Some things just get under my skin. While visiting our dealer clients, I see managers using their own salespeople to run errands, do chores, or pick up lunch. Managers don’t want their sales team to be order takers, yet they treat them like servants for their own benefit. Salespeople feel they’re just being of service, but in actuality, they’re being taken advantage of. We talk about promoting a positive culture in sales, but within our own four walls of our organizations, managers exploit new hires and those below them while giving them nothing in return. Dealers must get back to the days where being of service is rewarded.
“You fly, I’ll buy” is what we always said when we sent someone out to pick us up something. This should be a rule. If you’re going to send a salesperson or porter (or anyone, for that matter) out to pick you up coffee, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the one taking the time to leave the showroom floor and run your errands is deserved of a drink or meal (of equal value) to what you are ordering.
Reading this may sound like I just complaining about something small and insignificant, but I’m not. Constantly asking someone else for a favor, with no reciprocity, creates a division in the organization. It creates a hierarchy of order-taking based on positional power, not being of service. This is only one example, but it is very common. We must think of ourselves as a team. I scratch your back and you scratch mine, so respect is directed from employer to employee and back again.
Dealers struggle with acquisition of talent and retention of talent. Yet, above and beyond not having any formal orientation program, we throw them to the wolves, both on the floor and on break. I’ve long advocated that any new hire for the first two weeks of their employment should be taken out to lunch every single day by a member of the sales management staff. Instead of letting a new hire sit alone eating by themselves in their car, playing on their phone, take them out. Sales Managers should use lunches (paid by the sales manager) to build camaraderie and respect with their new hires. Learn about their lives and get to know each other. (It is well-known that I take new hires out to lunch on my own dime when training my dealers on-site as I want them to know I’m personally and financially invested in their success). Managers who do this will be much more adept at actually motivating and managing their team. This one small, simple act will improve retention of new hires, allowing them to feel more a part of the corporation. Moreover, it teaches managers to play the role of mentor more than boss.
My good friend, Tom White Jr., Owner/Operator of Super Car Guys, has instilled a top-down philosophy when it comes to being of service. Opposed to sending salespeople out to move cars, get vehicles cleaned, grab keys, pick up food, or other non-job-related activities, he flips the script. “At Super Car Guys, managers work for salespeople. Salespeople don’t work for managers. It isn’t uncommon that managers will pick up the dry cleaning for their own salespeople. The more we offer help from the top-down rather than the bottom-up, the better our customer experience is as well. This is the type of behavior we see enhances morale and builds lasting quality relationships between team members.”
In the end, organizations want to build a strong corporate culture and it starts with respecting the time and energy of every employee, regardless of position. And it starts with putting limitations on being of service. Just because a sales agent is a sales agent and a manager is a manager, doesn’t mean one must act as a personal shopper for the other. I can only hope salespeople stand up for themselves and ask “what’s in it for me?” or demand that “I fly you buy” because one person’s time is not worth more than another. Put this philosophy of rewarding help and being more involved in orientation of new hires and you’ll see a more respectful team environment.