Welcome to the first installment of the Monday Morning Manager. This is a collection of real-life dealership experiences that I have collected while on the road over the past 10 years.  Some current, some classic, but in all cases, the stories are true and unique to our business and they contain a stitch of moral thread somewhere within. True, you will find far fewer characters in Hollywood then you will in the auto business, (I live in LA, and I know). So, I will have some guest contributors over the next year to help enrich the experience. As a Tom’ism once went, “We don’t do this for the money Bill, we do it for the stories we can tell” so lets tell a story. Oh yea, I’ll define a Tom’ism, but that will have to wait for now.

So our first M3, “De-motivating the Motivated” takes place in an average size dealership.  I watch a sharp dressed salesman whom seems to move in every direction with intent and purpose. You can tell right away that this guy means business and is not here because his doctor told him to get more fresh air. He moves back and forth from his desk to the sales managers tower with smile on his face and intent look in his eye. He carries folders neatly under his arm and has a list of items to do today, each carefully marked off as he completes them. Arrogant, maybe; confident, definitely. I am intrigued. You certainly don’t find this breed in every store, so I ask one of the other salesman in the store who he is and his reply “he’s the man.” “The man,” I say? “Yup, top gun in the store – the guy is always on top, never seems to have a bad month – and is always working.” Here we go, this is what I have been looking for.

I go to greet “the man” and give him my standard dealer greeting, “hey you big ol hammer!!!” (I usually reserve this for my good friends and the people I cant remember their name – really one in the same). He replies cheerfully, but with a note of conciseness, “How are you? What great things are happening for you today?” I am already under his spell, clearly a man that has studied the craft and practices it in his daily life – a true professional. My reply, “Well, I hear you are “the man” and I just wanted to see how it was done.” Politely he responds, “Don’t believe all that you hear (chuckles), I just have to work harder then the rest.” With that, he was gone; he never stopped moving. Back to his desk, he quickly got on the phone. Clearly he is working a deal and I wont be the one to slow him down.

As the morning progresses, he is still busily moving around the showroom – to the manager, to F&I and to the wash rack. It looks like another delivery and sure enough, in comes his next mark on the glass. His greeting to the customers is right out of a textbook but with more energy and sincerity. It’s a done-deal and he has already spent the commission in his mind.

Fast forward… the customers have departed and are enjoying their new car; close and delivery were effortless. He practically got a survey out of them before they left, along with referrals – almost like a Jedi mind close but yet, I don’t see “the man.” I assume he must be already working another deal, when out of the corner of my eye, I see him staring off into space.  He’s almost removed and certainly not “the man” that I had seen a mere few hours ago. Is he meditating? Is this a new form of a sales technique that I need to learn? Closing by osmosis? Willing his next deal to show up? I am drawn to this like a moth to the light and so I ask the sales manager, Jerry Jabrone (obviously the names have been changed to protect the guilty) that worked the deal with him what this change in “the man” was all about. JJ responds, “Oh, he is just a weak suck.  I think I twisted him up a bit, but he will be fine.”

What? How can that be? My hopes and dreams are dashed as I thought I had run into one of the rare breeds in our business – you only hear about the proverbial unicorn. Being a skeptic and in need of some good gossip since no rumors had been started and it was almost noon, I press further, “Come on, I thought that guy was the man!” JJ replies, “Yea, he’s our top gun but he is not all that.  Heck, I give him half the deals and with out me, he would just be like the other guys.”

unmotivated-salesmanNow confusion has set in for me. Look, fellow sales people are the first to call-out a peer and tear them down, however the other sales people did nothing of the sort and in fact, just the opposite. But here is the Manager – the coach, the councilor – or at least, I thought he was. Mental note… lets remember that most Managers in our industry are good people with good intentions, however there are some that have zero management skills. They knew how to manage a few deals so they were promoted to Managers or they were super-workers and so we made them Supervisors. These particular Managers all learned their super-skills from the guy that they replaced and in most cases, because he got fired before them.

So I continue to dig, “JJ, so what’s his story now? I mean, why is he over there a polar opposite of the positive superstar that I saw earlier?” JJ replies, “Oh that deal he was working on, the one that just delivered a bit ago, well short story long is that this was an advertised special car, no gross, loss leader. I told him not to sell it, but the customer wanted it and he was too weak to move them. So after the delivery, I had to let ‘the man’ know that I would be making this a house deal. And hey, I knew the customer’s brother’s – sister’s – mother’s – lover, so it should have been mine anyway.”

So there you have it, the culprit behind the shutdown: the cold water to the hot coals – the hole in the hot air balloon.  And what for? Because the Manager didn’t want to spend the flat fee and save the $200 bucks, possibly for a bigger helium budget next month, I’m sure. Hey, those Gorillas on the roof aren’t cheap either.

The scenarios are always different, as well as the reasons, however the results are always the same. We let either our egos or our greed get in the way of a paycheck. In this case, we take our catalyst to the store, our monthly success, and we completely take them out of the game for a few hours, sometimes days, all in the name of a few bucks or our egos. We have all either had it done, seen or heard of the Dealer that changes a pay plan or pay structure because “they were making too much.” Heck, you might be that Dealer reading this now. As another Tom’ism goes, “Bill, if the store has trouble paying its bills, then so will you and if you don’t, then I just haven’t gotten to you yet.”

What’s the moral to this story? Well, we should always stop to think how greed or ego would affect the overall outcome. Sometimes, the little things are worth way more than the big things and they last a lot longer.  For Managers and Directors, running things on pure accounting principles may not always be the best bet against just pure principles. Last time I checked, CFO’s and Controllers counted money, they don’t make it. In the end, as another Tom’ism goes, “I have an idea, go sell a car, it solves everything,” still rings true as long as we don’t punish the ones that sell it and lest not forget to reward and encourage those around us that produce, not hold them back and penny pinch in an effort to boost our egos or our control.

As for what is a Tom’ism? You will have to wait for another installment, unless you know me and then you already know. As for Jerry Jabrone, he is still out there and why? Because “He is a good guy, and heck he has been here forever.” And as far as “the man?” Well, he went to down-the-street-motors and all the while JJ is heard muttering, “Where have all the good salespeople gone?”


Bill Wittenmyer