Dec 20 2017 • By

Selling for the Money is Weaker Than Circus Lemonade

It’s interesting when you talk to people in the auto industry about the reasons they are in commissioned sales. When asked, “Why do you do what you do?” The knee-jerk response is often, “For the money”. Of course, money is one of the chief reasons we go to work in the first place. It is also a motivator for most salespeople, to some degree, especially for those of us that have been broke before! While a definite motivator, money is not the best purpose.

I’d argue if sales managers help their people by focusing less on the commission check and more on a deeper purpose, this would ultimately yield more money. Sound unbelievable? Let’s think this through.

Managers, here are three problems with having salespeople selling just for the money. Below each problem is a list of symptoms to help you diagnose if you have salespeople suffering from a money purpose.

1.Money is the result of actions, activity, and attitude. Not the reason a salesperson gets paid.

There is a link between purpose directly to the actions, reactions, and attitudes which replicate the result time after time. Can money be that purpose? No. Quite the opposite. Think about a profitable sale. It’s almost always a situation where the buyer feels like they are winning because the salesperson did a great job to build value in themselves and their product. When salespeople focus only on the money they need to make, the “sale” is about them, not the customer. Most customers sniff this out, and if you are a lucky enough to sell them once, they won’t be back to see you again.

Symptoms: Top-earning salespeople at your store may have low customer satisfaction. Sales are transactional: You see little to no repeat or referral business. You are often dealing with customer complaints. People want to return their car, excessive buyer’s remorse. Customers leaving because “I need to think it over.” or “It just doesn’t feel right.”

2. Money gains have very real diminishing returns on motivation.

Did you know every state has a money happiness threshold? That is the point at which more money does not create more happiness. This is the margin for diminishing returns when it comes to income. Though not every person has this same threshold, money is a quenchable purpose that, once sated can cause lack of motivation and desire to achieve.

Symptoms: Salespeople on your team are on an every-other-month roller coaster ride. Salespeople come out swinging, start off strong, then sales taper off the rest of the month. Lackluster motivation from salespeople once they hit their internal money benchmark. You see people on your team kicking back and relaxing after hitting their goal. Salespeople who seem content, even though they aren’t top producers making big money.

3. Commission structures can and will change.

A myriad of uncontrollable factors can impact your salespeople when it comes to income. Pay plans change, factory spiffs can be dropped, inventory costs fluctuate, market conditions vary and competition may arise. If money is their sole purpose, and one of these uncontrollable changes occur, your salesperson is going to be down in the dumps. They will feel like a victim instead of someone in charge of their own destiny, which is no way to enjoy a career.

If you, as a manager, focus on a better purpose than money, when bad things happen to the pay plan, it will be like water off a duck’s back. In turn, if your salespeople have a greater purpose, working is no longer linked to the pay plan; thus, they won’t feel as much of a sting.

Symptoms: Salespeople freaking out when they have a “mini.” When incentives change or the factory changes spiffs there is doom and gloom in the air. Commissioned salespeople asking for a raise, threatening to quit, or quitting for more money elsewhere.

Managers, hopefully, you can now see the problems associated with selling just for the money. You might even recognize some of these symptoms yourself.

On the other hand, if you’re still convinced that the hunger for higher commissions is the best motivator, then I challenge you to think about your long-term selling strategy. How will your dealership compensate as customers can simply buy from websites where cars are dropped in their driveways? How will you build your dealership after a massive product recall? Chasing the dollar is not a sustainable, long-term plan.

As a sales manager, when I focused on selling more units and making more gross I did well and so did my salespeople. Yet, only after realizing my greater purpose, and helping my salespeople discover their greater purpose, did we reach extreme success as a team. I am happy to share that purpose with any that ask, as well as the absolutely amazing results from this cultural shift.

Upgrading the purpose of your salespeople isn’t as difficult as you may think! It just takes a few questions with each individual to really help them identify their better purpose.

Step 1. Discover Individual Purpose

Ask yourself, and each member of your sales team, the following questions:

  • If you had unlimited money, what would you do with it?
  • Define your brand for me.
  • What would it mean to you if you accomplish your financial goals working here? How would you feel?
  • Why is accomplishing financial success important to you?
  • Imagine you’re 90 years old and your local newspaper writes an article about your career, what do you want it to say?
  • If your next customer tweeted about your level of service and every single buyer in our market would read it, what would you want to be known for?
  • If your sales team wrote a biography about you, what would you want to be remembered for in your book?

Step 2: Build a Team Purpose:

Next, think about your team and ask these questions:

  • What can you and your team strive for as a group next year?
  • What group reward or recognition would be most impactful to your team and what could everyone do to earn it?
  • Thinking big, what can you do to align the entire team behind a common cause?

Step 3: Reinforce the Purpose:

It will take long-term commitment to ensure this becomes the new norm for each employee and the team as a whole. Do so with the following questions:

  • Your purpose is “X.” Did you fulfill that purpose with that last customer engagement?
  • How do you feel about your efforts toward your purpose today?
  • Are you consistently living your values in order to reach your purpose?
  • Is working towards your new purpose more rewarding?

By asking the questions above you may find some pretty damn amazing purposes. To list a few that I have heard: “I want to be able to take care of my single mother.” “I want my kids to be happy.” “I want to do so well for my customers, that they never think of going to anyone but me for a car.” “If we can hit 4000 units as a team, we will set records never before accomplished in our dealership or market.” “I want to prevent the companies like Carvana from replacing car salespeople by doing an amazing job with every customer.” “I want to help people with the same credit and financial challenges I had, get a great car. One that they actually enjoy driving, and gives them a chance to rebuild their credit.” “I want to live stress-free knowing I have a sustainable career that continues to grow due to my customer retention.” “I want to be known as the most professional and skilled sales person the dealership has ever had.”

Now you have uncovered a better, deeper purpose for each of your team members. One that will actually drive results and enhance your employees’ selling experience, as well as your customers buying experience. You may begin to notice a little more hop in your employees step as they interact with customers. Your buyers may seem a little happier as they leave with their new vehicles.

Once reinforcing the purpose for each salesperson becomes a habit, you may notice the morale of your salespeople improves. Regardless of market conditions and other noncontrollable challenges, they still seem inspired. Your buyers will remember the purchase and will more apt to come back again or offer family, friends, and referrals when asked. Your reputation both with the OEM surveys, on the street, and online will likely start to improve. Their purpose isn’t all about the money anymore, it’s stronger and more meaningful.

Do yourself, your employees and our entire industry a favor and help everyone find a purpose. A reason for selling cars that is less fickle than cash. Link the purpose to the behaviors that lead to success with a reason for selling even more unquenchable than the thirst for money. In doing so, you can massively increase your own production and that of every single member of your sales team. Your team will also feel a greater reward for the work they do. I wish you the best in helping each salesperson of your team find this new purpose!

This is an excerpt from an upcoming book on sales and leadership by Sean Kelley. Sean #thecarbizcoach has successfully managed dealers for a decade, drastically lowering employee turnover and increased profits, customer retention, and client satisfaction. Sean helps dealers achieve great results through their people and technology with a unique approach to coaching and people development. To experience the same results, contact Sean Kelley or visit our website. 

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