Not all new employees are promoted from within. Rarely have all of the sales managers at your store once been the salespeople on your floor. In other words, dealers often look outside of their own four walls and bring in a candidate from another dealership. Sometimes, though, new blood can cause bad blood. Some deserved and some not so warranted.
There are a few ways I’ve learned to avoid the cold front that occurs when a new manager is hired. One method is to get your current team bought-in and even excited about the new arrival. “How the heck do you do that?” you ask? Simple.
The first step is by involving the sales floor in the hiring of said manager. It is unlikely that your sales team is native only to your dealership. My guess is they’ve worked elsewhere and experienced other processes and people. Your sales team understands the makings of quality management material. For that reason, get them involved. If you are shopping for a sales manager (and not looking to replace someone on the floor currently), ask your top sales reps if they have worked with any great managers at other locations. Since sales managers are such valuable commodities for a store, why not try to reach for the best and snag away a competitor’s top performer? If your team feels you are valuing their opinion, they will be more open to a change at guard.
The second step is by bringing a leader from the sales floor into the interview process. Most dealerships have that one popular salesperson that can both stir up the pot, but also lead the pack. When you are interviewing candidates for executive management positions, by all means, allow the salesperson to interview them as well. If you can get buy-in from the leader on the sales floor, they will, in turn, share their approval with others and immediately generate goodwill before they ever start. One little “I like him. I think he’ll be really good.” from their lips to the ears on the showroom floor can go along way in minimizing any anxiety that occurs when a new manager begins.
If you don’t give your sales team a voice during this hiring process you are opening up the ability for them to resent the decision, thereby causing bad blood.
How else can new blood negatively infect the positive vibes on a sales floor? Allowing them to make immediate technology decisions. Any good manager measures the tools at their disposal when they come into a new store environment. However, many new managers want to immediately surround themselves with only solutions and technologies that they know. They try to create a “former dealership west” or a mirror image of the store they recently came from. Just because it was being used at their previous store doesn’t mean it was successful there. Unfortunately, some managers just like working with those tools they are most comfortable with. They bring in these vendors, not because it is the right thing for the store, but because it is most convenient for them.
When looking to change up the technology (think CRM, websites, desking), make it an organizational decision rather than a one-person, “they must know what they are talking about” situation. (Same goes for any major process overhauls they recommend.) “This is what we did over at my last store”, isn’t worth anything because all dealerships are different. If new blood brings in these wrong solutions and processes, then it will negatively affect the entire sales floor’s performance and the sales floor will blame them and you for it. Don’t allow that one person to change the direction of the ship without proper guidance from the crew. Don’t get me wrong… I don’t believe the sales team should run the roost. However, a strong, motivated crew in the showroom goes a LONG way to a store’s success and overall culture.
One last way to help create a positive relationship between new hires and current employees is to sponsor regular lunches with them. A few times a week after the new hire begins, send a small group of your employees out to dinner with them. Pick up the tab. It doesn’t hurt a dealer’s pocketbook to cover a few lunches and the time your salespeople (as well as service and parts managers) spend getting to know the new manager outside of work breeds a better working relationship. Also, your salespeople won’t get disheartened when a new floor manager starts as it means free lunch for them. It’s amazing how the little things can have such a big impact.
As ownership, it is imperative that the people you hire into your dealership adhere closely with the culture. Nonetheless, even with the right hire, there will always be hiccups and hesitation that must be overcome early on. You must do your best to ensure that the infusion of new blood into your store doesn’t cause a cancer in the rest of it. Take a few measures to involve your sales team into the process and you will see much quicker buy-in and better working relationships.