EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles on sales management by Gart Sutton that will appear in this section. In this newly-refocused section, we’ll also have reports on marketing activities ranging from advertising campaigns to new product introductions and price promotions by OEMs, distributors, and aftermarket manufacturers.
You and I probably have a lot in common. We may have both started out selling retail vehicles one at a time. Perhaps like me, you worked your way up through the ranks. For me, it was a fascinating and educational experience.
Over the years I worked at dealerships that were both large and small, good and bad. I saw how to properly deal with customers and, more importantly, how not to. As my skills grew, I left the sales floor and became a business (Finance & Insurance) manager. Eventually, I took over managing the used vehicles. Finally, I ran the entire Sales Department.
This journey (and my experiences since then) has taught me a great deal about managing in the retail vehicle business.
meet jason, my manager
I liked my manager, Jason. Jason was extraordinary. He was so turned on about his job, his life and what we were doing. We all found it quite contagious. I would come in with a tough customer and he would say, “Now listen. Here is what I want you to tell this customer.” He would give me the words!
This may sound childlike, but he would have us repeat to him what he’d just told us to say. He would say, “Okay Gart, what did I just tell you? No, that’s not what I told you. Here is what I want you to tell the customer. Listen carefully. Now, what did I just tell you? Good. That is exactly what I want you to tell them. Now go do it.”
He gave me the words and the words gave me confidence. I’d go out there and tell the customers those exact words. It worked like magic. Ask yourself, “Do I do the same thing for my salespeople?”
Every once in a while I would go out there and it wouldn’t work because I changed Jason’s exact words. What I didn’t realize was that when I changed the words, I surrendered my confidence.
I’d come back in and he’d ask me, “What did you tell the customer? No, that’s not what I told you to tell the customer. Come with me.” Jason himself would go out there. He was fearless. He would say the words he told me to say and nine times out of ten he would make the deal. Now that is leadership. Unwavering. Always up. He always liked what he was doing.
Every deal stood on its own. Every deal started out by him looking at us and saying, “We are going to make this deal. We are going to sell this today.” AND WE DID! He said it with such conviction that it didn’t matter what kind of customer I was dealing with. I had confidence because Jason said, “We are going to do it.” I believed in him. He made me believe in him and in me. He made me money.
When I became a manager, I could see a little bit of him in me when I was working with daily issues. I would be closing deals or handling problem situations and I could almost hear him whispering in my ear as I told my salesperson what to say to the customer. But it wasn’t Jason’s words that I was hearing. It was his confidence. And now I was passing it on.
This is very important. True leadership is not just what you do when your salespeople are in front of you, but how well they do when you are not in front of them. Do your salespeople truly understand what their responsibilities are, what they need to do and how they need to do it? If so, then that is the sign of a true leader. They have direction, and focus on how to get that job done. You have established that. You made it happen.
Leadership can be developed through hard work and dedication. It is the most wonderful attribute you could have in any career. That certain feeling — an aura about you — that spreads like wildfire through any organization. You will never want for a good living. You will never “not be in demand.” Next we are going to talk about how to build on that ability.