The Industry's Leading Source For F&I, Sales And Technology

On the Point

Training the Manager

It’s not a ‘knowing’ problem that plagues dealerships; it’s a ‘doing’ problem. ‘Da Man’ explains why most training efforts fail before the trainer even leaves the store.

January 17, 2012

Turnover is a fact of life in our business, especially in the sales department. But the biggest issue — or failure — I see at dealerships is an inability to successfully develop new salespeople. In most cases, the real issue lies with the sales manager.

It’s the responsibility of the dealer, general manager or the general sales manager to create a safe environment to develop new hires. What’s needed is accountability from the top down. See, training is only half of the equation. The rest lies with managers. If they are not performing processes consistent with the training, how can you expect success or, at the very minimum, change?

That’s why I refuse to train salespeople unless we can completely retrain their managers. I won’t even consider working in a dealership if the dealer doesn’t hold the managers accountable for learning and performing the same processes I teach the salespeople. What we train is not optional.

It’s amazing how many times a dealer has hired me or another trainer to educate and fire up the salespeople, only to have the managers continue what they have always done with no regard to the training. The days of the sales desk cowboys and hotshots are long gone. Today’s business is driven by process, persuasion and finesse.

Here’s an example: For the last two years, I’ve been working with Dana Ford Lincoln in Staten Island, N.Y. The dealer there, Jim Cognetta, and the GM, Doug Hansen, completely bought into the process. And guess what? Dana Ford Lincoln is now the No. 1 Ford-Lincoln dealer in the Tri-State area. I am pleased to say I was involved, but I can’t take full credit for what they’ve achieved.

When we installed a new incremental pay plan, Cognetta and Hansen agreed to add a performance-based benefit that provides top salespeople with a full-time assistant. The assistants are salaried employees who have a real shot at becoming salespersons themselves. So, not only did we create an apprentice program for new hires, we provided “newbies” with that safe environment I referred to earlier.

It works because all the managers and most of the sales professionals enthusiastically bought into the processes we installed. The few who didn’t like the idea now work elsewhere.

It’s sad when a trainer’s work unravels before he or she even has time to check in for their flight home, but, as I said, it happens all the time. Many of my colleagues were never managers themselves, and they train without authority. I come from a successful management background, so I understand that managers must be held accountable. My training sticks because I return for a second visit and take the managers to task if they failed to follow any process their dealer agreed to implement. 

New sales professionals must be developed and allowed to make good income from the moment they hit the floor. Unfortunately, in many dealerships, there are veteran salespeople who methodically and systematically warp their attitudes and run them off. When I am in charge, no one is allowed to tamper with my new hires. They are highly protected, educated and elevated. My job is to cause them to make a great living and a better quality of life because they work here.

So, remember that training is only worthless if it’s not implemented. Keep those e-mails coming.

Jim Ziegler is the president of Ziegler SuperSystems Inc. E-mail him at jim.ziegler@bobit.com.

Comments

  1. 1. Tom Wilson [ January 19, 2012 @ 10:14AM ]

    Therein lies the key to future success and survival. A comprehensive training and compensation program is the ounce of prevention that offsets the future pound of cure. None of us was born a Manager and those of us who rose through those ranks successfully had one thing in common - somebody took the time to train us.

    Good Article, Jim. Dealers would be served well to read this and look into their own ranks and assess the level of their own training programs. Is it window dressing, or is it part of your culture to develop and cultivate your own staff?

  2. 2. klay kelso [ January 20, 2012 @ 06:47AM ]

    You can tell Jim speaks from a position of experience. There is a marked difference between the results of training in a dealership where Managment has 'bought in' or not. The trainer brings and teaches the processes and even motivates a little to get things started. The management, right up to the very top, is going to have to continue to pull that chain after I've left. Otherwise the entire training session was a complete waste of time.

  3. 3. Andrew Myers [ January 28, 2012 @ 10:48PM ]

    Jim,

    Excellent, as always!

  4. 4. HOWELL CLARK [ February 17, 2012 @ 08:19AM ]

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE, DESK MANAGERS NEW AND USED MAKE OR KILL TRAINING SIMPLY BY THEIR OWN ATTITUDES. WAY TO OFTEN A NEW MANAGER RUNS OFF THE OLDER SALES FORCE NO MATTER HOW GOOD THEY ARE SIMPLY TO HAVE THEIR HIRES RESPONDENT TO THE THEIR METHOD OF ATTACK AND TO HAVE LOYALTY TO THEMSELVES.

Comment On This Story

Name:  
Email: (Email will not be displayed.)  
Comment: (Maximum 2000 characters)  
Leave this field empty:
* Please note that comments may be moderated.

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 www.fi-magazine.com.

» More