May 03 2018 • By

3 Behaviors That Could Be Limiting Your Ability to Communicate With Your Sales Team

PART 1 for Managers: Here are three behaviors that could be limiting your ability to communicate effectively with your sales team! Part 2 for Salespeople can be read HERE!

For the last year, I have been both lucky and blessed enough to spend my time coaching dozens of amazing dealers across the country and their observing their great people in action! I keep noticing a reoccurring theme happening among sales managers and their salespeople, regarding communication. It seems the ability to effectively communicate, be candid, add value to conversations and create clarity when speaking to each other continues to be a challenge for many of these professionals.

My colleagues and I believe there are four cylinder to a winning culture, and if all four function at a high capacity, make a dealership extremely successful. Effective communication happens to be one of them. When coaching these well intended people around these communication challenges, I always seek to understand the root cause of the problem. My belief is that both front line salespeople and managers need to take ownership in their ability to help create a winning culture through top notch communication.

This article will outline a few of the habits and behaviors that while are not the root cause, are warning signals of deeper communication issues. These three habits also may be hindering effective communication across every axis in your dealership. This can impact turn over, employee motivation, customer satisfaction, and sales. This article will also give you some actions that if followed through, can greatly impact your ability to be more effective in your communication.

I was sitting down in a small finance office with new contracts neatly stacked in a plastic package on one corner of the desk. I was behind the desk, sitting in the finance manager’s seat who happened to be off for the day. In our one-on-one coaching conversation, the manager whose back was to the glass door was discussing his frustration about several employees that work with him, and what he perceived as their inability to be honest with him about the entire situation each time they work a deal. After asking him several questions to understand the situation further, he surmised that it would be extremely beneficial for himself, his employees, and his dealership if there would be honest communication at the desk.

When asked what this would look like, he expressed that he wanted his people to share all of the information they had when working deals with him. He told me, “I think they don’t tell me things because they are trying to trick me into giving the deal away!” I asked if it was possible that he was making assumptions around the reasons his people wouldn’t tell him all that he needed to know. After a little more discussion, we realized that the lack of open communication was likely being caused by other things that maybe he hadn’t considered. We decided to ask the employees and approach them with the mindset of a coach to really determine what was going on.

We started conversation between each individual salesperson on the topic with the mindset of a coach. By that I mean no agenda, not on the attack, insatiably curious, and seeking only to understand the situation through the lens of the employee. In addition to the guidance that we ended up being able to provide to the salespeople, that ultimately has led to a massive improvement in communication for the management and sales team this blog discusses, we concluded: Stop shutting them down.

1. Don’t shut them down.

One salesperson felt that she was being shut down by managers. She would come to the desk with a challenge, problem, or question. She used to be open about these sort of things, but stopped bringing them up when working deals with the managers. This was because the last few times she had brought up these sales roadblocks at the desk, the manager/s had publicly addressed her lack of knowledge about how to deal with the situation. Not only was it done publicly, but it was done in a way that she deemed as disrespectful.

As a manager, when you respond to questions, challenges or objections an employee has when working with a client in a way that they deem as blatant disrespect or treat them as if they are being publicly shamed, ultimately you are shutting them down. They will become fearful of bringing up these challenges in the future. This will prevent employees from being open with you, and as a result, you will not get the honesty you need to be as successful as you could be.

Instead, ensure each employee is properly trained, and tested for competency. That will alleviate a tremendous amount of frustration. By training and testing for competency, you earn the right to question things that they should know, but don’t seem to have absorbed. When questioning these things do it in a respectful way. Ask each employee, “When you do make a mistake, or I need to help you grow and improve, how can I approach you in a way that you will know is aimed at helping you improve and that you find respectful?” Now, you can meet each employee where they are, treating them how they like to be treated vs treating everyone the exact same way.

2. Don’t tell them to “stay stupid”.

The next salesman had a thought provoking tale which made me think back to my tenure as a young used car manager. Reminiscing on some of the mistakes I had made, this was certainly one of them!

When asked why he wasn’t providing the information necessary, or asking the questions necessary to help close his deals, the salesperson said that he had been accused multiple times of trying to know too much.

He had asked the manager, “What type of payment was this customer looking at?” and been told to, “Stop asking questions for which you need not know the answers!” In addition, he had made statements, such as “We can’t put the customer on a specific car, because he couldn’t get the payments he wanted on it.” and again, had been told that he was trying to know too much, and that he needed to leave that part of the deal to the finance managers, and that he needed to “stay stupid”. Yes, too much information in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it, and hasn’t been properly trained and coached can certainly be detrimental.

Therein lies the choice. Do we train and coach the people whose success and livelihood directly correlates with ours? Do we level up their skills enough to be able to leverage the knowledge for success? OR do we withhold all training and people development? Lead through blind obedience, creating robots that cannot think for themselves, solve problems, de-escalate angry customers and require significantly more maintenance long term?

At the very least, instead of telling them to stay stupid, I recommend asking them the following question, “In what way will having that information help you make this deal?” or “Why is that information important to you?”. Find out the reason behind the question, and learn that it may make sense to share the information with the salesperson. You may also uncover that this direct report is ready to start being educated for the next level in their career!

3. “Don’t come to me complaining about a problem without a solution”.

We’ve all heard this, or even said this at some point in our career. I’ve been told by business partners and co-workers, that it’s always 70 degrees and sunny in Sean land! I am the eternal optimist. In fact, one of my 5 core leadership strengths is team building through positivity. That being said, I believe our greatest strengths are often our biggest weaknesses. As such, I have tried to look at the other side and determine where these may hinder success.

If you are eternally optimistic, you may be averse to negative talk or attitudes. While being a positive leader is great, the double edge sword of this strength begs the following questions: Do you have blinders on that may be preventing you from truly understanding reality? Could your perception of attitudes cause your team to avoid bringing up their greatest challenges, concerns or fears? In your quest for a happy culture, could you be shutting down people attempting to share obstacles to success or even your blind spots? Does your team know how to approach you with these concerns in a way that you will not perceive as negativity? If they could solve the problem alone, would they be bringing the problem up at all?

Communication is key, we hear that way too often. However, excellent communication is something that needs to be strived for within your team and the key to that is coaching it! Instead of pushing salespeople away and keeping them “stupid”, understand that wanting to do that means that there is a problem and address it before moving on. Knowing the individuals of your team and how to do this in a way that benefits everyone is crucial to the success of your business!

Sean Kelley #thecarbizcoach CEO of Car Motivators in Arnold Missouri helps sales leaders achieve great results through their people and technology, with a unique approach to coaching and people development. His dealers are his partners and working with Car Motivators have helped his dealers see amazing results like, lower turnover for some by over 60%, increased sales volume by over 100 units per month, dealer principals enjoying more time off, manager stress levels decreasing, 40% increase in customer loyalty, dozens of salespeople executing on personal brand and dealership brand development campaigns on social media…etc If you are interested in achieving these same results, email

#communication #thecarbizcoach #coachingthecarbusiness #coachingexcellence #winningcultures #leadershipdevelopment