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Sales Manager Makeover

Sales managers often end up as inventory control clerks or paper shufflers or any variety of things that have nothing to do with what they should be focused on – managing individual sales encounters with customers.


I recently assigned some homework to a sales manager at a dealership we work very closely with. His challenge is to let go of all the things that get in the way of managing the showroom floor and really become a manager of individual sales encounters, as opposed to being a clerk.

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One of the things we find way too often is that the typical sales manager’s job description has little or nothing to do with the skill-set that got them noticed in the first place. They end up as inventory control clerks or paper shufflers or any variety of things that have nothing to do with what they should be focused on — managing individual sales encounters with customers.

Rocky, the hero of our story, is the king of micro-measuring. He evolved into that guy because he believed in the theory that measuring is managing. The problem for him was that all the energy spent on measuring and monitoring got in the way of managing the interaction with the customers on the floor. If you asked him the number of door swings it took his number three salesperson to sell a light blue bike with a padded backrest to a female rider, he could tell you. But if you asked him what his number three salesperson was talking about with the customer looking at the cruiser over on the other side of the showroom right now, he wouldn’t know.


Although I absolutely agree that if you don’t measure, you can’t manage, there is a huge difference in the application of those two statements. Rocky could produce spreadsheets that explained his spreadsheets. His office looked like the bridge on the Starship Enterprise, and he was Captain Kirk. You could find anything in there but the top of his desk. Jim Sapienza, our senior trainer, once said, “I love working with Rocky and the crew; I just can’t sit in his office for more than a minute without starting to twitch.”

So Rocky’s homework assignment was to watch the movie Days of Thunder and to identify with Cole Trickle, the hot-shot driver played by Tom Cruise. After a few days of not hearing from him, I shot him an e-mail asking, “Where’s my report?” This is what he sent back the next morning.


Rocky Trickle is a young driver (sales manager) who can kick anybody’s ass on the track (sales floor) but his talent is somewhat raw and possibly reckless.  He can drive, no question. It just isn’t pretty.  Even though he thinks he can do it all, he really can’t do it alone.

Rocky Trickle does have the drive, the nerve, talent and the balls to succeed; however, it needs to be refined so that he can focus on what is important — the race track.

Obviously, the road to victory lane for Trickle wasn’t easy. It was won one lap at a time and eventually one race at a time with the coaching from his crew chief in his ear and his pit crew down in the garage.


(Otis Hackett Group, my dealer and my GM) are the guys in my ear.  They are actually more than that … they supply the sponsorship, the tools, the car, the training, the guidance that keeps me alert and in-tune with the track.

My sales guys are like my pit crew.  They keep my car running in perfect order so that I can win the race at the end of the day.

So here is the gist of the story:  (Otis Hackett Group, my dealer and my GM) provided me with the car, sponsorship and the crew chief.  Tim, Basil, Rocco, Larissa, Aaron and Ruben are my pit crew.  They help keep the car running so that after 500 miles, we win the race with precision and performance. They’re the people I couldn’t do without.


By focusing on the track, letting the dealership worry about the outside interruptions, and having me work closely with my crew, we’re going to be winning races, kicking ass and taking names.

That’s what I got from the movie. Am I on the right track? 

So from this point on, once Rocky knew that he didn’t need to be a total control freak, we were able to start to trim down his monitoring mechanisms to include only those that pertain to the showroom floor.

He had to repent: stop, turn, and go in another direction.

First we stripped Rocky of his comfort zone, his office. He wasn’t the guy with the blacked out windows so that nobody could see him, but the kind of work he did in that office was all about, well, the kind of things you need an office for: administrative things. If you’re going to manage each and every sales encounter, you can’t do that in an office, so we blew his office up.


Next we moved him out of his Captain Kirk chair and put him out near the center of the showroom with nothing but a podium. Now on that podium, we put out two documents. Both of these will be replaced by electronic systems one fine day, but for now, it’s essential that Rocky learns to remain acutely aware of two things. One, how this information flows through the customer’s buying process. Two, how to support his team in getting customers through the buying process. We gave him a guest registry and a write-up log.

Next time we’ll tell you how Rocky progressed into a lean and mean floor-managing machine.

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