Sep 20 2018 • By

So, You Just Took on a Sales Management Role…

For whatever reason, you find yourself in some type of new sales management role at a dealership. The salespeople you are now supposed to lead may be skeptical that you’re going to make it. They’ve seen several managers come and go over the past year or two. The entire team may also be reluctant to trust you. After all, you’re the one that just replaced the manager who had hired them in the first place. Of course, you’re going to get better results than the last few managers that didn’t make it. You’re going to be different than them: better, more skillful, more effective at your job. Is that what it takes to do better?

What I want for you in reading this article, is to help your stressful career transition become easier, profitable, positive, and lasting. You may ask, “Why are you qualified to help? You only changed dealerships one time in your fifteen years on the showroom floor!”

I only changed dealerships once, until I changed dealerships 50+ times!

As I coach dealers around the country, every first visit to any given business is just like every time I was promoted to management. I need to learn a lot of stuff really fast. Win the team over, really fast. Produce results, really fast! Each time a dealership I visit hires me, I have succeeded at doing just that. I was first promoted to NCO in the Army, then into finance, then to used car manager, then to general sales manager, finally into a C level position at a multi-million-dollar software company. All before starting my own coaching and people development company, Car Motivators. Below are some practical and tactical tips that will help you integrate into the new culture and set yourself up for success.

You’ll find yourself drinking from a firehose.

Even if you’re lucky enough to land at the same OEM where you originated, and don’t need to learn about the product, there will be a ton of things you need to learn. To name a few: New software, customer-facing sales processes, internal processes, expectations, current performance, past performance, future projections, the new culture, new systems, marketing strategies, current business challenges, new job responsibilities, delegate old responsibilities…etc. With this large list of things to learn, there is something more critical to understand than the items on this list. That my friends, is learning about your people!

By learning about each player on your team, you can instill the confidence necessary to lead early on. This will be a crucial component to your success. You will need to lean on your team to guide you through many of the obstacles that a new manager faces when taking on a leadership role. This is even more important if you did not build this team, and makes it even harder to accomplish. I know, I’ve been there!

1. Don’t push your agenda, until you listen to theirs.

There is a surefire way to get others to listen to you, act on what you want them to act upon, and see value in hearing out your agenda. The trick is to follow the law of reciprocity and listen to their agenda first! Upon management change, most employees have a glimmer of hope that some of the challenges they face could be addressed by their new manager. That’s you! You probably plan on making changes regardless, right? You want everyone else to adapt to your processes and procedures, right? What would it mean to your team, if some of the changes you planned on implementing, were something they brought up to you was perceived as their idea? In case you didn’t think of it yourself: total buy-in! Listen to them, and make the changes pointing out they impacted the decision. Now it’s not just dumb luck, now you have helped them intentionally. There is now much greater value in the change as its served two purposes instead of one. You’ve made improvements to the business and listened to your people. Now they are more likely to listen to you. Not to mention, since the change came from them, they are going to execute on it. A win, win for all!

2. Accept coaching from everyone and remain flexible.

“Why did you price that car so low? It’s the ONLY one like it in stock?!” Said my new General Sales Manager boss. Sure, I could have allowed my ego to take over and lashed back, “This is an old unit, I’ve been running a used car dealership in the city for YEARS and I know what I’m doing! I’m not eating the aged inventory fees here, back off me bud!” Luckily for me, I am a little more diplomatic. Instead, my approach sounded like this, “I apologize if you feel I mispriced that aged unit, I want to learn your pricing strategies so we can work better together. In fact, I should have done that prior to re-pricing the inventory, that’s my fault. When would be a good time to carve out an hour to walk through it together? For now, would you prefer to price the cars until we have that meeting?” He promptly apologized, told me he trusted my judgment, and we met later that week to align to the pricing strategies.

Later, I found out that this particular manager had gone through at least five used car managers over the course of the last year. I could have forced my hand, and if I had I probably would have ended up on the list of managers that stood their ground and not survived. Pick your battles, be coachable, and remember: They outnumber you! It’s a lot easier for one person to change than for everyone else around that person to change! Create a positive evolution of change, not a revolution.

3. Learn everything you can about each player on the team.

The insights you can gain from each player on the team will help you lead them to success. When they see that you want to lead them to success, they will want you to succeed as their manager. Once you help them flip this switch, they will look out for you. This is what it takes to get results. Show them you care, and prove to them that you will hear them out, and leverage their strengths to help them succeed. You can do this with the questions below.

How long have you been working here?

What motivates you to come to work each day?

Tell me about your family, married, kids, pets?

When is your birthday and how do you like to celebrate?

How do you like to be managed?

What are 3 things you enjoyed about your last manager, 3 things you had wished were different?

If there was one skill that I could help you improve, what is it and why did you choose it? What else?

What would make work more enjoyable for you?

How often do you like to have 1-on-1 discussions with your managers?

Is there anything you want me to know about leading this team?

If I were your last manager, what would you want me to more of or less of that would help you succeed?

If you could wave a magic wand over this organization and change one thing, what would it be?

Why is that important to you?

If you sum up all three points above in one sentence it would be, “Make it all about them.” That’s what leadership is about. It is about your ability to shift the focus, opportunity, spotlight, conversations, credit, and efforts towards others. Listen to them first before asking them to listen to you. Be open to new ideas and feedback from each player on your team. Finally, give them the gift of time and attention. Authentically show them that you care in these ways, and you can not/will not fail as a leader.

Car Motivators works with car dealers across the country to customize real and relevant training that everyone at the store wants and needs. By coaching excellence into each player on the team, we create an ongoing sustainable process for developing and growing sales among your top performers. We help our dealers align to a unique cultural vision, value proposition, and ensure this vision becomes reality when we create winning cultures that impact your results. Your managers can leverage the tools you already invest in, and the people you already have to increase both profit and sales without working harder. If you are interested in achieving these results, you may email or visit

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