Dealership Manager Vs Leader

Lesson 1 – Manager Vs Leader

Which one are you?

A good number of books have been written about the differences between managers and leaders. In most cases, managing is looked at in a negative way compared to leading. What do you think?

Managers Leaders
Usually stick to what they were taught with little room for new ideas. Are always looking to improve. They don’t limit creativity.
View themselves as the keepers of wisdom and authority. Facilitate learning and empower their teams to come up with solutions.
Spend their time working the system. Spend their time working a process.
Maintain the companies level of success. Increase the companies level of success.

Lesson 2 – Now that you’re in charge

New Expectations

Car MarketingBeing successful in sales doesn’t mean you’ll be a successful manager or leader. That’s because you are now expected to transfer your past success to others who may or may not have the skills, knowledge or desire that you have. Additionally, you have the added responsibilities of managing inventory or shop loads, which require entirely different skill sets. So whCompare your style to the above chart to determine which best represents your approach. While both styles have seen success in the car business, it’s important to know where you are now, and what areas you may need to improve.

Why you manage the way you do

Most managers have backgrounds that include some form of customer contact. Salespeople, customer service representatives and consultants often assume management responsibilities. On the surface they appear to be able to motivate, solve problems and make presentations to small groups.

In the car business, most managers were promoted to their positions because of their sales success. This includes both service advisors and sales consultants. And the only example they have had to determine what approach they should take to managing successfully is the person they are replacing. This may or may not be good news.

Begin with the end in mind

Here are some things you should consider:

  • Look at the entire department. Find out what works well and what doesn’t
  • Interview each member of your team
  • Ask team members to supply ideas for improving your department
  • Empower those who have a strategy. Let them take the ball and run with it
  • Take a risk with ideas that seem to make sense
  • Reevaluate your department at least annually

Take personal responsibility

Philip Massinger, an English play write of the 16th century offers these words of wisdom:

“He who would govern others, first should be the master of himself”

What are your objectives? If you don’t have your own goals, you’ll never be able to help your team set them or achieve them. And don’t just set a unit number or total customer pay hours as your goal. Set specific goals for things like parts, service contracts and accessories, and recalls performed.

Lesson 3 – Making the tough decisions

Treat the cancer or lose the life

Believe it or not, people choose to keep a cancerous leg over saving their own life. And sadly, managers choose to continue using bad processes, and keep under performing staff at the expense of a healthy dealership. In both cases, the end result is the same. While change can be difficult, it’s absolutely vital that you make the tough decisions if you’re going to take your team to the next level of success.

Staff changes

One of the more difficult things a manager has to do is to relieve someone of their employment. It can have a negative impact on the team but it can also turn your entire dealership around. So it’s important that you take an approach that is fair, and focused on the best interests of everyone involved. Here are a few ideas:

Set clear expectations – Before making a change, be sure the entire team understands what’s expected and that everyone is held to the same level of accountability

Focus on performance – While personality issues and negative behaviors can be reasons for dismissal, it’s best to address performance issues that impact the bottom line.

Establish a deadline – Provide the employee with a requirement to improve within a clearly defined time frame. This gives them an opportunity to change and helps you to prepare if things don’t improve.

Offer training – Provide the employee with special training. Paying for training can be a good deal cheaper than hiring new staff

Follow through – Be consistent. If an employee fails to improve within the time allotted, do not hesitate to terminate the relationship under any circumstances. It could cost you more than you know.

Process changes

Customer satisfaction is an important part of a dealership’s success. The way in which you deliver your products and services definitely impacts future business. If you’re still approaching the sales and service process in ways that are considered high pressure or old world, it’s time to implement new processes at your dealership.

Lesson 4 – New ideas for a new century

Advantage customer

Today’s customers are more informed and have more options available to them than at any other time in history. And the products and services you offer can be provided by 10 other dealers within 5 minutes of your dealership. You can’t afford to do business the same way it was done even 10 years ago.

Lessons from top hotels

Visit hotels like the Ritz Carlton and you’ll find out what customer satisfaction is all about. You can’t walk within 3 feet of a Ritz employee without receiving a smile and a friendly hello. And these employees are under just as much stress and usually make a lot less money than automotive professionals. That’s because they’ve been trained to understand that the customer’s experience is their #1 priority.

Still scraping bottom

Did you know that automotive salespeople are still regarded as the least trustworthy people in business? Just ahead of real estate salespeople. And frankly, we deserve it! We’ve treated people with such dishonesty and disrespect in the past that we have a long road ahead of us if we’re to change customer perception. The good news is you only have to change that perception one customer at a time.

Culture change is needed

Since company’s like Lexus and Infiniti began utilizing consultative processes with great success; manufacturers have made efforts to employ similar processes. Some have done better than others. Those who have been successful not only changed their processes, they changed their culture.

What that means is they chose to view their business differently. They rewrote their mission statements; created customer focused values and held their organizations to high standards of satisfaction. Some of the things they changed include:

Equal treatment for every customer – People who aren’t as good at negotiation still get a good deal
Low pressure sales processes – If the customer says no, they use specific processes that let the customer walk away feeling good about the relationship even if they don’t buy. Then they focus on follow up activities.

Creative sales approaches including:

  • Salespeople are allowed to leave the dealership to meet with customers
  • 24 hour extended test drives that allow a customer to experience the product under real life situations
  • Salespeople take the customer from start to finish, without involving a closer

Sales Management

  • Service departments offer shuttle service at no charge
  • Service departments offer mobile oil changes at either no charge or a nominal fee
  • Service washes every car regardless of the service
  • Service offers 27 point inspections at no charge
  • Business centers offer waiters access to internet and other services at the dealership

These are just a few of the hundreds of ways top performing dealerships have changed the way they do business in the 21st century.


Whether you are a traditional manager or an entrepreneurial leader, you are in control of the success or your department and the individuals who work there. By taking the time to evaluate your processes and practices, you could be on your way to achieving higher profits than every before.

Here’s to your success!