We’re living in a society where social blackmail and political correctness trump common sense. Thoughts and opinions are suppressed by the fear of being labeled. The retail automobile business is no exception, and lines are being drawn in the battle for sales department domination.

The “new-school” crowd, driven by technology, considers themselves superior to the point of arrogance, while the “old-school” crowd — driven by sales, persuasion, closing and process — are close-minded to the point of technophobia.

Name calling and labeling escalates. Saying someone is “old school” has become the new-age insult to invalidate anyone who isn’t completely and blindly onboard. In fact, I have seen experienced and highly competent managers and dealers be ridiculed and labeled because of this, and it needs to stop.

The truth of the matter is the only successful people in this new-millennium car business are those with a complete skill set in all areas of sales, marketing and technology. Sales managers and dealers who ignore technology’s influence on our business are like dinosaurs eating the last brown, shriveled tree leaves before they’re swallowed up by the tar pits.

On the other hand, a sales team that relies entirely on Internet technology at the expense of process and personality would send a dealership spiraling into bankruptcy. That’s because selling strictly by the numbers — without emotion, persuasion, presentation and real-world sales and social skills — doesn’t work.

Think about it. Why is social media so important to our business? It creates a virtual personality that helps humanize the dealership in the eyes of consumers. And the message that needs to be conveyed is: Know me, like me, trust me and follow me. And it needs to be in that order.
That’s why traditional sales departments and the technology buffs inside the dealership need to work as a harmonized group, because that can’t be accomplished if both aren’t working together.

For those of you who believe the “Road to the Sale” is an outdated concept, let me just say that I strongly disagree. If that means I’m old school, so be it. Remember, I’m on the road 200 days a year speaking, consulting and working in dealerships, so my feeling on the matter has been shaped by firsthand observation.

Hey, even in the most rigid one-price, no-negotiation dealerships, there’s still movement in the numbers. And the idea that average people with well-defined processes can achieve incredible results is still as true today as it ever was. Again, I base these statements on firsthand observation, not theory and conjecture.

As for managers, the best ones are those who take charge of the selling effort and make themselves responsible for the activities of the sales force, real world and virtual. F&I managers also play a critical role in that effort. They are, in fact, sales managers who specialize in finance, not hermits who hide out in the back office until a deal appears.

One of the things I teach in my sales management seminars is that all departments must work together in harmony under well-defined processes, word-tracks and procedures. The goal of this column will be to expand on that philosophy, and I’ll do that by sharing some of the best practices employed by the most successful dealerships in the nation.

Jim Ziegler is the president of Ziegler SuperSystems Inc. E-mail him at [email protected]


Jim Ziegler
Jim Ziegler

President and CEO of Ziegler SuperSystems

Jim Ziegler ranks among the industry's most recognized and honored trainers, consultants, authors, speakers, and forecasters.

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Jim Ziegler ranks among the industry's most recognized and honored trainers, consultants, authors, speakers, and forecasters.

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