I have worked with a lot of talented people in this business, many of whom went on to be key leaders within their organizations. Recent conversations with some of those individuals and the completion of an important project inspired me to write this month's column. You may not like what I have to say, but, hopefully, it will act as a catalyst
See, in today's marketplace, "little by little" isn't the answer. Neither is "moving at a glacial pace." Reaching a dominant position requires massive action. The following are the first four of nine ideas that, if successfully implemented, will create the momentum you need to do just that:
Get feedback from your sales team: At my company, we offer something called "Breakthrough Consulting." It's designed to identify the major roadblocks preventing a dealership from reaching the next level. First, I gather the sales team alone in a room. With no managers present, they are free to tell me what's really happening at the dealership. It also allows me to extract their ideas for getting increased results.
I started in the showroom myself, and I've been consulting long enough to know the difference between complaints and actual challenges. The truth is that some of the best ideas for moving the sales department forward rest in the minds of your sales team. Unfortunately, many great ideas for inventory, pricing, pay plans, incentive plans, marketing and even cost cutting fall on deaf ears because the decision maker is too ego-driven to accept recommendations from their subordinates.
Remember, successful salespeople are good for more than just writing deals and mastering the meet and greet. Most of them have creative ideas that are not solely focused on increasing their income. In fact, many sales professionals simply want to have a role in the dealership's success. So, why not start weekly meetings to discuss new ideas or create a process by which ideas can be submitted for serious consideration?
Get rid of the sacred cows: I've written it before and I'll write it again: Expand or become expendable. If my 66-year-old mother is texting, e-mailing, Facebooking and tweeting, then there is no excuse for salespeople and managers not being able to do the same. Properly using the CRM system or surfing the Web to educate yourself on the information your customers are finding online should be a daily job requirement.
I can't tell you how many times I've seen capable sales, finance and service managers — including sales professionals — sink a dealership. Decision makers need to look in the mirror and be honest, because it's critical that they put more energy into those who are committed to enhancing the business rather than those who simply will not step up.
Sweep away the bureaucracy: Just like the sacred cows, the bureaucracy and red tape has got to go. "Nimble," "quick" and "responsive" need to become the new adjectives in your life, as death by meeting and paralysis by analysis will kill even the best of intentions.
To increase the level of communication across the dealership, the "us vs. them" mentality that manifests in the sales, finance and service departments must be eliminated. And don't just talk about an open-door policy; literally unscrew the doors from their hinges, reengage your passion for the business and reignite that fire within your sales and management teams.
Don't recycle talent: I'm all for recycling when it comes to bottles, cans and paper, but not when it comes to employees. One of my clients has a manager on his fourth tour at the dealership. He was fired at the end of the three previous go-arounds. Do yourself a favor and don't make the same mistake.
I've often said that the length of your tenure in the business has no bearing on how competent and skilled you are. You read right — none! I've met second-year managers who could run circles around the so-called veterans. And by utilizing personality profiling, tweaking the pay plan and work schedule, and participating in a real training and development program, you too will be able to attract and retain the talent that you'll need to dominate in the future.