Every Dealership Needs a Hans Gruber

Buy-in. Utilization. Execution. Process. Training. Accountability. Management. These are all things that dealerships require to function in today’s competitive marketplace. And yet, on far too many dealership lots, those being tasked to execute their job’s duties are turning a blind eye to them. Your dealership needs a Hans Gruber.

It is commonplace for salespeople to push back or simply choose not to do what is asked of them. They are unwilling to perform those tasks necessary to generate profit and sales. Meanwhile, the managers don’t manage their teams and hold them as accountable as they should. The inmates are running the asylums at dealerships and NO ONE seems willing to ruffle the feathers of their own employees. Everyone wants to be a nice guy or gal. No one wants to be an enemy to their co-worker, even if it is a subordinate that they would be disciplining. But, make no mistake; your dealership needs someone willing to be a villain. You need a Hans Gruber.

Hans Gruber, an iconic role played with scene-chewing delight by Alan Rickman in one of my favorite films ever – Die Hard, is considered one of the greatest bad guys in the history of cinema. He was charismatic, focused, direct, adaptable, educated, menacing, and in charge. Had it not been for a wise-cracking, divorced dad in a wife-beater, he’d have pulled off one of the most lucrative heists on screen. And he was doing it with panache and style while also being vicious. Having empathy for other people’s woes, while commendable, can sometimes be costly to the greater good. Simply put, Hans Gruber knew how to handle his business.

I’m finding that more and more, managers are unwilling to make waves. Or they are hesitant to push their teams out of their comfort zone for fear of upsetting the staff. This is wrong. Utilization of technology, completing scheduled tasks inside of CRMs, following process directives, and staying educated on product and trends should be REQUIREMENTS of today’s sales teams. And managers must clearly dictate that they are REQUIREMENTS. Alas, they do not. If salespeople are unwilling perform the obligations of their roles, don’t bend to their will. Don’t back off because someone is bellyaching. Be a Hans Gruber. Let the subordinates know your store’s process and policies are what they are, and if they don’t like it, there’s the window. Don’t be afraid to fire, demote, scold, discipline, suspend, punish, write-up, or hold accountable your team for not doing their job.

When Karl (a strong, emotional personality…a leader of the mercenaries) wanted “blood”, Hans managed the situation, addressed his concerns, gave him hope for gain, but kept him on course with directives. He didn’t just let Karl do what he wanted. He took control. He was a villain (a trusted one) even amongst his own crew. That is what dealerships need. Be willing to play the villain. Otherwise, be open to hiring a “bad guy” so long as this new leader is willing to earn the right to demand action from their team, in ways other than simply feeling entitled due to the title on their business card.

Automotive dealerships can be stress-filled, ego-driven environments and some employees respond to force rather than request. If an employee (and never forget they’re an “employee”, not their own boss) is unwilling to do what is asked of them, it’s sometimes necessary to wield your power, make a change, put your foot down, and demand they adhere to your orders.

Don’t let your salespeople determine what is in the best interest of the dealership. A little villainy can go a long way; especially if you have Hans Gruber addressing the sales team with one of his stylish ultimatums…

“We can go any way you want. You can walk out of here or be carried out. But have no illusions. WE are in charge. So, decide now, each of you. And please remember: we have left nothing to chance.”

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Comment by Bill Cosgrove on July 20, 2013 at 1:14pm

It all depends on the person on how you communicate. I am an in your face type of person and always let people know up front what was expected so there's never any misunderstanding.

Hans demands performance and if you get in the way or don't perform your history- and this describes commissioned sales or use to.

But as you know it all flows down from the top and if it stinks at the top it's most likely going to stink the whole way down.

Auto Rooter- Might be a good name for a Sales consulting business

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