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On the Point

The Heartbeat of the Deal

Even the most talented sales teams need supervision. “Da Man” has a plan for keeping your process running like clockwork.

October 7, 2011

Every deal has a heartbeat. From the moment we first interact with a customer until his or her taillights cross the curb, the deal has a pulse. That means there is a certain energy level we must maintain throughout the sale. Unfortunately, many dealerships have sales staff that look like the walking dead.

All too often, we get so caught up in being managers that we forget we also must supervise the selling effort. The best sales managers have a quality I like to call “Hyperawareness.” It’s the ability of management to be acutely aware of every deal as it progresses through the dealership, as it happens and at every stage of the sales process.

From the moment a consumer shakes hands with a salesperson, I’m all over it. If most blown deals are the result of a salesperson’s inappropriate behavior, you have to stop and ask, “Where was his supervisor?” Chances are he or she was sitting at the sales desk, oblivious to what was happening on the lot.

In a volume-selling environment, or during peak traffic times, managers need to be in motion. Like sharks that can never stop swimming, managers must be in constant motion. Unless we’re working three deals right now, there shouldn’t be three managers sitting at the sales desk.

Generally speaking, a customer’s shelf life is less than two hours. At that point, the deal begins to disintegrate. That’s why everything the sales department does must be achieved within that window. So many dealerships today have far too many four-hour marathon deals because managers are allowing salespeople to manage themselves.

From the moment customers step out of their car, the clock starts ticking. It’s crucial that management knows exactly what time they arrived. Unfortunately, most CRM systems don’t pick up the deal and record the fact that we even have a customer until their information is in the system. That’s way too late, in my opinion. I need a system that identifies when the handshake happened.

For the most part, deals are blown outside of the building. That’s why the F&I manager should be writing up the deal while the customer prepares to take the test drive. Very few managers manage “outside the building” by monitoring the activities of their sales team on the lot. That’s where the managers-in-motion concept pays off.

Managers should touch the customers early and often. I’ve always said, “Never meet the customer for the first time when you are in combat.” The first checkpoint should occur when the salesperson has been with the customer for 45 minutes. If the salesperson hasn’t checked in with his or her manager, we need to go looking for the deal and we need to find out what stage of the sale they’re in at that time.

In most stores, salespeople fall into one of two categories:

Track Stars: A track star will shake hands with a customer and, before you can turn around, will try to write up a deal 15 minutes later. No common ground, no relationship. You methodically build a sale much the same way you build a house with a foundation. Start with a framework and move onto a step-by-step process, beginning with a friendly conversation and a needs assessment. Track stars will have achieved none of that.

Tour Guides: A tour guide is a social animal who, if left unsupervised, will march customers around until they leave — never quite getting around to selling the car. It is management’s responsibility to be aware of the deal and to be willing to step in and move it along or slow it down when appropriate. Great managers don’t wait for the “TO”; they take it!

Most sales departments become totally brain-dead when they’ve finally gotten the customer to sign the purchase order. Excuse me, but the deal should be in the F&I office within minutes after the signature has been obtained. At this point, the shot clock is running and the F&I office is at the basket. I’ll never understand why so many sales departments miss the pass and allow the deal to deteriorate while the salesperson runs around gathering information they should already have. That’s the way I see it, but I could be wrong. Let me know what you think.


  1. 1. manuel [ October 20, 2011 @ 10:59AM ]

    managers get too caught up in their own importance,and tend to hamper the deal by interjecting themselves into the deal,everybody assumes that a salesman cannot ask the right questions,this only a lack of training before putting a guy in the lineup.a good manager should know his people and what they are capable of doing,so train first, teach second,help third,only interject to close or salvage ,your sales guy is the face of the dealership make sure he is the guy you want in front

  2. 2. Ed [ October 20, 2011 @ 12:07PM ]

    The majority of managers in the automotive industry that I have met are great at pricing cars, evaluating trades and closing the customer. I find a distinct lack in one area that I think is key, managing people. They may be 'managers' in name, title and position, but more often than not they lack the minimum of people management skills to be able to truly run a sales staff, efficiently and cost-effectively. They may get the car sales, but at what cost in personnel?

  3. 3. AussieBM [ October 20, 2011 @ 03:58PM ]

    i guess this proves that LEADERSHIP and MANAGEMENT are two different things.. sales teams need a LEADER.. somebody who will get their hands dirty if needed.

  4. 4. Chris [ October 22, 2011 @ 10:46AM ]

    Well said Jim. Your last paragraph perfectly describes one of my biggest frustrations with some sales managers. The customer has already been sitting around waiting... within five minutes from the agreement to purchase, the deal should be in F&I.

  5. 5. Pete [ October 28, 2011 @ 11:18AM ]

    Amen to the timing thing....Ive seen way to many deals loose total profit by allowing the customer to "chill" before entering the F & I office. Keep the excitement up and the turn around short, and your profits will stay up as well,

  6. 6. Bear [ December 06, 2011 @ 03:01PM ]

    We call it the 'ether.' Don't let it wear off. If you've got an agreement & stips, it's signing time. I agree with the others though. Too many managers are managers is title only. I'm not discounting the fact that it takes time to make the numbers work, but being a numbers guy does not a manager make.

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Author Bio

Jim Ziegler

President & CEO of Ziegler SuperSystems

Jim 'Da Man' Ziegler joined the magazine in 2011 to deliver his On-the-Point message about the car business to dealer principals and store managers. He'll offer strategy advice on everything from sales and F&I to marketing in the digital age. Catch him every month at

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