A solid management structure is akin to cornerstones of a strong building when it comes to developing successful sales managers.
In this case, the cornerstones are accountability, consistency, communication, and comprehension. Without them, the entire structure can collapse.
Let's look at each and how they form the management structure required to meet any automotive retail challenge.
Accountability strikes fear into the hearts of most people as it's mostly used as a tool to track what is not being done.
Yet accountability works both ways. It can give managers a clear view of their operations, but also be a tool to reward and measure performance.
Everyone is accountable in business, primarily to the person who pays us. Sales managers must hold sales people accountable (not deride them) for their actions with customers and their success in executing the established process. This leads directly to consistency.
To eliminate the fear associated with accountability, sales managers must be consistent with every employee.
First there must be a consistent sales process. Perhaps everyone is accountable for these five items: 1) Meet and greet the customer. 2) Demonstrate the vehicle. 3) Give reasons to “buy here.” 4) Collect information on every opportunity. 5) Follow up in 24 hours or less.
Consistency means one structure, one process and one means for holding everyone accountable. And consistency depends on clear communication and comprehension.
Successful communication is direct, clear, concise and easily understood. Let's start with daily meetings.
The first 30 minutes of every day should be devoted to the management meeting. Share information on the previous day's performance and results. Identify open issues. Set the day's game plan, remembering there is as much business behind us as in front of us.
Once the managers have a consistent plan, they should start the morning sales meeting to communicate the day's action plan and set clear expectations.
This can include specific tasks, but should focus on consistency in how every salesperson performs.
Sales meetings should be used only to educate, motivate, inspire, and train — creating an environment for success.
Individuals learn in three basic ways: hearing, seeing, and experiencing.
The best way for sales managers to ensure understanding is to explain an idea, model the behavior (show-tell/ tell-show), and coach the salesperson as they work.
Let's take prospecting as an example. A sales manager, who tells his team to build the prospect database by calling or pounding the pavement for new leads, most likely will not see positive results and will de-motivate his team when holding them accountable.
The manager who makes the call while the salesperson observes or takes him or her to the local coffee shop to network; then watches their efforts and coaches for improvement, will give people an opportunity and see them succeed.
Developing a proper structure helps develop people into long-term professionals.
Unfortunately, in our business, many sales managers tend to bury themselves in paperwork, not people work.
Those who focus on developing their people from within (rather than always looking outside) and follow a management structure supported by accountability, consistency, communication, and comprehension, are among the top professionals in the industry.
Richard F. Libin is president of Automotive Profit Builders Inc. that works with dealerships on customer satisfaction and maximizing sales and gross profits. He is at [email protected] or 508-626-9200.
Questions or comments about this column? Send us an e-mail at [email protected].