Developing Effective Leadership: Training the Mid-level Manager
Developing Effective Leadership: Training the Mid-level Manager

When looking at ways to make improvements in automotive dealerships today, a couple of topics always stand out. One topic is sales training and the other is finance training. Having over ten years of experience teaching in formal classroom settings, in both sales and finance, I have seen how things are usually done and know they have changed over time. However, there is one topic that is far too often overlooked: training of the mid-level manager.

Training the mid-level manager can provide many benefits to the dealership, such as growth and consistency. I have watched over many years as managers are born off the sales floor or come from other industries without any formal training. In these cases, management training boils down to being the classic baptism by fire - let the challenge begin!

So, let’s remove the word “manager,” for this discussion, and replace it with the word “leader.” I want to identify some elements of good leadership and the value it can bring to the dealership. The strength of an effective leader is the ability to bring out the most in their team. There are certain things you can do to find the right people, help them become proficient and keep them. Here are some key areas to observe when focusing on leadership training.

The first part is recruiting and hiring people; where do you find qualified candidates and how do you hire them? Now days, there are plenty of websites you can use for hiring, but I still believe in the value of prospecting for people. Good leaders teach their sales team to prospect for customers and likewise, good leaders should also prospect to build a good sales team. Remember (ABH) “Always Be Hiring.” If you don’t have room for additions, be willing to make room for the right person.

When hiring, don’t oversell the job. Set realistic expectations and ask professional and clear questions. Set up a second interview - don’t be desperate for the hire. Be sure they really want the job and that they are not just taking any job they can find. Take your time during this step and you will build a strong foundation that will lead to better success. Build a strong team - the stronger the team and the stronger the leader, the stronger the whole dealership will be.

Training is another area that is sometimes started at the dealership but is not always continued by the managers. The reasons could be that the managers just got busy or that they lack the content needed in a good training program to continue the development of the sales team. Ongoing training, also known as income development, should be done daily - training at every opportunity available to do business. By doing ongoing training we show our people that we care and that we are committed to their success. If we can strengthen the manager’s ability to provide quality training and development, then the whole sales team and dealership will be more successful.

Training sales teams should not only be about how to meet and negotiate with customers, but should also include teaching how to prospect for new business. There are constant training opportunities that are overlooked far too often, and unfortunately, this leads to regret at the end of the month.

Another area that is vital to the success of the mid-level manager is their ability to motivate their sales people. One topic we look at with leaders is: Do they really know their people and do they understand what motivates them? If you don’t understand your sales team - who they are and what matters to them - then how can you possibly motivate them? I have often found that people following a leader don’t always care how much the leader knows, but they do want to know how much the leader actually cares.

Finally, the big one: The ability to retain good people. Over many years of helping hire and place people, I have seen a constant need for sales people. I always ask the same question when I am told someone needs salespeople – “Why?” Why did you lose the salespeople you already had? If we work so hard to find and hire salespeople, and then, each time we go through the process of training them, why would we let them get away? That is why focusing on training the mid-level manager can help in finding better people - hiring, training, motivating and retaining them. By doing these things dealerships will achieve more profitable and consistent monthly outcomes.