Automotive Sales Management - Systems or Shackles

Most of all successful dealerships have a system or selling process that works for them. The system or process can vary according to the type of vehicles being sold, the demographics of the local marketplace and experience and personalities of the sales force. However, some of the more unsuccessful dealerships have strayed from their reason for having a system. Egos, over-control, lack of delegation and the dummying-down process of salespeople have given the retail auto industry a black eye.


Often, managers obtain their positions by being the top salesperson or by being the steady, trustworthy salesperson who just happens to be the only person left standing when the current manager leaves or is fired and the dealer looks around at thee current group of employees to pick a new manager.


What management training can most managers say they have had, before or after they are hired? Most new managers will begin to manage either in the image of their predecessors or the exact opposite of them. The example so often set by the predecessors is one of controlling every word and function of the salesperson during the sale. An example that I have frequently observed is managers in dealerships who abuse the “Higher Authority Principle” of negotiating and use the salespeople as yo-yos, going back and forth between the customers and the desk. Wake up! Neither customers not quality employees will put up with this nonsense today.


I am amazed that I sill observe managers who don’t want salespeople to have a calculator or computer at their desk. They don’t want their salespeople to do anything for fear of making a mistake. How can anyone learn if they don’t make mistakes? These managers want the salespeople to get firm commitments from the customer, but don’t want them to make any suggestions, concessions or give alternatives that might lead to a commitment. Negotiating takes two parties. Now educating salespeople on how to negotiate professionally and empowering them in the process leads to complete manipulation of the customer and salesperson. Customers walk out of the dealership with the image of a salesperson as the villain. The manager gets frustrated and says his salespeople can’t get control of the customer.


So-called “control” selling techniques have kept automotive sales in the dark ages; 50% of dealers today are interested in change and improvement, and 50% talk about change and cling hard and fast to their antiquated systems. Most of the managers and dealers in those antiquated systems wouldn’t buy a vehicle from their own dealership if they had to go through their own manipulating systems. The most ardent defenders of these antiquated selling systems should be selling aluminum siding in the ‘50’s.


Mr. Dealer, get out on the showroom floor for a day and walk a mile in your salesperson’s shoes to get a real perspective for what occurs in your dealership. Require your managers to sell on the floor for a couple of days every quarter for a refreshed perspective. Many dealers who think they are aware of what occurs in their dealership would be amazed at what really happens.


With the correct plan and actions, dealerships can recruit, hire, train, and retain competent people who can execute a professional sales process without manipulating the customer and having the sales manager control every move. Real estate, insurance and many other fields accomplish this; why not the automotive field? Get rid of the negative mind sets of who you can’t and begin to think of how you can.


Sales processes and systems are both effective and necessary. However, when the sales process begins to be more important them the customer, the reason for the process has lost its reason for being in place. Salespeople can properly execute systems. Managed improperly, systems execute salespeople.

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