Much of what employees learn in the car business is from watching and listening to their co-workers. This kind of education can be irreplaceable in areas such as sales presentation, demonstration, and closing techniques. Of course, it can also lead to employees adopting bad habits such as shortcutting the sales process or pre-qualifying customers based on nothing but appearance.
Legal compliance is an area that is frequently learned more by osmosis than by formal training. Dealers assume their employees possess adequate regulatory know-how skills simply because they’ve been in the business for a while. But who taught them the rules? Have they been properly trained in compliance or are they just winging it? It’s important to realize that at some point in their career, many automotive professionals were taught the “old school” way of doing business. Some dealership practices they’ve learned are not necessarily legal or ethical, but nevertheless the employees do business the way it’s always been done. Many of these old school tactics are so common that employees don’t realize how risky they are.
Here is an example.
Sales manager to salesperson: “Your customer has great credit but the bank needs more income. I don’t think they’ll ask for proof”.
Sales manager to finance manager: “Listen, these folks are in a hurry. Let’s make them mental owners. Just have them sign a contract real quick and we’ll get the rest of the paperwork done later. If they leave without signing something, they won’t be back”.
Sales manager to salespeople: “Guys, that ad car is a big loser. Switch your customers to something else unless we can make a ton on the back end”.
Sales manager to finance manager: “Joe’s got this guy committed at $30 a month more then we need. Let’s make some back-end money!”
Sales manager to salesperson: “We can probably get this guy done and processed, but there’s going to be a giant bank fee. If he wants that Sentra, don’t mention the ad price. We need to sell it for a few thousand more for the deal to make sense. He’ll be happy we can get him done”.
Sales manager to sales person: “It looks like the negative equity is her hot button. Here’s what we’ll do: Tell her we’ll pay off her trade and get her committed at $379 a month. I’ll just add the negative equity to the price.”
Finance manager to salesperson: “Let your customer know that the bank may call her and ask some questions. Make sure she tells them that the car is for her and not her brother!”
Finance manager to sales manager: “I don’t care if you take a hold check for the down payment, but the bank isn’t going to go for a deferred down, so we need to show it as cash on the contract.”
Finance manager to used car manager: “We’re over-advanced on that Tahoe deal. I need a book sheet for $15,500. Book it with premium wheels and sound.”
Certainly the majority of dealership employees are well-meaning, honest people, but assuming that they know everything they need to about compliance, especially in today’s environment, is very risky. When was the last time you had a comprehensive compliance check-up done? If it’s been a while (or never), now is the time. Once you have identified the areas that need attention, the staff should be properly trained. Education is a vital step towards protecting your business. After all, if employees don’t know or understand the rules, how can they be expected to follow them?
You wouldn’t let someone drive your car unless you were certain that they knew how to drive. It makes sense to be just as careful when you’re handing them the keys to the dealership.