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Un-training. How to combat the deterioration of sales skills

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My team has experience – they don’t need more training!

Over the years we have seen many automotive dealerships fall into the trap of viewing training or skill development as an event rather than a process. Once a salesperson has attended sales training they are good to go right? They should know what to do and performance will increase month after month as they get more experience right? Well in a perfect world maybe…

The fact is that there are forces working on undermining their success everyday.  We call this the “un-training cycle” and it goes something like this: A salesperson sees 1 or 2 prospects each day and so by the end of a month has heard at least 20 or 30 times “I’m not buying today, we’re just looking, what’s your best price, or I don’t need to test drive it”. They get “un-trained” and begin to believe that price is the only consideration and nobody is buying.  They start to pre-judge prospects and reduce effort until the only ones buying are those natural buyers who would have bought no matter what the salesperson did!

The un-training cycle doesn’t stop there. The salesperson complains to their sales manager that everybody’s a tough customer or a tire-kicker and “we need some better prospects boss”.  The sales manager is un-trained by negative comments from the salespeople in turn and “un-trains” the dealer or general manager. “The market is really tough out there boss, we need to increase the ad budget and get some more traffic in here”.  Advertising is increased bringing more prospects in to be mishandled by salespeople who fold their tent at the first “we’re just looking” stall – and around the un-training cycle we go!

We apologize if that sounds painfully familiar.  Once a dealership recognizes that there are forces unwinding the team’s sales skills every day then the solution becomes obvious.  We need to be training and coaching our people regularly to maintain and increase their performance. Every week we need a skill development meeting with the team – working on a particular skill or situation – brainstorming, reviewing, practicing, and role-playing.  Every shift should start with sales managers holding brief one-on-ones (no more than 10 minutes) with each salesperson. Reviewing deals in progress, activity numbers, daily work plan, and coaching individual skills.  The time invested in a structured one-on-one actually saves sales management time as it reduces the constant interruptions from salespeople throughout the day.

Does coaching and skill development pay? Consider that training and coaching a 1% increase in closing ratio for one salesperson delivers $10,000 in additional annual gross to the average dealer.  Do you have salespeople on your team right now that close at 5% below others on your team – that costs $50,000 per year – per person!

So if there is such a high return on time and investment in training and coaching why are so many managers unable to find the time to get it done?  Lots of reasons from too many clerical tasks and paperwork to the most common reason we see of all – they don’t know how to do it.  Most sales managers got the job because they were the highest producing salesperson but they were never taught how to train, develop, and coach a high performance sales team!  Most of them never had a good role model in the person they replaced.          

Make a commitment to combat the “un-training cycle” to increase volume and gross retention. Recognize that:

·         Salespeople are un-trained every day by customers.

·         Skill development, training and coaching are continuous processes not events.

·         Management must conduct weekly in-dealership training sessions otherwise skills and closing ratios decline.

·         Daily one-on-one coaching is the highest and best use of a sales manager’s time. High performance teams thrive on it.

·         If a sales manager doesn’t know how to be a good trainer and coach – you need to get them some training!

·         If a sales manager can’t fit training and coaching into their busy day then figure out what clerical work someone else can do for $12 an hour. Remember that your sales manager can earn you thousands of dollars per hour if you take the $12 an hour work off their plate.


Automotivaters is highly recognized and one of the most respected automotive training and consulting companies in Canada. Since 1987, the company has acquired an international client base throughout Canada, the United States, the Philippines, Indonesia, French Polynesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and New Zealand.

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Copyright © 2007 by ISI/PAL Automotivaters Inc.
Copyright © 2017 by ISI/PAL Automotivaters Inc. If you share this, print it out, or reproduce it in any way, please retain this copyright statement.