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The 2008 Learning In Practice Awards
Chrysler’s former Senior Sales and Product Training Manager Fred DePerez, who has since moved on to another position in the company, thought training might help the company move past the economic crunch and increase sales consultants performance.
There was only one problem: Sales consultants aren’t Chrysler employees. They work for more than 3,300 independent dealerships. Therefore, there’s no way to mandate training. And that was only the first challenge.
“The second challenge is, we went into skills training, and for a very, very long time, that’s always been the job for the dealership,” DePerez said. “The manufacturers do product training on our products and skills training for their employees. That’s been the mold for a long, long time, but it wasn’t working.
“You don’t get consistency across dealerships in terms of the skills they were giving their sales consultants. It was in our interests to do something to break the mold and assist these independent franchises, our dealerships, to create some value in the learning proposition.”
The objective was to improve sales performance in two stages: applied selling time (“What am I doing when I’m with a customer?”) and unapplied selling time (“What am I doing when I’m not with a customer?”). But DePerez said the environment made it tough to gain funding for the initiative.
“It’s very, very tough to sell cars right now,” he explained. “There’s a lot of economic pressures on dealers and consumers. In that type of environment, it’s very difficult to sell the company and the dealerships on change.”
But the numbers didn’t lie. Over two years, the Chrysler Academy put together a blended sales consultant curriculum to teach everything from key interpersonal skills and new product information to more advanced skills such as prospecting and negotiating.
Then DePerez commissioned a statistically based experiment with roughly 33,800 sales consultants. Some 8,500 sales consultants were fully trained, 11,600 were partially trained and 13,700 untrained sales consultants served as a control group.
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