In a recent interview, I was asked how I became successful in the auto business. I thought for a moment and said, “Well, I’m not sure I consider myself successful yet.” After a bit of obligatory laughter, the question was reworded and I learned what they actually wanted to know: What is the best way to stay in a constant state of improvement? I gave a condensed answer that was authentic but brief, focusing on the fact that our business is one of the greatest in the world. In this business, you can be anyone, from anywhere, and regardless of your background you can become extremely successful and rise quickly with the right tools and support. I have seen it happen many times. We work in a great industry!
Since that interview, I have continued to think about the people who influenced me and experiences that have helped shape me. There have been (and surely will be many more) people who have influenced me — positively and negatively —throughout my career. There have been a few, however, who instilled in me common and basic concepts. These are ideals that I use and to which I refer on a daily basis.
These concepts can be summed up in five words that I refer to as the Five F’s: fast, friendly, flexible, fun and follow-up. I have these on my computer so I see them every day and I constantly repeat them to my team. It’s the unofficial motto of our company. I like to think of these as things that we can do everyday that require minimum thought and effort. Most of us probably learned these things as far back as kindergarten, and have just forgotten how to apply them in the real world. Let’s dissect them a bit.
First, you should always be fast. If you have to react, react quickly and thoroughly. Even if it is unpleasant, get it done quickly. It will only get worse if you wait; even if it’s delivering bad news or feedback to someone who works for you, give it quickly. The faster you get past it, the sooner you can get to the positive resolution. One of my mentors from the Moore Brothers told me, “Fast pay makes for good friends,” reaffirming that fast is always best. In your business dealings, tell your associates, prospects or customers that you will get them an answer quickly, and then take it one step further and define that time frame. Then make sure you follow through! This will create accountability for you, ensuring that you deliver on your commitment.
Next, be friendly. It is easy to let the stresses of everyday life get the best of you and make you unaware of your interactions with others. Be conscious of where the stress is coming from and take the time to smile and be friendly. Life is too short to hold onto anger and transfer it to others. We all have problems and challenges. Leave them behind. They will still be there later if you want them. Remember that you get more flies with honey then you do with vinegar. It’s so much harder to be mad at some one who is nice and much easier to do things for some one who is friendly and smiling. Also, be authentic. People can easily see through false intentions or over exaggeration. It’s important to keep in mind that you can disagree with someone and still be friendly. Every customer you meet will want to pay less, want delivery a day sooner, demand options that aren’t available, etc. Understand and accept that and learn how to communicate differences in a friendly manner. Work for a common goal and maximize the wins while minimizing the losses. What you say to others, and how you say it, will stay with them a lot longer than it will stay with you.
Flexibility is next, and this is hard for many people to master. You have to learn that there are many different ways to get to a destination. While your way may make the most sense for you, it may not be the best suited for the others involved. Learn to listen. When you hear something that you don’t agree with, don’t react immediately. Stop and count in your head. This brief interlude will let the emotional and reactive part of your brain subside and allow you to process it more effectively. Good old Tom Moore used to tell me, “Find ways to do a deal, Bill, instead of ways that it can’t be done.” We’ve all been guilty of being negative and focusing on the reasons why something can’t be accomplished; whether it’s a deal, or a trade or even getting financed, find the reasons why it can be done. The true champions don’t have a set way. They realize that the solutions flow and change depending on the circumstances. There may be a core value and agenda that they use as a guide, but finding the flexibility to accomplish something is the key. We all remember those managers who we preferred to work deals with above others. One manger would tell me that I was “wasting our time, ” or I had “nothing” and to go get another up. The other manager was always looking for a way. It didn’t matter if the customer had a 380 beacon and couldn’t buy his mother’s love, he would tell me “great job, man, I see a deal here.” Then he would tell me I needed 10k down on a 9k car! I would sometimes have to ask him if he forgot his glasses, but I sure would run right back and bring him another deal because he was always flexible and gave me a way to go.
The last two of the Fs are the easiest. Have fun! This is a fun business. We spend the majority of our time with our coworkers. Why wouldn’t we want to take the time get to know them and have fun? Find the common ground and create ways to enjoy the time. This will carry over to your interactions with your clients and other people around you. Make sure not to make the fun at someone else’s expense, but to the benefit of the group and get everyone involved. During the hot summer months, for example, organize a team competition that rewards the team who sells the most with the ability to wear Hawaiian shirts for a week. This outward display and theme gets customers involved. Use this as a bridge to other departments. If there is a wide gap between sales and service, as in many dealerships, get them involved and let your customers see the cohesive and fun environment that your organization supports and encourages.
Finally, follow up on everything. This one should be second nature! I gave my team pads of sticky notes. Yes I know it’s not modern, but it is effective. Write it all down. My office is covered in notes and always in front of me, reminding me to get something done or to follow up with someone. Another thing I do that works well for me is that weekly I will sort my inbox by person to allow me to quickly go back and see any item that I may have missed. See, your brain has only so much capacity and if you think you can remember everything without writing things down, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Always do the hardest follow up first; the one you don’t want to do should be at the top of your list. The rest is easy after that,and only gets easier. The tendency is to complete the easiest follow up first and then find excuses not to do the harder ones later. If you complete the difficult follow up first thing in the morning, then the chances that you get busy and too behind in your tasks to complete it later are diminished. And remember that, just because they don’t answer or respond immediately, it does not mean that they are not interested. It just means you have not caught them at the right time and you need to keep trying. Case in point, my dog loves to play ball. If everyone had the persistence that he does, I would be retired. He will bring that ball to me all day long regardless of how many times I throw it or how far. He wags his tail, gets excited and is quick to retrieve it every single time.
Make sure to include the Five F’s in your day. Every day in any order. I promise that you will find that they all impact each other for a positive outcome. Good selling.