Creating an Appointment Culture

by Pete Maxwell


Are you familiar with the Anna Karenina Principle? This theory was first mentioned in a book of the same title by author, Leo Tolstoy in 1877. The first sentence of the book reads, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is different in its own way.” How does this apply to business?

The Anna Karenina Principle suggests there are many smaller, but influential things leaders can do to avoid total failure.

Successful organizations are aligned effectively with each of those “happy” or successful factors. In business, managers often asked to find out the “one reason” or the “one thing” that is necessary in order to succeed. What if there isn’t any one key action that should be taken?

Applying the Anna Karenina Principle to Automotive Sales

In application of this principle to the car business, a fair translation would be, ”All successful dealerships are alike; all struggling dealers struggle for their own reasons.”

Why are some dealers struggling while others are thriving? The reasons vary, however, dealers who struggle usually find themselves focusing on the wrong things, or focusing on the right things in the wrong way.

Three Factors That Impact Dealer Success

  1. Factors that are in our control, those things are all about us
    Our attitude, our strategy (what we do) our proficiency (how well we do it). Those are things that others can influence about us, but only we can control.
  2. Variables that we can influence
    Process, other people, costs, efficiency. Those are things that we must develop a strategy for, and get good at it at executing, (see #1 above).
  3. Things and events that we have no control over
    Weather, the economy, a customer’s credit history. Many struggling dealers don’t understand the principle of keeping first things first: focusing on what can be controlled and influenced, and avoiding planning for the uncontrollable and inevitable.

Increasing Sales Through Creating An Appointment Culture

What if we could create an appointment culture every day? What if our focus from everyone in the sales department was on how to get a specific number of people in our showroom every week?

Many of the dealerships I’ve visited focus on Internet metrics including:

  • Lead Response Time
  • Lead to Appointment Ratio
  • Closing Rate
  • Contact Workflow

The automotive industry has remained laser-focused on lead response rate, that in many of the stores I’ve visited, sales teams respond live in less than 5 minutes.

Conversely, in these same stores, their 15-day-old leads have had no contact in 12 days. There is so much focus on quick response that we fail to engage. We fail to follow a customer until they are ready to buy. We make it easy for an internet shopper to eliminate us, from the list of 2 dealerships they plan to physically visit.

We’ve found that the vast majority of dealerships that are missing their objectives have more than enough leads. In reality, most dealerships have more leads than their staffing or process can handle effectively. They are blowing through, or ignoring most of the leads while dealers are engaging customers through their product purchase decision.

Activating an Appointment Culture

Metrics and analytical management can help us improve processes, but for results to emerge, the focus should be on creating an appointment culture.

Each day, leadership should ask their sales teams:

  1. What is the number of appointments set for today, or for Saturday (and) has a manager confirmed?
  2. How many appointments showed yesterday? How many are no-shows?
  3. Did we confirm all appointments? Did we call the no shows?

Take It To The Next Level

In conclusion, the Anna Karenina Principle suggests taking care of first things first, and factors which can be controlled to avoid failure. With a shift in focus from leadership to sales teams, an appointment culture will quickly emerge and become second nature.

After implementing an appointment culture, dealers will be talking more about how their team just made their sales objectives. Remember, we just need to get a little better, not perfect. Learn more about additional sales strategies for dealerships on Thursday, August 25 at 2PM via Twitter during August’s #BetterSalesChat.


Topic: B2B


Pete Maxwell is a business executive with 25 years of experience increasing customer value in automobile dealership development. As the Automotive Commercial Client Services Director, Pete is responsible for driving top line growth and bottom line performance for a number of satisfied automotive clients on a daily basis.

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