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Flexible hours works its magic at Cotswold

While digital developments continue to change the way automotive retailers operate, there are still certain aspects which have not changed over the past 10 years.

Sales executives are driven to hit volume targets and chase a bonus and it can create an environment which isn't great for customer retention or service.

Cotswold Motor Group is looking to pioneer a new process to establish the teams within its three BMW and Mini dealerships in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Hereford.

Andrew Hulcoop, the group's managing director since joining from Damon Hill in 2006 after working at Sytner Group, has developed a fresh way to identify new talent and retain young staff that historically have been reluctant to accept the demands of a seven-day working week in auto-motive retail.

Cotswold recently won the AM Award for Excellence in Customer Service with its Cheltenham dealership and the site's dealer principal Paul Neale, has also been instrumental in developing how the group finds its next shining stars.

‘Recruit for attitude, train for skill'

Hulcoop said: “One of the things that we believe in is to recruit for attitude and train for skill.

"We decided some time ago to take a new approach to recruiting sales people and it was something that came about after we were asked to compare ourselves to Apple.”

Cotswold creates assessment events which sees up to 70 potential candidates invited to apply and all are assessed on attitude alone.

The senior management team observe the group, but don't look at CVs beforehand so there are no preconceptions.

From a group of 70, the business will typically identify 12 new people that could be really successful if given the right opportunity.

It's not just sales roles either; the assessment events will identify roles for every department.

Hulcoop said: “The task of trying to see 60 or 70 people is fairly daunting, but we now have a process in place where we can see every one of them and they all get an opportunity to show us their character.”

Cotswold does not outsource its recruitment assessments; it's all done by senior management.

This way of recruiting formed the basis for how Cotswold changed the way its teams are structured.

A new way of retailing

Cotswold found that some sales trainees it was taking on weren't prepared for the hours and commitment expected from working in a successful dealership.

As a result, the group found it was losing some talented people.

Hulcoop said: “Even though they loved working here they wanted their life back and, unfortunately, certainly on the sales floor, that is a bit of a sacrifice you have to make.

We had found these people, trained them and developed them, but we were losing them and it's a crime for that to happen.”

Neale is piloting a new team structure within Cotswold's Cheltenham business which gives sales teams more flexible working hours.

He said: “Traditionally if you wanted to give your team more sociable hours you would have to increase the amount of people you employ, but that can't be the answer for most businesses.

The earning potential can become an issue.”

The new car sales teams are now split with a retail manager paired with what BMW and Cotswold calls ‘product geniuses'.

The retail manager is loosely what would have previously been seen as a sales executive or sales controller in traditional dealership sales team structures.

The product geniuses are knowledgeable about all aspects of the BMW range. They can answer any customer questions and take them through the sales process up to the point of closing a deal.



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  • neilthedeal - 20/05/2013 14:44

    Does the management team lead by example and work similar hours as the slaves they employ in sales, lets not forget the most successful Managers/Leaders, have historically come from a sales background, not accounting or operations. More importantly do these so called senior exces have the trained skills to manage this process? I've seen so many unqualified people in management roles in automotive, who haven't got the very basics to become good leaders!!!

    • Steve Gwilliam - 23/08/2013 12:56

      @neilthedeal - Well said. The people that tend to escalate up the career ladder normally have friends in high places. There is little finesse in the Motor Trade, and you are very controlled by the people above. If your not a yes man, generally these places aren't for you in time. As for leadership, what Leadership???. Dictatorship maybe. It just sounds like a New Idea To try and stop the Grace brothers revolving front door. Why can't people see, if anyone has anything about them, they see generally the people above have little ethics, and who can work properly with people they don't respect. Their are always Good people, but many left the Dealerships along time ago. Young people through no fault of their own can be manipulated a lot more easily, with a flash car etc.!!!. I am however not for one second dismissing their talent. I wonder how long it will take for the new fantastic idea to be renewed again. If these places were Warranty companies their burn rate would have sent them down a long time ago.

    • Steve Gwilliam - 23/08/2013 13:12

      @Steve Gwilliam - And the old term for these people was runners. Its no New idea, its been around for around twenty years. Was a preferred practice of volume Dealerships. Like most other things give it a flash New name and claim the idea as your own. Another example of looking after Number One

  • Busterrabbit - 10/03/2014 16:46

    Are Mini/BMW going to abolish sales targets then? I doubt it. My wife was "tucked up" with a 14+% PCP by Cotswold Gloucester on a new Mini two years ago so they are definitely NOT thinking about customer retention! Booking a service recently was abysmal with the phone call directed to some snob in the BMW side who said "I don't know why you've been put through to me" and then wanting to charge £30 for a loan car. Meanwhile the sales side have been bombarding her with phone calls and emails to order a new Mini, despite not being able to see one! When challenged about the rip-off APR rate for her current PCP and why she should trust Cotswold again, the "salesman" had no answer. Cotswold were still pushing the numbers late last year despite production of the "old" Mini having stopped. They are still doing the same with the new model even though virtually no one has driven one. Who would, or should have to put up with a 7 day working week? The pay structure of sales staff, with a low basic and high commission focusses on maximising profit now, at the expense of what's best for the customer or customer retention. Does any modern car (let alone a £22k Mini) need "paint protection" at £500+?