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Six years later Sales is still a tough racket the strong survive

This is a follow up to my first blog post.


I have been in the business for 6 years now. I think I have learned a lot about the business and people.
When I started selling it was an eye opener to me how people act at a car dealer. I was such a lay down compared to the people who came in to buy from me. I never had the guts to talk to anyone the way people talk to me. You would think sales is a profession yet people do not treat a car salesman like a professional. In fact the management at many dealerships do not treat the salesman as a pro.
In the short time I have been selling I have seen my share of changes in the industry. The internet part of car sales was and is still in its infancy. Many dealers did not have a website in 2003. The big three's problems have well documented. Many stores have gone to desking. What amazes me is the everyday banter between the management and sales team. There are not many jobs where your boss will call you names and use the worst possible language possible on a daily bases. Some of these managers have a talent for shifting gears between a polite nice guy to the customer and an outright jerk to the salesman. In sales you need to be able to communicate but as these guys climb the ladder to sales managers the lose that skill. They are so short with salesman very economical with their words. I have been told that besides Major league baseball and the NBA car sales may be the highest paying gig you can get without an education.
The typical salesman receives very little training. There is nothing to prepare you for the first time a Manager calls you a week #@%*! Just when you get over that a customer will call you something worse. So here I am as a salesman trying to sell my customer and my desk at the same time. My Customer is looking at a $20,000 vehicle and wants to be under $300 a month with zero down. The desk manager says to "hit him at $750 per month with $2000 down and don't let him leave." They sit up on their throne and throw out ridiculous scenarios that they would never think of presenting themselves. Here I am the only realistic one of the three in this situation yet the other two think I am a big idiot. The managers were once salesman so they went through the same initiation we go through I guess. When a salesman is promoted to sales manager there is not much training involved just thrown to the wolves all over again.
All of the manufacturers sales are down between 30 and 50% yet the manager will blame the drop in sales at the dealership on the sales crew for not making phone calls prospecting and just being plain old negative. They usually will hold a meeting to inform the sales crew how much they suck and then a vendor will walk in to sell something. The Sales manager will stop the meeting long enough to tell the vendor to "get the F out of here I am not interested didn't I hang up on you yesterday?" Then he will go on to tell the sales crew to "make phone calls and get out and prospect."
Now on the evening news they are talking about the impending collapse of the big three every night. The customers are like sharks they see blood in the water. They want half off of everything they remind me that "GM is in trouble you better give me what I want or I will buy a Toyota." With these hard times the dealership has fired anyone who draws a salary. All the lot kids are gone. Any support a salesman had is gone. Salesman are expected to pick up the slack. A salesman sells a car but now instead of endorsing the back end he has to gas the car up and bring it to the wash crew. If it was not in stock he may have been the one who drove 50 miles to get it on a dealer trade. During all of this he must maintain control of the customer and take the blame when the business manager could not sell a warranty. The managers hope the salesman doesn't realize he can get a $100 bird dog fee from the other dealer and just send the customer to them. One phone call and its a mini without the aggravation.
There are many different vendors on this site and I would guess they are doing what they are doing because they were great sales people and moved on. I will be the next to move on someday but as of right now despite of everything I love coming to work everyday! I must be crazy...

Views: 31

Tags: Weak, bum, imcompetent, lazy, negative, stupid, tardy

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Comment by Craig Belowski on May 19, 2009 at 9:28am
Stan,
Thanks again for the recognition, I appreciate it.... however the fact that I am involved in the total sales operation of the dealership showroom, online, text, email, blogs, marketing, inventory, appraisals etc.. while not in the store is not because someone else isn't. The uniqueness in a store like Acton Toyota is we have a great staff of involved managers and informed salespeople. A quick cell phone call, text message or email to be on top of your game is easy to make. Selling and leading salespeople has always been about communication, the big difference today is that communication is handled more and more with technology. In today’s world where the customer has as much access to information as a desk manager shouldn’t the salesperson have that same info? I have been fortunate in my career to work with many salespeople, managers and customers who all had something I could take from to help mold my skills as a General Sales Manager. I also have made the time to learn new things on my own along the way, lots within the last 3 or 4 years of me “giving in” to the technology that consumes my life today. I invest time reading and listening to what is pertinent to my business, at one time I had to buy books, tapes and cds I still do, but why not read some front line information on forums such as here and Dealer Refresh?
Comment by Stanley Esposito on May 18, 2009 at 10:38am
Stan,
You end your comment by saying "our success comes from what we make of it." Why is it people want to tamper or interfere with our success? Ralph,
very good post thank you. I wrote this blog as a follow up to how I started in this industry. I did not mean for it to be insulting to sales managers. My point was that for the most part they are not trained when they get promoted. Then they haze the new guys just like they were "Alpha dog" style. I do enjoy reading all of the opinions on the this site...
Comment by Ralph Paglia on May 18, 2009 at 9:05am
Here's the OTHER Poster which somehow did not make it to the posting above:

Comment by Ralph Paglia on May 18, 2009 at 8:42am
Stanley E.,

Brother... I feel your pain!!! But, before anything else I want to say thank you for posting what is obviously a sincere and very REAL blog about the day to day reality of far too many automotive sales professionals. Sten Sher's response is great and really confirms why me and just about every other ADM professional seems to instinctively love Mr. Sher... Who would be one of the first people I would try to recruit if I was suddenly running a dealership or sales department again... Stan Sher, you are my hero, and I would love to razz the managers that used to give you a hard time!

Gary May... YOU are soooo professional and your advice is sage and powerful as always. However, the problems that Stan E. has described here have little to do with logic, reason nor sound business principles. The situation that Stan E. describes is something that any of us who have worked in enough dealerships has come across, and is probably the number 1 killer of good talent in the automotive retail industry... I call it the "Law of the Jungle" syndrome.

The Law of the Jungle syndrome is where a dealership has fallen into the trap of giving sales department promotions to the sales professionals who sell the most cars.... LOL.... LOL.... Where any dealer ever got the idea that the ability to sell cars is the very same skill set needed to manage, lead, inspire, recruit, lead, hire, train, lead, organize and be a leader of men and women is beyond me, and defies logic. After working in dealerships for more years than some people reading this have been on this planet, I can attest to the following... When you promote your top sales producers to sales managers, the following results occur more than 50% of the time:

1. You remove your top sales professional from the role they do best.

2. The dealership loses that salesperson's production, and the production of other people that he or she may have stimulated through competition, cooperation or other factors.

3. You may acquire the worst manager your dealership has ever hired.

4. After the former top sales producer proves (once again) that your best salesperson is more often than not one of the worst sales managers, he or she cannot take the hit to the ego that going back into sales would create, so they leave your dealership and go to a competitor where they once again become a Rock Star in the sales department selling incredible quantities of vehicles for another dealership.

5. You end up back to where you started, needing a sales manager, only now you are without that top sales producer who would have helped attract a good manager!

The reason why I call this the Law of the Jungle is because of the way so many sales departments remind me of a pack of dogs, with the Alpha dog eating first (sales managers) and the lesser dogs feeding of the scraps (sales commissions after the desk pencils the recap). When a new Alpha dog gets elected (promoted to sales manager) it is that dog's turn to have everyone else do all the work and the Alpha dog gets to do nothing except eat first (make the big pay check). This has been a cancer in our industry since before I started selling cars 28 years ago...

BUT, there is good news... Today, in many of the dealerships I work with (I let beta dogs in ADP have the other dealerships) there is a rising level of professionalism within the sales management ranks. I see this reflected in many ways. For example, you get General Managers like Darin Wade at Rich Ford in Albuquerque, NM. Formally educated at the Anderson School of Management at Universirty of New Mexico, while he worked as a salesperson to pay his way through college, Darin is the consummate manager, leading his team without resorting to foul language, physical abuse, intimidation or any other bad practices. In fact, his team tends to deliver what Darin asks of it and most of them have no desire to work anywhere else. Darin's dealership remains profitable despite the current economic situation and for the past 10 years has been a "go to" dealership for Ford Motor Company when they want to see if something will work...

At many of the most successful dealerships in America that I am privileged enough t work with, I now see professionals with degrees in management, marketing, accounting, English Literature (huh?) in positions of leadership after acquiring enough experience in retail to balance their education and talent with real world hands-on know how, and these are the stores that are financially holding their own. These well managed at efficiently run dealerships are also among the 20% to 30% of all dealerships that have solved the excessive turn-over problems that most other dealerships have not yet come to grips with.

My own experience has been to take what i have learned and apply it... When I worked at Courtesy Chevrolet we had that classic situation of atop producing sales person who wanted to get promoted or they would leave and work at another dealership. Only in this case, that salesperson was a case of double-vision... Two identical twin brothers, Scott and Ron Daly... Who are amongst the most highly skilled sales professionals I have ever seen, before or since. Well, one day the owner comes to me in a panic because he hears that the twins are at the arch enemy's (Midway Chevrolet) place of business getting recruited. He wants me to "DO SOMETHING!!!". OK, I tell him to let me run with this situation and simply support the decisions I make.

So, I get the Daly's on the phone and set up a meeting... Now, for those of you who have never met Ron and Scott Daly, thse two together are like a force of nature... simply irresistable. I had them in my office and here's what we came up with. Remember, everybody knew that neither of these two were yet ready to become desk managers, but they themselves were convinced that they were ready (sound familiar?). My pitch to the twins was simple and as irresistable as their powers of pursuasion... Come to work for me and I would make them automotive rock stars. I would put their life size images on posters in over 150 bus shelters in the Phoenix metro area, build them their own web site, give them their own private office space and hire a gorgeous assistant to set appointments and organize their sales operations... Together we would build the Courtesy Chevrolet eFinance Sales Team and they would be able to hire, train and manage their own team of professionals.

The results? After a year of selling a whole of of cars together, the Daly's are now both in key management roles within the Courtesy Chevrolet organization. I think the most interesting part was when I simply gave them a set percentage of "Sales Compensation" to work with, and allowed them to pay whatever they wanted to the salespeople they hired, with the remainder going to them. LOL, they went through a lot of sales people before they realized that they NEEDED to share a fair amount of the profits generated or they would forever be doing all the work themselves, stuck in that 30 to 50 car a month range. The sales administrator part was a gold mine... For less than $2500 a month, this admin freed the Daly's up enough to add another 10 to 15 units a month on top of their usual sales volumes. The whole experience provided the twins with the type of experience they needed, including learning various software systems, the DMS, our CRM and Lead Management tools, how to work with suppliers and the intricacies of recruiting, hiring and training sales people.

To this day, the experience of working with Ron and Scott Daly remains one of the rare instances where we see two top sales producers become amongst the best sales managers in the business... Personally, I believe it was the almost 2 years of training, mentoring, attending seminars and classes on how to organize and manage a team of salespeople... After all, they already knew how to sell cars, which is a lot different than being leaders and sales managers!

Unfortunately, there are far too many dealers who have not yet learned this important lesson... The ability to sell cars does not infer the ability or skills needed to lead and manage a team.
Can people do both? Of course they can! But they need to be properly prepared, trained, mentored and provided with the hard skill sets first!

BTW, in case anybody thinks I am bullshitting, well... I am not! Here's a couple photos of those bus shelter posters I promised the Daly's if they would take me up on my offer to make them Automotive Rock Stars: Can you tell they are identical twins? And, if you can tell me which one is Ron Daly and which one is Scott Daly, I'll award a special prize... But do NOT expect the same prize as the Mont Blanc pens I bought the twins with my own personal money the first time they broke 30 units!



The moral of this story? As a sales professional, find yourself a dealership where the managers are more excited about making YOU the Automotive Rock Star and center of their attention, than they are about making themselves heroes... Get a job there, work hard and when you find yourself in a management role in the future... Remember to return in kind.

And lastly, for all you managers out there who think you are more important than your sales people, and too good to take a turn, pick up the phone or mouse and show them how to do something... YOU SUCK! If you think you are too good to roll up your sleeves and demonstrate to sales professionals how the job can be done, then you are not ready to lead...

Comment by Wendell Dossett on May 17, 2009 at 8:46am
Unfortunately Dealerships are still staffed with out of date Managers. The Principles just don't know any better. Still to this day the New Knowledge business is trying to come of age. You saw it with the quality of cars. Bad business and quality, and they still produced cars, well I guess that's ending now or soon.
This is what will happen with the bad Managers and Dealerships. They will go the way of the Dinosaurs. Well they are the Dino.
It is sad that people treat people that way Stan. Real sad. My thought always would be that they will get theres one day, and they do. If your around long enough, you will see it. I have been selling for 15 years. No not standing behind the people who are really selling, but selling. Working 6 days a week, every year. Who do you think in that Dealership is calling their own shots.There is no Manager telling me what to do. No one making remarks about me that they would like to bring public. Because the Dealership knows who is making the money for the Dealership now. It is the knowledgeable, well schooled in Internet, not taking any bull from anyone - sales guy. If you are selling, not giving away, and you are possessing modern sales knowledge along with some Marketing knowledge(easy, read). You can call your own shots. Sure you can be a Vendor rep(someone else's bitch), or aspire to be a Manager(can't sell, ego trip, sure to be fired these days), or you can cultivate your own herd and possess knowledge that no else has in the Dealership. Wow, that sounds like work. In the words of Tiny, a great Dealership guy that writes on here-or did, Get Results, Get education, it shuts them up. And I'll add, 'Even the Dealer Principle".
Being Motivated, you better bring your own to the party. I think Joe just lucked out on having some great guys, that noticed they were working for a great guy. Personally if you are having a hard time these days in staying motivated, read. Some great motivation is going on from many great authors. Try John Maxwell, Success magazine, Selling Power Magazine. Get Customer satisfaction books by Beckwith, JD powers, Lisa Ford, Scott McCain, Widener, Gitomer. These guys and girls can be a huge help in solidifying long term customer relationships. Lets talk sales books. Stay away from old school sales heros. They really piss me off. Sell for a while and then train. Get some real sales knowledge from Ron Wiilingham, Todd Duncan, Dan Kennedy, Gitomer. This is absorb it, get a process and do it stuff. Not why are they treating me this way stuff.
You know I guess I am the fool here, I have more years of sales experience than all of you so far in this post combined, and I still have 2 books I have to read today.That would be the Celebrity experience(secrets to delivering Red-carpet service) and John Maxwells new one, "Put your dreams to the test".
Also today, I have to finish a PDF I promised all that went to my session at DD6, E-Relationships. It is a how to take Videos, edit and publish them. Wish you were there, you could get it too.
The point: Become a lot less like water. Make your own path in life. Learn, Sell, it shuts them up.
Bamm, right in kisser.

Wendell
Comment by Joe Webb on May 16, 2009 at 8:45pm
I believe everyone is motivated in different ways. Some need a boot to their behind to stop them from coffee-clutching, some need their hand held, some need to be hear praise heaped upon them, some need sarcasm to get them working, and others do what you say and go about their job professionally through self-motivation. I can't say as a manager that I haven't yelled. I will admit to busting *alls through sarcastic remarks. I've named called. I'm not proud of what I had to do, but everyone that worked with and for me will admit that I got the best out of them. I can also say, at the same time, there was no one who more positively reinforced their staff. My BDC team never took a lunch. For years, no one took a lunch. If they wanted to eat, they ate at their desks while answering the phones and sending emails. I never told them they couldn't go out. They just sort of liked working on the team and never asked. Jason Oshita, who is on here, worked beside me for two years. You can ask him about me. To that end, Both Stans and Gary are right. It is better to take the hands-on high road when motivating and assisting staff. That being said, I know from experience that some people need to take a beating before taking a customer. Those types never last in dealerships long. But everyone is different. Everyone has a hot button, especially sales people. If you know what motivates someone, exploit it. Stan is right, though. NEVER do anything to offend, ridicule, or degrade for the sake of making yourself feel better. If it doesn't accomplish a store goal and motivate, the managers should keep their mouths shut or get out of the dealer world.
Comment by Stanley Esposito on May 15, 2009 at 5:25am
Gary,
I work at one of the largest stores on the East Coast. I sold the most cars at my dealership and have one of the top CSI's in my zone. I have earned the GM mark of excellence award five years straight. I averaged more then 20 cars a month selling Chevys in 2008. I actually have created a track record unlike some of the consultants who come to the forums to pontificate. You mention that people need to be prodded or yelled at. There is a difference between that and degradation and insults. The reason many managers feel so much pressure is because deep down they realize with the skills they have they cannot make the money they are making elsewhere. Salesman have families and mortgages too so spare me with the Manager has more pressure on them. I am also speaking of the industry in general not just my store. I am not a water cooler complainer. I thought this would be a forum to throw out a thought and get some reaction. Like it or not my post is a snapshot of the business.
I agree with you when it comes to prospecting and building relationships. It is on me I am alright with that. I feel I have done a good job of creating myself as a brand. It goes both ways when they fire all of the support and now expect salespeople to pick up the slack and take away from the prospecting. When I go to service and get an oil change if I ask them to rotate the tires while they are at it they charge me.
When I sell a car and now have to go on a dealer trade to get it they pay me nothing and top earner is now off the floor for hours. I am a professional whether you want to accept that or not. No one has the right to treat me any less then a professional because they have been around or know someone. I expect my Dealership to stand out and be better not just mimic the other stores. I feel the guys I work for right now are the best and they have my respect. I guess my challenge will be not to act like those who proceeded me when I someday manage people.
Comment by Gary May on May 14, 2009 at 10:19pm
Stan, you bring up some very, very valid points...and a lot of obvious anger. First, think about what you want to say, what you want to get out of it, read it, read it again, change it, read it again and then post it. You're greatest choice here is cause or effect.

No doubt you are correct. More often than not top management at dealerships have had minimal (and if more, irregular) training, were 'successful' by working their way up with results and some level of tact (later forgetting it), have slightly better communication skills than those on the floor and have been at the game for a looooooong time. So, they 'deserve' their place more or less. Do they know how to hire and train correctly? Likely not. But they're your boss so deal with it. And they're tight with the principal so they've got their six covered a little more than yours.

Your greatest challenge is working with them, not joining the water cooler bunch tearing them down. They also have a lot more stress on their shoulders than yours, not to say it's more important. Face is many are overpaid for the fact that they operationally know how a dealership works.

Now, on to what you can control. Your interaction, your response, your thoughts, your goals, your timing, your attitude, your approach, your intentions and to a large part, your results. What you've expressed here is common at most dealerships today, with the exception to the ones that are really holding their own, have stellar management, a team that cares and supports each other and that ultimately has their eyes on the ball. Just because you love coming to work doesn't mean you're at the the right place. What is your goal?

Fact is many people aspire to the level they achieve or fall to. Therefore, it is no surprise that many 'salespeople' at dealerships can't muster up the sales. As you pointed out, many sales staff actually need to be prodded, yelled at, cajoled and/or other activities just to get them to engage, let alone call someone or follow up. I've witnessed it time and again in sales meetings at dealerships.

Now is more the time than ever for everyone that calls them self a salesperson to take responsibility. The factory is not going to feed you. The manufacturer's ads can't guarantee you an up, period. People don't like/trust dealerships (read: mostly earned). The media is corrupt and has been for decades (it's not new). It's your job to prospect, handshake, meet, chat up, qualify, network, build, engage, track, chart, store, note, ask, listen, smile, invite and...wait for it...close! It's not the CRMs job. It's not the BDC's job. It's not the marketing's job. It's your job. The days of opening up the store and having people run in are over.

Get a sale through every honest, hard-working, ethical, meaningful way your can get a sale. Our industry's retail channel has some of the greatest challenges ever, and some of the greatest upside. What you build today will be next year's reward. There are no shortcuts left but there are so many people I witness at dealerships doing the same thing: sitting, waiting, wasting, excusing. A lot of people have wasted time but nobody ever sold a thing by waiting.

Water finds its own level...hope that when it reaches you, you've taken a better course than those you've written about.

-Gary May
IM@CS
Comment by Joseph B Antley; JB ANTLEY on May 14, 2009 at 9:41pm
PS.. My first job was at your dealership as a lot boy...and we know how that ended! Oops!
Comment by Joseph B Antley; JB ANTLEY on May 14, 2009 at 9:38pm
Wow, I can remember being berated, abused and generally bitch-slapped for 5 years out of high school, and I was a producer! Went to college and came back to F&I and nothing had changed. Still hasn't. My favorite line in your essay:
[The Sales manager will stop the meeting long enough to tell the vendor to "get the F out of here I am not interested didn't I hang up on you yesterday?" Then he will go on to tell the sales crew to "make phone calls and get out and prospect."]
Classic! (also love the Tags)
Joe

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