We all know them. “Managers” who hide in their offices, bury themselves in paperwork and never interact with sales people or customers.
They are always busy — but are they managing? No. Yet the damage they do as a role model for up-and-coming managers can be dramatic.
Typically, a new manager is promoted or hired because of his or her success as a salesperson. While dealers hope these new managers will transfer their skills and energy to the entire sales staff, they provide little or no training.
Not knowing any better, these new managers look to past examples, more often the individual who “managed” paper, not people. From that, they perceive their role as doing paperwork alone in an office, with little or no interaction.
When asking managers to list their 10 most important job responsibilities, most list tracking inventory, completing paperwork, focusing on customer-satisfaction scores, marketing and like functions as the top priorities.
Selling cars and motivating the sales staff lands near the bottom of importance, if making some lists at all.
For the money managers are paid, dealerships could hire a multitude of clerks to do paperwork. Managers should focus on people work. When it comes to that, managers should coach.
Sales people are in the business of working with external people, prospects and customers. It's their job to help customers select the car that meets their needs (functions, features, performance) and desires (color, style, image), helping them fall in love with a vehicle, and enabling them to drive it off the lot.
Managers also are in the people business. Their primary role is to help sales people achieve sales volume, gross, and income goals.
Front-line managers should focus on managing sales performance by motivating, training and providing tools to help sales people close deals.
Dealers know they need systems for managing F&I, inventory, accounting procedures and practices and logistics, but have little understanding about systems focusing on sales management.
A core responsibility of sales managers is to establish a structure or process that effectively helps improve performance; ensure that every employee knows what the process is and how it works; and follows it consistently. Good systems produce good outcomes.
Every day at the dealership should begin with a 30-minute management meeting so every manager can prepare to get their heads in the game; follow up on actions (remember, we have as much business behind us as we do in front of us); and lay out the game plan.
Follow this with a 30-minute daily sales meeting. Sales managers should review data from the previous day's performance; emphasizing follow-up with prospects qualified the day before (easier than starting from scratch); and provide training and tips to help their team get to next level.
Important point: this is not a forum to “beat up” the sales force.
As the day goes on, the manager can use his or her structure and systems to measure performance levels and ensure everyone stays on track. Don't stay in the office doing paperwork.
While managing is often necessary, coaching is more effective in moving people to a higher performance standard or level. Once critical sales metrics are identified (traffic, close rates and how much gross is generated for the day), sales coaches can help their teams develop strategies to improve performance.
So get out of the office. Managers are in the salesperson business, and their job is to make sure sales people succeed.
Remember, the difference between being employed and unemployed is the people between you and the front door.
Richard F. Libin is president of APB-Automotive Profit Builders Inc. that working with both dealership sales and service departments on customer satisfaction and maximizing gross profits. He is at [email protected] and 508-626-9200.
Questions or comments about this column?
Send us an e-mail at [email protected].