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 [email protected].

About the author
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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