisor will set the customer’s next service appointment based on time, mileage and history. The customer now has a reason to become a “retained” customer, the dealership gains the ongoing business from those customers – and the advisor not only generates more dollars and hours  per visit, but helps ensure that the customer wants to come back over the lifecycle of their vehicle.  Win, win, win!

See? It is possible. One of the pleasures of my work is showing our clients exactly how win-win-wins can be achieved. If you would like more examples or are ready to learn more, feel free to contact me or any of our associates.


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