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Preparing Your Next Gen Dealership Leaders

The composition of dealership teams around the U.S. is changing – and getting younger. And despite what you may have heard about their work ethic, Deloitte’s 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey found that nearly half of Gen Z workers have taken on either a part- or full-time job in addition to their primary job. So how is your dealership preparing its next wave of leaders to overcome new obstacles in the auto industry?

Effective car dealership leaders know if they need to give up-and-coming team members the opportunity to move into leadership roles., If dealers do not take action one of two things will likely happen: Either they’ll go to a company that will give them growth opportunities, or they’ll become discouraged and lose the passion that made them so valuable.

In this blog, we share ways to help you prepare the next generation of car dealership leaders:

  1. Help employees become effective coaches
  2. Emphasize good communication
  3. Encourage employees to connect with other up-and-coming leaders
  4. Help employees become cultural leaders
  5. Expand employees’ expertise beyond their current roles

Automotive Dealer Coaching

Research finds leadership coaching offers real benefits, both to the recipient and organization. From the individual side: 

  • 80% of people who received coaching report increased self-confidence 
  • more than 70% said they benefit from improved work performance, relationships & more effective communication skills.

Coaching isn’t just more than managing, it’s also more than telling someone what to do or how to do it. Ensure your dealership’s leadership training program includes opportunities for future dealership leaders to practice their coaching skills. The more effective they become as coaches, the more they’ll have success as leaders.

Set Dealership Leadership Program Goals

Make sure you’re setting clear targets for your dealership leadership coaching programs. Goals should be made both for the program as a whole and individually with personal targets for participants. Ask if the goals you set for your team are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely, and ensure you have the proper tools in place to track progress.

Your expectations should mirror those of your customers. Ensure your team is thinking of evolving buying behaviors and focus on building a team culture based on delivering a great customer experience. These metrics won’t always be sales numbers, per say. Look at the behaviors that empower your team to deliver that exceptional customer experience.

Download the Whitepaper:
Strategic Staffing Checklist for Dealerships in 2022

Learn How to Identify Strong Coaches

In a dealership your best leadership coaches may not be the top sellers, but rather the people who had to learn how to overcome challenges.

When you’re looking for the first cohort of coaches, start with the people who had to work the hardest to get where they are today. This tenacity is a critical trait during times of market volatility. Seek out those who look for creative solutions to challenges or limitations, as they’ll be more likely to provide effective coaching and mentoring leadership themselves.

Emphasize Dealership Communication

As dealership strategies, systems and structures change, teams can easily become disconnected. This opens the door for inefficient, ineffective sales processes and poor CSI scores. To overcome emerging challenges and take advantage of new opportunities, keeping dealership teams well-connected through effective, two-way communication is critical.

Active Listening

Effective listening – to team members, customers and others – is a learned and practiced skill. Being an effective and active listener builds trust and strong relationships.Being a poor listener puts relationships between dealership leaders and their teams at serious risk of failure.

The best way to make active listening part of your dealership leadership training is simply to model it yourself. Actively check yourself for these best practices:

–   Avoid “talking to” people, rather than having conversations with them.

–   Wait to start preparing your response until they’ve finished delivering their message.

–   Listen not just to what they’re saying, but how they’re saying it. This includes body language, emotional tone and more.

–   Give the conversation your whole attention. Don’t multitask – and especially put down your phone.

The benefits aren’t just in team management. Active listening is most important when interacting with customers as a tool for ensuring you understand their wants and needs and that you understand and value them.

Getting to Know Other Departments

While it may seem basic, introducing your team to other parts of the dealership is an easy and important step towards creating better dealership communication.

Sales consultants may not always make the best mechanics – and vice versa – but getting everyone one-on-one face time with the people they call coworkers can completely change their understanding of how each process fits together in the big picture. With greater insight into other departments, this sort of communication fosters: 

  • greater empathy 
  • Better collaboration between teams  

Focus on Building Your Dealership Network

Once you’ve identified a future car dealership leader, support them in their professional growth. You can do this by giving them encouragement to build personal and professional relationships outside the walls of your dealership. These connections will be part of their growth for years to come.

Part of being a strong car dealership leader is having a robust personal and professional network outside the walls of your dealership. Support your future leaders by regularly reminding your team why it’s so important they build their networks and empowering them with the personal and professional references they need to succeed.

Encourage and incentivize your team to attend networking events or join professional networks to help build their network. This could take the form of participation in automotive industry organizations like NADA, service organizations such as Rotary or Kiwanis, volunteer work in the community, etc.

Promote Cultural Leadership Focusing On Customer Experience

We frequently discuss dealership culture, and for good reason. Our experience working with dealership partners of all types and sizes across the country makes it clear that the most important auto dealership best practice is to foster a dealership culture driven by customer experience (CX).

It’s very difficult in the modern era to be an effective car dealership leader without a strong commitment to customer experience In fact, a recent industry study found 1 in 3 dealership leaders aren’t investing in employee training opportunities beyond what the OEM provides. This poses a massive opportunity for dealers to both cement future success while potentially giving them a leg up on the competition by bringing their entire team up to speed.

Dealer leadership training empowers up-and-coming leaders to more effectively model these behaviors by: 

  • giving them a firmer grounding in the importance of CX culture  
  • engaging them to find ways to grow that culture across the dealership 

Finally, ensure your team understands what it’s like to be on the opposite side of the table as a customer. If they haven’t personally gone through the sales process or it’s been many years since they shopped last, task them to politely shop around at a couple of competitor locations to see how the overall experience goes. By simply inquiring about a few vehicles on the lot, they will get a great view of the customer experience at competing rooftops, informing an optimized approach at your dealership.

Expand Dealership Employee’s Expertise

As you work with the next generation of car dealership leaders, one of the most critical things you can do is find ways to grow professionally outside the bounds of their existing experiences.

The higher up you go in auto leadership, the more you need to know about things outside your initial area of expertise. Salespeople need to understand more about fixed ops. Finance professionals need to learn more about the intricacies of a product. Service experts need to become familiar with marketing.

This is especially important for the car dealership leaders of tomorrow, given the way the traditional walls between new and used sales, marketing, digital, fixed ops and finance have been coming down in dealerships.

Make sure you’re fostering inter-departmental communication by ensuring your databases (CRM, DRM and sales platform) easily integrate and employee-facing technology is easily accessible to every member of your sales team, service department and F&I staff. 

Download the Whitepaper:
Pre-Owned Acquisition Checklist for Every Dealership Department


Interested in learning how Mastermind’s dealership training or predictive analytics solutions can help improve your dealership’s culture? Request a free demo to learn more.