Maximizing your employees is certainly one the primary responsibilities of managers the world around. Managers love knowing that their people are giving it their all, day-in and day-out. Managers love knowing more that some of their employees can take on additional responsibility and still excel. And this is where some managers fail.
When we created our (De?)Evolution of the Internet Sales Manager (shameless plug), Joe and I went through a day-in-the-life of so may people. It still amazes me to this day how many people still want to share their story about how that video affected them. It amazes me more that so many vendors and speakers share this video with their clients to help them prove their point. After two years, one of the central tenets of the video still holds true: You can only stretch employees to a certain degree before they break.
Joe and I have been consulting for many years, both individually, and as a team. After more than a decade of working in, for, and with dealerships, I see the same barrier to success at every store. There always seems to be one manager that has to be the puppet master. He’s been at the dealership since cars were referred to as horseless carriages. He refers to all the women at the dealership, regardless of position and stature, as girls. He believes himself to be omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. He’ll push, pull, squeeze, manipulate, and masticate those around him until his will is done. Or, until he runs out of cigarettes.
Managers as described above exist at many dealerships across the country. It’s why I moved from one store to another. It’s one of the primary reasons why I got out of retail (and it wasn’t even a direct manager!). And, it’s why countless Internet sales professionals across the country pull-up the tent stakes, and leave for another store, or head off to the vendor world. Think of the most visible ISMs from the last five years, and see where they are now.
If you’re still on the front-lines of the Internet sales or the BDC side, you’re probably nodding your head right now. However, if you’re on the management side (even if you are the Snidely Whiplash manager above) it’s not too late to address stretching people too thin. Let’s take a look at some of the most common complaints we hear.
I don’t have time to…
As we are constantly monitoring response times both through CRM reporting and TaskTeacher, we see some ISMs who are consistently behind. When we kindly ask what’s preventing them from sticking to time parameters, the answer is some form of ‘I don’t have enough time’. When we dig deeper into why they are not at their desks, we find that a manager, often not their direct supervisor, has them doing something else. Managers: If you’re Internet team is not at their desks, in front of their computers, or near their phones, you are wasting the dealership’s money. Arranging cars on the lot, watching the sales floor, raking snow, addressing Internet connectivity, changing print cartridges, handling license and title calls, taking notes for dealer trades, addressing computer issues, decorating for Christmas, giving foot rubs, et cetera ad nauseam, is not the responsibility of the Internet team, unless…
It’s (not) in the job description.
To this day, it astounds me how few dealer employees know what their job description is, let alone have it in writing. Even those who do, do not have a clear understanding of what they need to do on a day-to-day basis. Some employees can’t even tell you who their direct supervisor is. Joe has written on this topic a few times (here and here), so I’ll keep this section brief. Give your employees clear and reasonable expectations of what’s needed of them, as well as who’s in the chain of command. Otherwise, keep wasting time and money on anarchy.
Taking advantage of dedication.
This is the biggest bottle of employee repellent available. Internet sales personnel typically start their careers as the most dedicated individuals at the dealership. They are usually young and hungry. They understand that their competitors are fierce and their customers are fickle. They come to work everyday with something to prove. They often don’t know how to say no. Constantly demanding more and more out your employees is the wormhole to burnout. Good managers understand when their subordinates are offering diminishing returns on their time and effort. The loss of productivity by heaping on additional responsibilities can often pay for someone to take on the extra workload.
Even the most flexible Internet superheroes can only stretch so far. Whether you were thrust into a management position, or have grown roots at the sales tower, understand the life of Internet personnel is different. Be respectful of their time. Make expectations clear. Help them balance their workload. Your best Internet employee is only human. If these are responsibilities you can’t handle as a manager, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your own position.