Boost Your Dealership’s Sales Culture in 2021 – 10 Tough Questions to Ask

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It’s 2021 and that means another year of wondering if this global pandemic will pass and things will get back to normal.

This unstable economy has forced dealers to find new ways that go beyond their comfort zone to maintain the same revenues they were able to achieve with much less resources in the past. 

With the increasingly high competition and evolving market, is your dealership focusing on the right things to help you sell more? 

The sales culture for automotive dealerships is similar to their true north. That star in the sky that guides them when all else fails. 

This is the beliefs dealerships and sales departments value as to how they train people, the types of relationships they want to create with customers, as well as the methodologies used to sell and the overall perspective of the organization. 

A dealer who fails to establish a healthy sales culture will struggle to find sales in tough economies and have trouble hiring employees who share the beliefs of management. However, with a strong sales culture salespeople will feel comfortable 

Below are 10 questions that you can address about your dealership’s sales strategies and culture which can help give you a better understanding of some things other dealers are struggling with in 2021 and underlying issues you can resolve when giving greater attention to your dealership culture. 

Get a FREE score on your dealerships sales culture and receive feedback that could be holding your team back from selling more vehicles this month.

Tough Question # 1: Do you know your lead/sale closing ratio? 

I was asking some dealerships what they believed their closing ratio was and surprisingly they didn’t have an actual number for me. I was very puzzled by this because most dealers judge their salespeople’s performance on their closing ratios so I thought a dealership running for over 12 years would have an accurate estimate. 

If you were able to track all the leads that your dealership went through this month, what do you believe would be the average closing percentage that we can expect from a dealership in 2021?  

Tough Question # 2: What is #1 most common excuse you hear all the time from leads backing out? 

It is never a good feeling when a lead who you have invested your resources in starts to get cold feet. I know that when this happens most skilled salespeople are programmed to overcome objections, but have you ever stopped to think that there may be a trend forming with the type of excuses you hear from potential customers? 

Sometimes, just by identifying these objections, we can get a better idea as to what was going on inside your ideal customers’ minds that make them nervous about purchasing and allows us to reassess our sales techniques to prevent them from occurring all together.    

So, while i’m sure that there is probably no one excuse that you hear everyday, i’m curious to hear what the #1 most common excuse you hear from all time from leads backing out? 

I’ll start. I always heard… “thanks for your help but i think we are just going to wait”. 

Tough Question # 3: What is one part in your sales process you feel can be improved upon for more sales?

I was talking to some salespeople at a local dealership about their lead to sale processes. When we dove deep into their sales pipeline, we were able to come to a conclusion that can has forever changed the way this salesperson dealt with her leads.

This salesperson in particular told me she wasn’t sure why her leads were not calling her back after her first touch conversation, but on the occasion that they did, she was more often than not able to get a sale. 

We decided to listen back to her calls and noticed something very noteworthy. The statistics showed that her lead response times were consistently fast but every time she would introduce herself, that first interaction was unique to their own everytime. Because of her lack of consistency in pre-qualifying the lead, we noticed some conversations would seem to have resistance while others would outright turn her down. Since she followed our proven “first contact” script, her meeting turn up rates have gone up by 21% and her second phone conversation answer rate has gone up by 44% since the previous month. 

I hope this was able to give you some perspective of steps in your sales pipeline that is often stopping you from proceeding to the next step when selling to leads. So what is one part in your sales process you feel can be improved upon for more sales? 

Because of the variance openers, some leads liked it while others did not. What is one part in your sales process you feel can be improved upon for more sales?

Tough Question # 4: How many deals do you believe are hidden in your sales team’s pile of aged leads? 

I had an interesting conversation with a dealership who was having problems with their lead to sale closing ratio. We noticed almost every salesperson had similar closing ratios but were far below the industry average. This was strange results coming from a dealership with a 150 car inventory in a good location. 

They were getting many leads from different sources but they believed most of them to be “duds” or “bad leads”. When I asked about why some of their leads were not given a proper follow up I was explained by a sales manager that due to the large inflow of leads, the salespeople were instructed to put as much energy as possible on the “most likely to buying” leads, and dismiss the rest.

only 3% of leads are ready to buy today

Source: Only 3% Of Prospects Are Ready: What To Do With The Rest?

Frankly, they didn’t believe in following up in customers they did not believe they could gross well from, so I showed them this picture from a very informative article that explains only 3% of our leads are active buyers, meaning, ready to buy now. Although they had good lead generation strategies, we came to the conclusion that 97% of their leads were not ready to buy today, so most of their potential customers would require extra attention to nurture the relationship if they were looking to get better results and  increase their lead/sale closing ratio.     

 So now that it is clear that following up with leads, no matter their current objections, will create opportunities for greater sales in the long term, how many deals do you believe are hidden in your dealership’s pile of cold leads? 

Tough Question # 5: Do you believe salespeople at large franchise dealerships make MORE or LESS $ money than salespeople at small/mid sized independent dealerships? 

This might be a sensitive question to answer as determining everyone’s income is a subjective variable, but here is what I observed. Salespeople at either dealership model generally have the same responsibilities when it comes to the sales process and taking a customer through the sales journey (except for the occasional administrative task or delivery). But one fact is that a large franchise dealership with sizable marketing budgets will have an easier time obtaining qualified leads. This may mean that small to mid sized dealer salespeople may have to rely more heavily upon their own forms of attracting customers but also affords them a greater flexibility with commission plans, bonuses and hours. 

Assuming commissions were the same at either model, which one do you believe would make you the maximum income month-in-and-out?     

Tough Question # 6: Do you feel like your dealership puts their internal processes over the buying customers convenience? 

I spoke to a dealership sales manager who told me they would never give an accurate pricing of a vehicle over the phone because they deeply believed the potential customer would just “shop them around” for the best deal. 

The truth of the matter is that if the buyer was planning on “shopping you around” anyways, and will do so whether they are in your dealership or speaking to you over the phone. With a little deeper digging into the dealers vehicle pricing models and customer feedbacks, most of their customers felt that the pricing was reasonable. So then why does a dealership who has nothing to hide act like they are keeping secrets? Possibly this is because this is how dealers believed they had to act in order to keep their margins through the outdated strategies of car sales. But in today’s world of customer centric car buying experiences, if your salespeople’s first contact with a potential customer is filled with resistance then you’ll trigger the stigma that you just can’t trust car dealers.  

What is one internal process set by your dealership that you believe, if removed, your potential customers would appreciate and would invidability help you sell to more people?

Tough Question # 7: Who else has been seeing/hearing about digital lead generation nowadays as if it is the holy grail of sales? 

Don’t get me wrong, awareness & acquisition are both very crucial parts of selling cars and having your hands on good quality leads are great, but it’s not always sunshine and rainbows when a dealer has to spend sizable amounts of money/energy on Facebook ads yet still is not selling as many vehicles as they hoped for. That hurts. A lot. 

When looking at ways to help increase your sales efforts in 2021, dealers have been aware that leads do not result in sales, and at a certain point, too many leads with not enough sales can keep profit margins narrow and damage sales team morale. 

So how can my dealership limit it’s resources on marketing while increasing sales? It comes from first assessing who your ideal customer persona is. By identifying who the right customer is for your product/services, you can put lazer focus on trying to attract only those people with your marketing budget. 

Next is making sure that your sales and marketing departments goals are aligned and that sales can continue the momentum that marketing has made to attract the lead. 

Once you are sure that your money is going to attract the right customers, now you must look within your dealership sales cycles to review your sales process, leaky funnels in your sales pipeline and ways to systemize your targeted efforts on customers who really want to do business with you. To read more about how to identify customers who want to business with you click here. 

I know I cannot be the only person who was being told that leads are the best way to increase your dealership’s sales in 2021, who else believes leads are the holy grail of car sales?

Tough Question # 8: As an automotive sales manager, what is your biggest pet peeve (rank from a-d)

a) Haggling, low price chasing customers who claim they are going to finance and end up paying cash 

b) Salespeople claiming they called their leads

c) Sales reps playing with their phones when the dealership is slow blaming the dealer for not giving them a decent “up”.

d) Can’t meet the sales quotas due to an unstable economy


Answer the question by clicking below to get a free dealership sales team score indicating how effective your sales team is today!

Tough Question # 9: Attention all car salespeople! If you could magically wish for ONE thing to help make you more sales this month, what would it be?

a) Unlimited leads 

b) Becoming famous 

c) Banks approving every deal (no matter how deep) 

d) Unlimited inventory


Answer this question by clicking below to get a free dealership sales team score indicating how effective your sales team is today!

Tough Question # 10: As an automotive sales manager, what is your biggest pet peeve (rank from a-d) Do you think that the move to online sales will replace the salesman?

This is a recently trending topic as more American companies such as Tesla are taking a digital approach to the vehicle sales process. Today entire deals from front-to-back can happen online through Tesla’s website and vehicles may even use its self driving features to deliver itself to your doorstep. 


It can feel threatening for many traditional dealerships that the customer centric approach of removing the negotiating and “sleazy car salesman” out of the equation may become the preferred method of vehicle sales. 


So then what can dealerships do to compete? Listen to your customers! Statistics show that “roughly 85% of car shoppers would more likely buy from a dealership that allows them to start or complete nearly all of the vehicle purchase online, according to Cox Automotive”.


If your customers prefer to do most of their vehicle buying journey online or in the comfort of their home, we must put our internal processes aside and develop a more transparent vehicle buying journey that combines technology and the human touch. I personally believe that the vehicle purchasing journey is one that will always require the need of physical showrooms and human communication as many buyers are not always sold on a brand/vehicle or may not always know what they are looking for. 


The scary part is that “just 35% of U.S. car dealers say they are “likely “or “very likely” to sell their cars online, according to a recent survey by Roots & Associates.”

Are you worried that the stigma associated with car salesman will ever change for the better or will it mean replacing them with technology? 

Answer this question by clicking below to get a free dealership sales team score indicating how effective your sales team is today!


There you have it folks, 10 very tough questions to ask your dealership in 2021. Submit your thoughts by answering the form below and receive a FREE score on how safe your dealership is from unreliable economies, evolving markets and the growing competition automotive sales.  

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