My 10 Ways Sales Managers Fail blog was the highest rated for on DrivingSales in April. In response, Maddy Low of DrivingSales conducted an interview with me to expand on the topic of sales management in automotive.
Joe Webb had the top blog of April 2017 with his piece called 10 Ways Sales Managers Fail. We did a Q and A session with Joe to get his thoughts on sales management, leadership, and how employees can work to help their managers understand them better.
Maddy: Your blog talks about how sales managers don’t realize they are role models. Why don’t you think they get that right off the bat, and what can a sales manager put in practice today to start being a better leader?
Joe: Two great questions, and I think the first question is more of an internal question everyone promoted to sales manager must ask themselves. Truth is, the majority of those promoted to the role of sales manager earn that designation because of their consistency in selling a high volume of vehicles, often for above average gross. With that said, many salespeople have a competitive streak in them. When they’re focused on selling a vehicle to customers, they’re rarely focused on the training and monitoring of their co-workers, so the core requirement for the job of sales manager requires a muscle they’ve spent little time exercising.
Leadership is often an internal quality too. Great ones have it instinctively, while many others have to work at it, with no guarantee they’ll ever master it. However, the more a sales manager can learn to take a vested interest in the lives (not just livelihoods) of their coworkers, employers, and customers, they more they’ll be able to learn to mentor and coach those around them. I don’t believe one can take a class to be a leader. It is a decision one can embrace by showing rather than telling. By doing rather than delegating. Sales Managers need to stay busy, not with closing deals, but by understanding behavior.
Maddy: How can employees help their sales manager learn how to manage them personally, treat them like an individual?
Joe: Quite simply, talk to them. If dealerships institute weekly or monthly performance reviews as my blog indicates, it opens up a conversational setting where people can get to know others on a personal basis. If that is not a strategy employed by the dealership, then salespeople should make sure to ask for help often, approach the desk (and others), not just when they have a deal, but when there is a discussion worth having. In an ego driven business, the only way to being more coachable is to first recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and then vulnerably open yourself up to others as a means to soak up knowledge. Putting up a tough exterior or finding busy work to make yourself look useful is not the best recipe for getting a sales manager to coach you.
Maddy: You talk about performance reviews and coaching monthly, how can a sales manager start to put this into practice, and how can they find the time
Joe: There is ALWAYS time for performance reviews and coaching. Management is not just about desking deals, crashing T.O.s and closing customers. Heck, the word “management” isn’t in any of those phrases. They should change their title if the only time they speak to their salespeople is when they have a deal working or during Saturday morning sales meetings. If you can’t find the time to help guide your own sales team and promote their growth, you aren’t going to have much growth in your sales volume. If they have to set up calendar invites for themselves and others, so be it, but weekly save-a-deal meetings and monthly performance reviews are necessary, not just for finding additional sales, but for developing loyalty among your employees.
Maddy: How can a sales manager inspect their team’s activities without micromanaging?
Joe: “Micromanaging” is nothing more than how you deliver information/tasks to your team. It is good to be aware of your team’s activities, customers, and goings-on, but you don’t need to ride them on it or needle them with it. Having the information that can help them is ideal, but holding it over their head isn’t. Every situation where a salesperson needs to be managed can be handled with a show of solidarity. Completing a task for them to show them how you’d do it is a great way to earn buy-in from your team.
Maddy: You talk about sales managers needing to get to know their employees, how can they get to know them personally without losing authority?
Joe: Champion them. That’s what coaches do. If managers simply asked questions rather than always trying to relate as “one of the guys/gals”, it would show that they’re interested in their team without being just like them. If you champion folks, celebrating their successes, you never lose authority. You gain trust.
Maddy: How can a sales manager integrate himself or herself into a customer process without overwhelming the customer, or undermining the salesperson
Joe: Early and often. I don’t believe any shoppers shies away from shaking the hand of a manager when they first walk in. I don’t think any customers balk when they’re wished a good test drive on their way out, or asked how they liked it on the way back in. If a manager waits until the 4th pencil on a back-and-forth negotiation to show their face to a customer, they’ve already lost. They need to be welcoming from the get-go, so there is a level of respect when they step foot into the box later. Salespeople shouldn’t feel undermined when a manager shares good wishes with their customer. They should feel supported.
Maddy: How can sales managers evaluate themselves and see where they need to improve?
Joe: I’d love to say there is a magic metric, but I know most reading this might say “Did they sell more cars?” or “Was the gross higher?”, but I don’t believe that tells the entire story. What is the retention rate of your employees like? Are your store’s reviews growing? How many candidates have submitted applications this month, and how many have you interviewed that would be great fits? What would your own staff say about you?
There are few ways to truly evaluate a sales manager beyond the typical sales growth and market share metrics, but I like to think the culture they create has a profound impact more on employee retention and the utilization of showroom technology than it does on profit margin.
Maddy: What other things do sales managers, or any managers for that manner, need to be wary of?
Joe: Countless things. As a sales manager, beyond their basic job description, they should be aware of campaigns being executed by their competitors. They should ensure everyone in the store, regardless of longevity/tenure in the position, should be held to the sales standards, and that they’re not showing favoritism to one over another. They should be concerned when CRM utilization suffers because it shows their own team are willing to throw a blanket over accurate information. They should be wary of the bonafides of new technology being approved for their store without training provided for themselves or their team. Ownership should seek their managers’ feedback before making monumental, sweeping changes the same way a sales manager should lean on their sales team before rolling out a new showroom initiative. Without the entire team’s involvement, no new actions will make a positive change.
Maddy: What things do you think sales managers and other managers are doing well in our industry?
Joe: Sales managers have definitely improved their understanding of shopping behavior. From the online customer experience to the sites the shopper is navigation, managers seem to have really recognized everything that goes into a shopper’s research and decision. The more they try to think like a customer, and ensure their information/vehicles/ads are displayed properly on these sites, the more they increase their own ability to deliver a positive customer experience.
Maddy: Any other thoughts?
Joe: Dealers must realize that sales managers are more than desk managers. They shouldn’t be stuck behind a computer monitor getting deals done, scanning inventory, setting prices, and completing dealer trades. If that is all you’re tasking your sales manager, rename them “desk manager” and find someone willing to roam the floor, engage with guests, and truly mentor salespeople. That is what a good sales manager really does. There is a reason in sports that players rarely call their own plays. It’s because everyone needs a coach who is able to see the big picture, and still find the time to improve the lives of each player on the field.