Mentoring Is Part of Our Job

Too often, we dealership managers stand around the water cooler complaining about the latest atrocity one of our people just committed. We curse their names, brainstorm about what went wrong and then saunter back to our offices only to repeat the same scenario the next day. We say to each other: Why don't salespeople ever seem to get it? We train them, babysit them, close their deals and we pick up

Too often, we dealership managers stand around the water cooler complaining about the latest atrocity one of our people just committed. We curse their names, brainstorm about what went wrong and then saunter back to our offices only to repeat the same scenario the next day.

We say to each other: “Why don't salespeople ever seem to get it? We train them, babysit them, close their deals and we pick up all the broken pieces at day's end!”

The answer to our rueful question is likely staring us in the mirror. If our staffers are failing to follow protocol, it is likely that they may not even know what the protocol is. If they are failing there can be only limited reasons:

  • We hired poorly.
  • We trained poorly.
  • They cannot grasp the training.
  • They don't have the desire to be successful.
  • Their attitude is terrible.
  • They don't possess the skills.

A manager by definition is a person who has control or direction of an institution, business or the like

Leaders, on the other hand, are guides who set the pace and inspire their understudies.

The difference is obvious. Leaders inspire greatness, managers sit back and marshal processes.

Managers ask themselves, “Why can't they seem to get it right?” Leaders analyze the problem and counsel the employee, offering guidance bolstered by confidence and encouragement.

They rehearse what went wrong and take the salesperson through it step by step to see the mistake and then coach them on the next deal in a positive way.

The staff we have in our stores is a direct reflection in our judgment of people's skills when hiring and the result of our leadership abilities after they are hired.

If our staff has problems, it's our responsibility to seek out the solutions. If employees cannot be redirected to produce their maximum acceptable output, then the hard decision must be made to release them. This can be difficult but it's the right thing to do for us and for them.

Nothing can be worse than firing an employee who doesn't make the grade. No one wants to repeat that mistake again. The question then is: “Where did we fail?” That's right! Where did we fail?

We're the ones recruiting and hiring. If the salesperson cannot grasp the training, perhaps we missed that ability in the interview. If that is the case and we continue hiring using the same methodology, perhaps it is time to overhaul that process and expand our thinking to get better quality when we hire our sales force.

It's easy to rationalize that the pool of prospective employees is so poor there is no likelihood we'll ever get the right people representing us.

If we will accept our responsibility and be determined we can find these people. Is it easy to do? Certainly not! However, hiring and then mentoring well should be our main focus.

Think about this: We were once fledgling newbies stumbling around trying to sell cars — until someone decided to mentor us. Why would any of us think that same type of mentoring should not be occurring today?

Another important question we managers should ask ourselves is, “Why were we promoted?” Was it because we were mediocre and a slot was available? Was it because we were a friend or a relative of the dealer?

I doubt many reading this column ascended for these reasons. Rather, it probably was because we demonstrated big-picture thinking and proved our value.

We're fooling ourselves if we think our employees will improve without leadership. Mentoring is what we must do.

Marv Eleazer has served in many positions, most notably finance manager and director, during his 30 years in automotive retailing. For the last 10 years, he has been at Langdale Ford Co in Valdosta GA. Contact him at [email protected]

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