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Getting on the Same Page
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Getting On The Same Page

I believe that all people want to be led, but getting them all to agree on a course of action can be a challenge. People bring different experiences, attitudes, and emotions to the workplace and balancing all of that with your business objectives takes some patience and practice.

The first part is getting all of your managers on board, and that involves getting them together in the same physical space, or at least that’s what I do. I start every Monday morning with what I like to call my “Leadership Meeting,” which involves every department head and myself.

I set the agenda for the week, looking at the calendar to confirm visits from any guests from corporate or our vendor partners, in-store or offsite training, vacations or other items that everyone needs to know about. Here I’m trying to avoid the “no one told me” response later in the week when something important is about to happen. No surprises.

Next, we move on to general business items

…including where our results stand for the month. In this business, we’re measured on a month-to-month basis and I think it’s important that all department heads know how each individual department is doing. If we’re having a good month in a particular department, I want to call out that manager in front of their peers (but in a good way), encouraging them to keep it up and finish strong. If we’re lagging, I want everyone to know so that they might be able to lend some brainpower to improving the situation. Let’s say the new car department is behind the forecast and we talk about it. Maybe the service manager has heard a couple of technicians talking about needing a new car. He or she can inform the new car manager and they can plan a follow-up discussion after the meeting to go over new car incentives and talk with the employees. The point is, every little bit helps.

The last part of the Leadership Meeting is the most important, 

…as we go around the room and everyone gets to speak whatever is on their mind. This is meant to foster a sense of collaboration between the managers and work out any conflicts that may arise departmentally during the week. Let’s say the used car manager thinks his department pays too much in reconditioning the cars and getting them ready for sale (don’t they all think that?). The service and parts managers will, of course, be very protective of their turf, but maybe there is a discussion that can be had about ways to lower costs. Even if it only results in a plan to meet separately later in the week, hopefully, it provides a forum where managers can interact and not feel threatened. I am the moderator, however, and have to make sure things don’t get out of hand. In the rare instance where people are too emotional or argumentative, I shut off discussion and plan a follow up with the affected parties after the fact.

One more thing: the meeting doesn’t take that long, typically lasting 20 to 30 minutes. Any longer and you’ve lost their attention anyway and people won’t think it’s a valuable meeting. The key is to keep it short and meaningful in your managers’ minds.

After this meeting, the rest of the week can be spent making sure the department heads are disseminating any required information to the rest of the team and my working with them individually. Going around the store and observing what is or isn’t happening gives me the opportunity to work with that manager and employees further, and it also provides potential topics for general discussion at next week’s meeting.

Getting the rest of the staff on the same page only occurs when they see the managers do the same. I’ve seen cultures where the managers say things to their particular employees that take away from our mission. It does no good to have the service or parts manager tell a technician that the used car manager is “cheap” and “doesn’t want to spend a dime” or have the new car manager tell a salesperson that service and parts are “ripping them off” on accessories and installation. It sends the message that the departments don’t (and can’t) get along and that ultimately gets back to the external customer. Trust me, our guests don’t care about internal conflicts, they just want their problem solved.

And that’s really what it’s all about, right? We have to have our stuff together to provide a unified front to the guests. For example, we don’t want salespeople promising something for a customer, only to not tell service what’s going on and have the customer show up on the service drive expecting to be taken care of, do we? How unprofessional do we look there? Whereas if we develop a system or process to communicate “we owes” internally, we can provide a much smoother experience for the guest. That’s what earns us repeat business from guests. Not low prices, not 10 minute, $9.95 oil changes, but an actual, factual good customer experience.

What do you do to get your people on the same page? Do you do something different to internally set yourself up for success? I’d love the feedback.

Make it a great day!

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