Best PracticesDealership Operations & Processes

The Manager Who Doesn’t: A Guide to Better Sales Management

There are many people in our industry with the title of “Manager”, but very few who deserve it.

This happens for countless reasons in sales management. Some feel entitled by this newfound title and don’t believe they need to. Others claim they’re too busy. Surely some have been promoted to the point of incompetence and don’t know where to start. In the end, the reason many managers don’t manage is because they’ve never been trained how.

There aren’t classes in automotive that teach how to manage others. Most Sales Managers get the promotion because they were great salespeople. But being a great salesperson DOES NOT mean you make a great manager. Nor does knowledge of desking deals make you a sales manager. Overseeing inventory and pricing doesn’t make you a sales manager. Having the ability to make others run to get you Starbucks doesn’t make you a sales manager.

Sales managers are leaders and motivators of people.

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As I’ve said countless times, the Sales Manager role is the most important position in a dealership (in my humble opinion), and yet they have the fewest duties. Cutting away all of the bullcrap, a great sales manager should only task themselves with these four duties:

  1. Motivate their team
    You must actually get to know your personnel on a personal level to truly understand what makes them tick and what incentives or buttons to push to motivate them. Everyone is different. Learn who they are.
  2. Monitor their team and hold them accountable
    With the use of technology (as a requirement), you must leverage your CRM technology to measure your team and ensure their responsibilities are being met on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.
  3. Train their team
    Conduct meetings focused on improving their knowledge of product, process, tactics, performance, and communication.
  4. Crash T.O.’s and close deals
    Before a salesperson lets an opportunity walk out the door (or they talk them out of the sale because they’ve personally spent too much time talking to them), you must become airborne, introducing yourself to in-store customers early and often. Your job isn’t to pen figures onto paper with a Sharpie. It is to insert yourself into potential deals and find the most agreeable terms for both parties, before it is too late.

While we fancy ourselves at DealerKnows as Internet trainers, BDC coaches, and digital marketing strategists, quite often we recognize what the client needs most is our management consulting. Simply put, our time is often best served helping managers learn how to do just that.

One of my more recent dealer visits was intended to be a marketing meeting, and yet the end result was teaching sales managers how to manage others. I would have much rather talked marketing strategies and budgets, but what the dealer needed was a guiding hand to train the trainers, so to speak. So that’s where I invested the time.

Let it be known that managing, when you begin, is uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel good to tell someone else they need to do his or her job, or to do it better, quicker, or more efficiently. It’s not fun to tell people they’re doing something wrong, or to make them do something they dislike. So instead, managers keep their heads down at their sales towers and find busy work that pulls them away from managing. Yet, nothing could be more valuable to the organization.

As spy novelist John Le Carré was quoted…

 “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

As a sales manager, make it a point to be Airborne rather than Chairborne. I think the nomenclature speaks for itself. You need to be visible to your team.

Here are several responsibilities that you should be incorporating into your sales management role:

Daily Check-ins – At noon and 5pm, review task completions and overdue tasks inside the CRM. Then promptly call each individual sales agent to the desk/tower one-by-one, alerting them of any discrepancies, and ask them to complete them. If you’re waiting to speak to your sales team when they approach you for a price or with a customer question, you’re waiting for the wrong time to engage with your team.
* Expect spending less than 1-minute with each agent during each check-in.

Process Trainings – Two 30-minute group sessions weekly, educating your team on instances from road to the sale tactics, navigating customer-facing websites, objection-handling, and more.
*Every sales agent must attend it just once each week.

Product Trainings – Two 30-minute group sessions weekly, educating your team, not on the specs and features of your vehicles, but on the differentiators between each model and its competitors. Explain how to categorize vehicles by buckets of pricing, safety, towing, seating, and more. Knowing what options come as part of different packages is helpful, but not as helpful as knowing how your vehicles stack up against that of your off-brand competitors. *Every sales agent must attend it just once each week.

Save-a-Deal Meetings, once a week, one-on-one between you and each agent. Uncover how many ups they took over the last week. How many stemmed from appointments they had? How many were be-backs? How many sold? What prevented each customer from purchase (if you don’t already know)? And lastly, how can you help your team as a manager to save a deal for them, and put lost money back in their wallet? *Expect 5-10 minutes at the most for each save-a-deal meeting.

Most importantly, during the weekly save-a-deal meetings, I urge you, as a sales manager, to ask questions about their home life. Their health, family, and interests. This is what will allow you to build a mentorship so you truly know how to positively manage them and understand their behavior. This is where the key to management comes into the equation.

Monthly Forecasting Meetings, one-on-one with each sales agent, using historical data from the CRM to determine goals regarding number of customers needed to reach their appointment, sales, and commission goals for themselves.
*Expect to spend up to 10 minutes tops with each agent.

Yearly Performance Reviews are a necessity to build long-term growth and performance goals. What personal education does each candidate feel they need to take the next step in their career? To reach the next plateau of commission, position, or job security? This is where you determine if they’re a long-term solution for your organization, a steady worker-bee, or a short-term filler for a role that will eventually need to be replaced without more training or support. *Expect to spend 30 full minutes with each sales representative to set agreed-upon, obtainable goals, and write down these goals with them. You will be their support network to achieving these.

Managing isn’t easy, but when times are tough and traffic is slow, the best managers know how to make it remain a positive environment. They don’t play favorites. They don’t turn the other cheek when they see wrongdoing. They don’t turn negative. They don’t disappoint. They don’t allow laziness, because they themselves don’t ever show that characteristic.

They follow-through. They lead by example. All of their interactions are an opportunity to influence others. Being supportive, interactive, empathetic, and entertaining go a long way to getting others to follow your lead and execute your directives. While no one likes meetings, if you keep all of these meetings listed above short, filled with good content and not empty air, they will not be tiresome wastes of time, but learning experiences for every person involved. That is what management is about.

Great management can bring out the best in others, but it takes dedication and perseverance. To quote the great Vince Lombardi..

“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”

[highlight color=”#CCE6FF” font=”black”]This one and more of Joe Webb’s article are originally published on the DealerKnows blog. DealerRefresh is privileged to have the opportunity to share these publications with the DealerRefresh readers and community. Don’t miss out on EVERY one of Joe’s articles – follow Joe and the DealerKnows team on Facebook, Twitter and be sure to frequent their blog.
– Kershner[/highlight]

Automotive trainer and consultant. I'm also a writer, speaker, movie buff, and Dad. --President of DealerKnows--
  • L
  • June 30, 2019
Hi Joe,

I’m a newly promoted sales manager from finance, never sold cars before and without any trainings, I sure was confused out of my mind what exactly I was supposed to do in the first 3 weeks. Your article gave me a break through! I now know important aspects of this job, why and how.

I very much appreciate the help!!


  • J
    Joe Webb
  • July 1, 2019
So very glad to hear this provided you some guidance. DealerRefresh has a lot of great insight into your role as Sales Manager. Never hesitate to reach out to me personally - [email protected]