Top trainer lists the seven most likely reasons your agency’s F&I development program has failed to deliver the results you promised your dealers.  
 - Photo via iStock

Top trainer lists the seven most likely reasons your agency’s F&I development program has failed to deliver the results you promised your dealers.  

Photo via iStock

As a trainer, coach, and teacher, I have learned that training isn’t an event; it’s a process. How effectively agents can train, coach, and develop dealership associates can be the difference-maker in acquiring new business and growing the business in the dealerships we already partner with. 

There is a catch: Training and coaching adults can be difficult. Resistance to change is a challenge faced by every agent or agent associate who coaches and trains dealership personnel. It is a major contributor to unrealized potential and professional growth in just about every dealership. 

If not addressed, fear of change could limit the effectiveness of your training and your ability to make the necessary adjustments to grow the business. 

To address this, at the beginning of any new training or coaching process, an explanation of the dynamics of change and why most of us don’t like it — let alone embrace it — should be included. This doesn’t have to be long or detailed, it just needs to address why some of the participants feel the way they do, when attending training, or when being asked to change a process, procedure, behavior or technology tool.

I use the SARA acronym for the process we all go through when faced with a change: shock, anger, rationalization, and acceptance. These stages are a good way to explain what we feel when asked to change and why we feel it.

First, we are shocked there is a change. Then we get angry or annoyed about the change. Eventually, we start to rationalize the change, and finally, rationalization leads to acceptance of the change. 

I tell my trainees that everyone goes through these stages at a different pace. Some go through it quickly, others can take as long as 90 days to acceptance. By sharing this, everyone is on common ground and when encountering resistance, I can ask, “Is this just SARA or something else?” It calls them out about the resistance and lets them off the hook for the way they feel. I’ve acknowledged how they feel, and they acknowledge their resistance, now we can move on. 

The 7 Deadly Sins

Other than resistance to change, there are some other things that could be holding back your training efforts. I call these the “Seven Deadly Sins of Training and Development.”

1. Failure to Build a Value Proposition 

It is important to articulate the purpose of the training and for the participants to see themselves in the purpose of the training. In other words, the participants will need to take ownership of the new objective, task, skill, or process you will be training on. To do this properly, you must bring clarity to where they are, where you want them to go, and what is in it for them if they can accomplish it.

2. Failure to Understand How Adults Learn

People learn in one of three different ways. You should create and deliver training that addresses all three. 

  • Some people learn a new task visually, by reading about it and looking at graphics and pictures that support the material. These learners are visual learners.
  • Others are more comfortable learning when listening to the material as it is explained, like a recorded lecture or audiobook. These learners are auditory learners. 
  • Finally, some of us prefer to be more hands-on and learn by doing. These are kinesthetic learners. 

A combination of all three creates an ideal learning environment for most people. When creating and delivering training, incorporate all three learning styles into the training material and process. That way, everyone will be engaged on some level. A combination of you speaking, handouts or a workbook, and the use of a flip chart or some other visual medium is best.

3. Failure to Offer Interestingand Engaging Content

Can I get your attention, please! Getting their attention at the beginning of your training isn’t difficult; you can just ask for it. Maintaining their attention and interest is the challenging part. Some tips to maintain their attention and interest include: 

  • Ask questions. Asking questions of the participants will keep their attention. If you catch someone off-guard, ask others to help them out. You never want to embarrass someone during training.
  • Give praise and encouragement. Be sure to encourage participation. One-way communication formats such as lectures will only appeal to a portion of the participants. If you can positively reinforce a participant’s contribution, question or comment, it will let others in the class know it’s okay to get involved. If they give you what you are looking for, acknowledge it with a positive response. Most of us like to be recognized in a positive way: “Great question!” or “Frank makes a great point!” will keep people engaged. Encourage participants to give feedback to other participants, in a constructive positive manner. This will bond the group, develop trust, and create an environment more conducive to learning.
  • Use compelling visuals. If you are using a handout or presentation software, include video, pictures, and graphics that are colorful, appealing, and impactful. 
  • Change it up. By changing topics or getting them involved, and by asking questions or incorporating role-play ever 20 to 30 minutes or so, you will keep them interested and engaged. Don’t forget to take breaks if your training will last more than 60 to 90 minutes.
  • Keep it real. Use real-world examples or scenarios in your training. Ask them for situations they have experienced and use them if appropriate. Give the participants practical information they can use in their day-to-day. 
  • Create a competitive environment. When using role-play, keep pairs together, and have them role-play in front of the group. This will create a positive energy and encourage positive feedback.

4. Failure to Treat Training as an Ongoing Process

To many agents treat training and development as a reaction to a problem or issue instead of an ongoing process. If the only time you are in the dealership training is in response to a drop in performance or to introduce a new product, you are limiting your effectiveness and the development of the people you are trying to influence. 

We have all heard that “Training isn’t a one-time thing, it’s an all-the-time thing.” As an agent or agent associate, you may have to create a culture of learning and professional development where there previously wasn’t one. That’s a process that will take a consistent application of effort. Earlier in this article, I mentioned how people naturally resist change. One of the reasons that is true is because most people love consistency, and change interrupts the consistency of the status quo, so they resist.

If you are consistent and training and development truly becomes an all-the-time thing, the new status quo becomes a culture of training and development — which, if achieved, makes you, as an agent, a true partner to all the dealership personnel. It also makes it very difficult for your competitors to gain a relationship foothold with your dealers. 

5. Failure to Offer Training That Has a Practical Application 

Participants must see value in what you are offering during your training. If what you are asking of them isn’t practical or considerate of their environment, they will discount it as not useful. Whenever possible, use examples of how the training can be utilized in their day-to-day work life based on real-world situations. The simpler and more practical your training material is, the more likely it will be retained and implemented.

6. Failure to Focus on the Participants 

Nobody cares how you did it back in the day. Besides, everything has changed since then anyway. Training today’s dealership associates should be participant-focused and trainer-led.

7. Failure to Commit

The agent has to be fully committed to the process. You must not fail to follow-up with your participants post-training or follow through with the accountability needed to affect the desired results. Training and development are how we drive the results we promised our dealers. Take the time to follow up with those whom you train. Keep them on track and offer encouragement. Bring accountability to your training efforts by letting the participants in your training know that you don’t expect perfection, but you do expect progress. 

Training, when done successfully, can inspire action and facilitate change. Avoiding these seven deadly sins in your training and development efforts will help you stay on track. 

John Tabar is the director of training at United Development Systems Inc. (UDS) and has spent the past 30-plus years dedicated to the automotive retail business.

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