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.

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.