Much like a student, salespeople require guidance, instruction, motivation, and understanding. Ideally, they come to work just as much for an education as they do a paycheck. The dealership sales manager of today plays a pivotal role in their development and growth. In school, students learn from the resources they receive, but also from the interactions with their instructors. In the case of automotive dealerships, when a manager recognizes it is their job to mold their salespeople through advisement and instruction, they are a teacher. When the manager treats them as if they’re only there to work, they become the school yard bully.
Teachers bring in written materials, video resources, and perform examples of what is expected. They learn about their team on a personal level. They care of their team’s success, not because it makes themselves look good, but because it is rewarding for everyone. They aim to educate their staff, knowing it will make everyone’s lives easier in the future. A sales manager acting as a teacher will work to grow the acumen of their salespeople through any positive means necessary (limiting any negative reinforcement).
School Yard Bullies yell. They shout. They’re demeaning and vicious and don’t promote growth. People don’t want to engage with bullies, let alone work for them, and have little incentive to grow. Quite frankly, they’re usually suppressed from growing by those above them. School Yard Bullies do not get the most out of their people and they expect people to miraculously understand how to handle every issue themselves. And when the salesperson fails because they haven’t been given the training to communicate effectively, handle leads, properly present products, overcome objections, and close deals, the School Yard Bully Manager blames it entirely on the salesperson, never looking in the mirror. This leads to high turnover, limited profitability, employee unrest, bad culture, and a lousy customer experience. Why do we hire managers that don’t understand what it truly means to manage?
No salesperson wants to stay in elementary education. They hope to graduate and grow to new positions. Without a teacher educating you and growing your skill level, you’ll be stuck as a C student with the same results in perpetuity. This, in turn, means your store is delivering a poor customer experience. It isn’t just salespeople that need education and improved personal skills. If your management team doesn’t understand the art of management and interpersonal relationships, bring in an outside training agency to teach them. (Shameless plug for DealerKnows). One way or the other, everyone must be provided instruction to be better.
Think of your favorite teacher in school. Think of your most invaluable mentor. How did they treat you? Did you look forward to going to their class? Were they pleasant to be around? Did you try harder? Were you challenged by them without being browbeat by them? Did you treat the others around you in the class better? How were your grades? Good, I bet.
Isn’t that the kind of manager you hope to have for your sales team? Wouldn’t that make you the best place to work and, in turn, serve customers?
Now… think of someone who bullied you. Did you like them? Did you enjoy being around them? You may have learned something from interacting with them, but it was never easy – and only taught you how to take abuse and overcome other bullies. It didn’t make you grow in other aspects of your life. Did a bully cause your grades to improve? Not likely. Bullies never helped you focus on schoolwork. They definitely didn’t get you excited to go to class with them. So why would we put managers that act like school yard bullies in charge of our most precious assets… our employees?
Reevaluate the management styles of your managers, as your dealership’s sales results have far more to do with the abilities of your managers then that of the salespeople. If you can’t look at your sales team and easily identify a few people, not just deserving of a management shot, but capable of leading and teaching others, peer to peer, then it is your current managers holding them back.
Invoke a Teacher mentality across your management team or put them back on the playground to wreak havoc elsewhere. Salespeople, like any good student, want to learn. And they will respect the effort of the teachers that work with them. Teachers identify strengths and minimize weaknesses. They don’t give up on their students when they’re struggling. Bullies curse, belittle and demand. Allowing School Yard Bullies to run rampant in positions of power in your dealership leads to poor results overall. Where do the best students want to go to school? Who do they want to learn from? You know the answer. Be the best school you can be, with the best teachers, and watch your performance (and morale) improve.