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Huddles Are Killers - Let’s show up and go to work

If you doubt the validity of the saying “misery loves company,” look no further than a typical dealership huddle.


You know, the group of sales associates standing together commiserating about life. They take turns sharing frustrations about the weather, their spouses, the dealership advertising and the lousy numbers the sales manager always gives them.


Before long, you have a herd of defeated sales associates no longer eager to work – for you or themselves!


Discourage huddles. Don’t join them. By their very nature, huddles are depleting entities, leaking away enthusiasm, desire, ambition and energy of those participating. In fact, ban them – go as far as hosing them down from the hydrant when you find them!


Instead, train your staff so they develop better prospecting, follow up and Road to the Sales skills. If they do these things by the book there’s no idle time left. The only huddles you should permit are training huddles were you or your trainer engages associates in skills building.


You want sales associates who show up to work to actually work, not huddle. You want sales associates who value hard work, who understand long-term sales success – for them and for the business – is based on assertive selling, not passive selling like waiting for ups to arrive.


When you hire, focus more on the candidate’s work ethic, their desire to go to work to earn a living rather than on people who will see the workplace as their home away from home where their social life begins.


Vince Lombardi, the famous coach of the Green Bay Packers, said some remarkable things in his career. I like two of them that especially apply to work ethic:


  • His players operated by Lombardi Time – showing up ready for practice 10 to 15 minutes ahead of time. Associates who want to get ahead will show up at the dealership early so when the doors open or their shift officially starts they’ll have had their coffee, made their rounds and gotten themselves focused on their daily work plan.


  • Everyone working for a living should live by this Lombardi axiom: “If you aren’t fired up with enthusiasm you’ll be fired with enthusiasm.” 


Huddles are time wasters. Rarely if ever has a worthwhile idea, enthusiastic spirit or winning attitude hatched from a group of commiserating sales people. Outlaw huddles at your store. Then set a policy to hire only those you sense will work harder than you do – who want to show up to work prepared to make a living not socialize.  

Views: 1149

Tags: AutoCon2012, CAR, CRM, Customer, Kelly, Patrick, Research, XRM, car, management, More…motivational, rally, relationship, sales, speaker


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Comment by Doug Davis on September 11, 2012 at 2:23pm

You have to be with the troops.

I know that I was always considered the most demanding manager in the dealership.

HR was at the store at least once a month addressing a complaint filed by one of the employees.  I've never had an employee complaint, in my career.  When you consider that my black ISMs referred to my processes as the "plantation concept", it is remarkable.  I had no problem recruiting.  My turnover was negligible.  Work hard,  have fun, sell cars, make money, and there never are any serious problems.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on September 11, 2012 at 1:03pm

Doug points out exactly what I experienced.  When I officed with my Internet staff, I was involved in their entire day.  I monitored, measured, helped, corrected, and praised them--and they kicked ass.  It's not hiring body after body, it's leading the right people the right way.  What every dealership could learn from a successful Internet Department is that ANY department can be the same way, and get better results, with the right effort.

Comment by Doug Davis on September 11, 2012 at 10:18am

In the day, we referred to them as "dope rings".  I never tolerated this.  People would hear me ask, "you don't have anything to do?"  They knew that they better find something or I would find something for them.  Usually, that might be lining up cars or straightening up the key box.

As an Internet Director, I always knew what my ISMs were doing.  Officed with them, they were on the phone, sending emails or with a customer.  I had a third of the sales force contributing 70% of the business and watching the sales desk waiting for a salesperson to bring them a deal.  Among the floor salespeople the turnover was ridiculous.  Their closing ratios were atrocious.  Sales Managers need to take personal responsibility for the success or failure of their people.   They need do demonstrate a strong work ethic and instill it into their people.  Money only comes before work in the dictionary.  

Comment by Keith Shetterly on August 5, 2012 at 10:58am

Folks know me here usually as at least two thing:  A "processes guy" and a "digital marketing guy".  One of the things that drew me to working with Car Research was Pat Kelly's commitment to processes--he has taught me a few things about that, actually, and that's not so easy to do.  His point here is well taken, as is Jason's:  Salespeople are where they are led, and the training Pat points out is exactly that.  The huddles exist because they're allowed, and because the salespeople have little accountability to their management.  As my Granny told me more than once, "Idle hands are the Devil's workshop."  Using your CRM, is your dealership requiring folks to sit an hour a day or more and call both their solds (CSI and referrals) and their unsolds ("have you purchased yet, and if not we want to earn your business!"?  The team is as good as their talents, their training, and their management will take them.  Pat lays out how to take them all where they need to be.

Comment by Jason Manning on August 3, 2012 at 9:01pm

The fish rots from the head.  Lead by example.  If sales associates are huddling, they generally have seen their managers huddling in their "meetings."  Where have all the real leaders gone?

Comment by Rob Fontano on August 3, 2012 at 1:52pm

Great article. Unfortunately this topic will never get old. I always told my team "Four people standing in a circle have never sold a car to anyone, ever!"

Comment by Patrick Kelly on August 3, 2012 at 10:29am

Thanks to you all for your comments. I love to steal words from a great coach such as Vince Lombardi, as he was such a wonderful motivator for his players and truly got them working as a fine tuned team. The same principals can be used in any dealership.  I know there are some fabulous sales people out there but I also believe that there are some dealerships that could be doing a better job with the sales team. The average salesperson according to NADA stats, only works 1 hour and 45 minutes of productive activity out of a 9.5 hour day.
Dealers talk about a Business Development Center (BDC), "I wish I had a BDC", and what they don't realize is that they have one on the showroom floor.   If they have 20 sales people, well they have a BDC full of 20 people that could be more productive. If they just got those sales people to work 4-5 hours per day, of productive activity, you would get 100 hours per day of business development activities out of your sales team, instead of them standing around doing nothing. Have a great (and productive) Saturday, everyone!

Comment by Reyn Mansson on August 3, 2012 at 7:18am

First dealership I worked in the GM, Bro Goldberg, had been in the business so long he once sold Nash and Hudsons. His simple message regarding spending time chatting with co-workers, "They ain't gonna buy a car" and he was right. I drive by a Buick store everyday on the way home and inevitably there are the same 3 guys on the corner of the lot hanging in the shade and talking. But I know the #1 salesman at the store and I've never seen Herb in the circle. If I see him, he's scrambling across the lot with a buyer.

You have to be reasonable how how you "ban the huddle" Just a authoritarian ban and they will find a way to cheat you, providing tasks that eliminate the opportunity without the fire hoses is better and more productive. In one MC store I know, on busy days like Saturday or event days they give the sales staff zones to work, keeping them separated and assuring lot & floor coverage.

You get more flies with honey than vinegar.

Comment by Julie Seitz on August 3, 2012 at 7:04am

I wish salespeople would just put themselves in the shoes of a potential customer.  Ask yourself, "If I were a customer driving into the lot, would I buy a car from one of the salespeople in that huddle?  The folks reading the paper, doing a crossword, gossiping, smoking, using foul language, bad-mouthing co-workers/employers?  Or do I want to buy a car from the one who is studying their product, on the phone with their customers, writing thank you notes, organizing their agenda for the week, visiting with customers in the service drive or delivering a vehicle to a smiling customer?"  The answer is simple.  Good work, Pat!

Comment by Jim Boldebook on August 2, 2012 at 4:26pm

When you visit the top dealerships and study the habits of the top producing salespeople at those dealerships, you find they are NEVER in a huddle.  Too busy calling, talking, explaining, selling, closing, delivering.  Some years ago I observed a dealer in Orlando crack down on 'huddlers' and watched his sales skyrocket.  There are reasons for productive 'huddles'/meetings, but far fewer than most dealerships sanction.   Team work and collective success is neat, but it should never work to the detriment of maximizing each individuals greatest possible potential.

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