Your dealership is like a rock band. Think about this: You need to have the right musicians to make great music (or what I like to call “classic rock”). In addition to writing and recording memorable songs that stand the test of time, there are two primary factors that determine a band’s success: ability and personality.
Let’s call it the “Entwistle Effect.” John Entwistle, the original bass player for The Who, played his instrument aggressively. He set free a flurry of rhythmic sounds, called “fills,” that sustained the listener’s attention during breaks in the song’s melody. Entwistle possessed a natural ability to master the art of fills in The Who’s complex music. Yet, despite his musical prowess, Entwistle would have failed miserably in Led Zeppelin, another legendary rock band. Why? Because there was no room for him, musically speaking. Guitarist Jimmy Page handled all the fills, relegating Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones almost to secondary status.
All four members of The Who contributed equally to the music. Entwistle sustained the song, Roger Daltrey’s powerhouse vocals and superb showmanship allowed the band to explode on stage, guitarist Pete Townshend wrote superior songs that matched his confidence in feedback experimentation, and the late maniacal drummer Keith Moon, who often provided comic relief, was just happy to be there pounding on his kit like Animal from The Muppets.
While the musical abilities of each member of The Who complemented one another, so too did their musical personalities.
Entwistle is arguably one of the most iconic and influential bass players in rock history. He also was one of the quietest and most staid in the business. That made him the perfect fit for a band that already boasted three outsized egos. He never allowed whatever ego he possessed to get in the way of the band’s collaborative process and subsequent success.
Four Personality Types
When you’re building a band of salespeople, either by hiring new employees or strategizing with the ones you have, you’ll need to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each player. Not everybody can be like John Entwistle — you still need a Daltrey, a Townshend and even a guy like Moon. In short, you need four distinct types of people:
- Analytical people: These individuals are motivated by data. They want to do things the right way or not at all. They need to plan, examine details and find logical solutions. Under stress, they tend to overanalyze and avoid making decisions or expressing emotions, which can prove fatal when trying to make a sale or collaborate on building an end display. Rather, an analytical person is ideal for a task like ordering inventory.
- Amiable people: These individuals are great listeners, they are willing to collaborate, and they thrive in team environments. Colleagues recognize that and turn to their amiable co-workers for support. That good-guy persona, however, can lead to an unwillingness to confront others when conflicts arise, as well as an inability to make decisions and to feelings of being overwhelmed. Position amiable people behind the cash wrap, or put them on a display-building team. Just don’t put them in charge.
- Drivers: You might want these people in charge, at least most of the time. They are assertive and make decisions quickly, stay goal-oriented, and aren’t afraid to take risks. Drivers also enjoy power, which can create tension within the dealership because of their tendency to become authoritative. That leads to conflict. Drivers can also easily overlook details and make mistakes.
- Expressive people: These individuals possess upbeat personalities that seek recognition. They motivate others and successfully build alliances. However, there’s a dark side to expressive people: When something or someone upsets them, they get nasty — throwing insults and working up their intensity levels.
You can’t have a sales force consisting of all drivers, nor would you want one. Their personalities won’t click with customers who prefer the soft-sell approach and need a lot of time to make buying decisions. Similarly, you don’t need a half-dozen employees who always want to work the cash wrap while only two enjoy building displays. What if no one wants to develop that email marketing strategy you’ve been talking about for weeks?
What Kind Of Band Do You Want To Be?
Once you’ve identified the strength and weaknesses of your “band mates,” ask yourself how you can help them work side by side to bring out their best abilities and tap into their personalities.
Here are five questions to get you started:
1. What style of music are you playing? Straight-ahead, meat-and-potatoes rock ’n’ roll like AC/DC? Or progressive rock like Rush? In other words, does your dealership cater to the hard-riding road guys who want to customize the heck out of their bikes, love loud pipes and always ride with a wrench in their pocket? On the other hand, do you promote the dealership as a go-to destination for sophisticated social riders, or maybe high-performance types who care as much about engineering as style? The sales staff you have in place should reflect the type of dealership you profess (or desire) to be. Remember, John Entwistle never would have succeeded in Led Zeppelin.
2. Who is your audience? Think about your store location. If the dealership is in the heart of a college city, you’ll want employees who are comfortable around younger riders. Similarly, if you’re in a blue-collar manufacturing area, make sure staff members can relate to the challenges faced by that community of buyers. Same goes for a farming town, a resort area or an urban neighborhood. If your band of sales professionals isn’t able to speak the language of your clientele, the band is going to be booed out of business. Why play heavy metal at a jazz festival?
3. Are you an arena band, or more of a club act? This question has more to do with energy level than anything else. Can you imagine KISS playing a nightclub? I’m not saying those guys never played clubs, but that’s not where they belong. Do your employees have the stamina to perform a three-and-a-half hour arena concert like Bruce Springsteen or go on an epic three-year tour as Metallica did in support of its self-titled 1991 disc, better known as “The Black Album?” Alternatively, are you more of a studio band that records a killer record, as so many great bands have done?
“But wait, Mark,” I can hear some of you saying. “Are we still talking about selling motorcycles?” Well, substitute “arena concert” with “12-hour days,” “epic tour” with “summer-long sales event” and “killer album” with “major marketing campaign,” and you’ll see what I mean. If your people don’t have that kind of energy, then perhaps you need to refocus your strategy by either replacing one or two members of the band or reworking your stage presence.
4. Who is the most talented member? Most rock bands are organized around the most talented individual. Van Halen had guitarist Eddie Van Halen, Zeppelin had Page, AC/DC had guitarist Angus Young. Ideally, everyone on your staff possesses his or her own talents and contributes to the overall success of the dealership; the foundation of that success likely will lie with one (or maybe two) people. He might be a driver, or she might be the expressive one. Even amiable and analytic people could take the lead. It all depends on what kind of dealership you want to be and for whom. Remember, not everybody needs to be, nor should they be, the leader. Rare is the band, or business, in which everyone is equally gifted. Rush and The Band are two notable exceptions.
5. Are you built to last? I have to raise my 1988 Les Paul Custom to The Rolling Stones, who celebrated 50 years as a band in 2012. That’s longer than I’ve been alive! KISS has been together in some form or another for 40 years, and prog rockers Rush and Yes are still recording and touring after 45 years. Even The Who have continued. Compare The Who’s longevity with bands that barely stuck around for one album and then disappeared without a trace. Ever heard of The Lounge Flounders? Or Hard Meat? How about Farrenheit, which toured as the opening act for Boston in 1987?
Do you want to be a dealership that exists for decades, pleasing generations of fans with solid employees who have complementary abilities and personalities? If that’s the goal, you better evaluate your existing staff. Determine its assets and liabilities, and base future hiring decisions on who will fit in with the rest of your band of sales professionals. Then get them to make great music — and sell more motorcycles — together.
An award-winning author, top-rated trainer and founder of Peak Dealership Performance, Mark Rodgers holds a master’s degree in adult education and the National Speakers Association Certified Speaking Professional designation — only 500 people in the world have this coveted recognition. Contact [email protected] to improve your performance.