How to Choose the Right Internet Sales Trainer or Digital Marketing Consultant…
Characteristics of Top Performing Internet Sales Trainers and Digital Marketing Consultants
written by Ralph Paglia
Since 1998 I have personally delivered Internet Sales Training and Digital Marketing Consulting services to over 1,000 car dealers and at least 6 car companies. Between 2001 and 2010 I recruited, hired, trained or supervised over 200 Internet Sales Trainers and Digital Marketing Consultants… While managing the services they delivered to dealers and car companies. As I am sure you can imagine, along the way I have acquired some very developed criteria for the background and skills that can be directly associated with the people who will do a good job assisting dealers in their Internet Sales Management and Digital Marketing strategy, tactics and operational management development. So what are these criteria that I personally associate with the people most likely to make a positive difference at a dealership when it comes to selling cars and service using the web? Joe Webb asked me to list them in a manner that he can include in a document designed to help car dealers make better decisions on who to hire as an Internet Sales Trainer or Consultant, so let me itemize what I consider to be the Top 5 ways to select an Internet/Digital trainer or consultant in a prioritized list based on each item’s rank in order of importance:
1. Experience – How many dealership Internet Sales Departments has the trainer or consultant set up, built, managed, designed and monitored? In many ways, when a dealer hires a trainer or consultant what is actually purchased is that person’s previous experience in both success and failure in the various aspects of creating and operating Internet Sales Teams, Digital Marketing Strategies and related operational aspects of making these people, processes and technologies work for dealers in regards to selling cars, parts and service business. Les experience should cost less and more experience is worth more to the dealer hiring an outside trainer/consultant. Also, as important as it is to hire trainers/consultants who have had BOTH sales and management experience in dealerships prior to becoming a trainer/consultant, it is important to point out that 48 weeks on the road as a consultant installing Internet Sales and Digital Marketing strategies and tactics in 24 different dealerships is probably equivalent to 6 years of experience working as a manger in a car dealership. As a dealer, when you hire a trainer/consultant who has done similar work in dozens of different dealerships you are acquiring a broad base of experience that increases the likelihood of success in your dealership. Let me describe a graphic and personal example… I have personally installed over 100 Business Development Centers in Ford dealerships. I know which of my first 100 dealerships subsequently either disbanded those BDC’s or simply let them decline into non-existence. Of the 60 that are still in operation 7 years later, there are common element in their design and implementation that can be associated with their long term success and profitable contributions to the dealership’s they serve. Likewise, of the 40 BDC’s from those original 100 I installed that no longer exist, there are common elements to the way they were designed, set up, staffed, physically located and managed. It is safe to say that I know what make a BDC more likely to be successful. Likewise, broad based experience working with many dealerships and in different parts of the country is more likely to result in a better trainer/consultant for any dealership considering who to hire. Lastly in regards to experience, this is the essential ingredient for success with “Situational Management”… As opposed to implementing robotic, one way to do something processes in any dealership, the implementation of results based processes is far more effective when it comes to sales, customer retention and efficiency. There are very few tasks that can only be executed in one specific way in order to experience the most success for your dealership. The sign of a truly experienced and wise trainer or consultant is that they know how to achieve the dealership’s objectives in a variety of ways and are not dependent on one way to get something done… If that one way doesn’t work, the experienced trainer/consultant will know how to get it done using another method.
2. Work Ethic and Productivity – Since hiring a trainer/consultant usually involves the dealer paying for units of time, how much actual in-dealership face-to-face training and consulting time will you get for the money being spent and how many dealership employees and their ability to implement and execute processes will be positively impacted? What are the “deliverables” that the consultant will produce and deliver within those same units of time? Will they deliver a documented Action Plan each time they visit the dealership? Will the trainer/consultant follow up on whether the assigned dealership resources have completed those tasks prior to the next visit to the dealership? Will the trainer/consultant prepare performance reports and assessments for management and dealer review? All of these tasks are certainly in the realm of capability for every trainer/consultant worth considering, but how much is done within a billable time period is a sound basis to use in evaluating their productivity. How much output in high value deliverables is also a function of basic work ethics inherent in the trainer/consultant personal profile.
3. Passion, Persuasion and Communication Skills – I debated whether to list this as #2 or #3, but let’s just say that these are VERY, VERY important skills (character traits?) for any trainer or consultant a dealership is considering… How effectively can that person express themselves to a variety of different people in your dealership? How well will their message resonate with your team? Is the trainer/consultant passionate enough about the work they do to have their enthusiasm become contagious and infect your dealership’s employees? The ability to both communicate what needs to be done on a daily basis and persuade your team that they will each be more successful by doing these things is paramount to whether or not a dealer gets the most bang for the buck when hiring a, Internet Sales Trainer or Digital Marketing Consultant. There are several ways to evaluate these types of skills… Watch the trainer/consultant on video, read the articles he/she has written and published. Look at the quality of training materials they use, speak to them by phone and ask the trainer/consultant to convince you to do something an Internet Sales Manager, BDC Rep, Marketing Manager, Sales Manager or Salesperson should be doing each day as part of their work flow process. After all, if the trainer/consultant cannot convince you as the dealer or GM that something should be done, how the heck are they going to convince your employees?
4. Dealer and/or OEM References – Before you sign any contracts or pay any money, speak to at least two people who have hired and used the trainer or consultant you are considering… As they say on Wall Street, “Past Performance may not be an effective indicator of future performance” but checking references is certainly a prudent step to execute in evaluation a trainer or consultant and falls under the category of Due Diligence. What are some of the things to ask about a trainer/consultant? You should ask if whatever they did effected the behavior of the dealership’s employees after the trainer/consultant left the facility. How long did their visit to the dealership, or the remote work they did for that dealer continue to have a positive effect on the dealership’s operations? What should you watch out for? I have heard dealers describe many horror stories, such as paying a trainer/consultant in advance and then having difficulty getting them to visit the dealership on a date that worked for both parties. Or, having paid for one trainer/consultant only to have somebody the dealer never met or heard of show up to deliver the services. However, there is one issue I have noticed over the years that may sound bad, but is actually indicative of the very best trainers and consultants I have worked with… Have they ever been kicked out of a dealership? Some of the best and most effective Internet Sales Trainers and Digital Marketing Consultant have been asked to leave a few dealerships over the years. This is what happens when a passionate, highly skilled change agent works in a dealership that is determined NOT to change; almost like an unhealthy body rejecting a healthy organ transplant! Bottom line, always contact 2 or more dealer references when considering hiring any trainer or consultant.
5. Do They Walk The Talk? – Whenever considering a trainer or consultant who specializes in any aspect of web based marketing, sales and communications, you should check on how much they practice what they preach. So, for example if an Internet Sales Trainer tells you he or she believes in prompt responses to Internet Sales Leads and customer emails… Send them an email message and ask for their phone number; then take note of how long it took them to respond. If a consultant professes to being able to help you improve your dealership’s various website Search Engine Optimization (SEO) implementations, do a Google search for their name or the name of their business and take note of how well they show up and how many listings are sites or accounts they are in control of. If a trainer/consultant tells you they will help your team send better emails to your dealership’s customers, ask them to send you examples using your name as if you were the prospective car buyer or service customer. The trainer/consultant claims to be able to make sense out of using social media to enhance your dealership’s sales and marketing? Then, get their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Ning and WordPress site or profile addresses and go check them out online… How do they look? Are they practicing what they preach?
I hope these five evaluation recommendations help you make a better decision when considering brining in an outside Internet Sales Trainer or Digital Marketing Consultant, but let me include a final bit of very important advice… If you are not prepared to implement that vast majority of a trainer or consultant’s recommendations and operational processes, then your dealership is not an ideal candidate for these types of services. Having assisted many dealerships over the past 13 years, after managing dealerships and departments for many years before that, it is always a little surprising to me when a dealership embraces all that I give them and actually does it! I love it when this happens, but more often than not, dealership management teams will pick and choose the items a trainer or consultant gives them and only implement those items… This does not always provide the best results. However, every dealer I have ever worked with that reinforced the implementation of the vast majority of what i recommended, then enforced the discipline to make sure the dealership employees executed these processes every day, has been VERY successful in achieving the Internet Sales and Digital Marketing objectives. So, the lesson learned is that if you do what the trainer or consultant you hire tells you and your team to do, your dealership will experience success… But, if you choose partial implementation by picking and choosing which items to implement, you will get only partial success, and maybe none at all.