COMMENTARY: Advice for running the business within your business

PURCELL, Okla. – 

One of the hardest parts of running a business is finding good help. I imagine most dealers agree with that statement.

I think that is part of the difficulty, you are looking for help. A warm body to fill a spot. You do need people to help you, but they should not be seen as “help.” You should be looking for team members. You want to have a group of people together that understand the mission and have become a team that when pushed they get every task necessary handled the way you want them handled.

There are many ways of achieving this. I have been in multiple dealerships for different reasons over the decades. I have created teams in four different operations I built, so I do understand the challenge of team building.

A big part of having successful teams is making sure everyone in your operation understands what you need done. Your team should know what you need to happen when someone comes through the door. A great team knows what every associate of the team does and how each of the tasks affects the tasks any other team members perform. You want everyone pulling the rope the same direction.

One important part of a team is the sales position. This is not a job just anyone can do. I have seen dealers that believe they can have any body they hire be the salesperson. If you are paying hourly with a small “move “ bonus for each car sold, you set down payments, prices and just turn whoever you hire loose then there is probably turnover because of a lack of training with pressure to perform leads to, or highlights poor dependability and work ethic.

I have had dealers and managers tell me “we cannot hire commission salespeople here.” I think that line should actually say “it is hard to hire commission-only salespeople”. I have never hired anyone but commissioned salespeople. Four different operations, three different states over 25-plus years. Of course, nothing is absolute, and again what worked for me and my managers isn’t always what works for others. Easy to do? No. I have met people that were great to talk to, easy to work with, driven to get what they wanted or needed done. Some of those folks that have worked out, and some did not. The ones that didn’t make it usually became enlightened to what we did (sell older, high mileage vehicles for all the money to credit challenged customers) and became more and more uncomfortable. They felt we were taking advantage, ripping off or hurting customers financially. I have hired others that felt we worked too much (or their spouse did). I have also hired people that could not make commission sales work for them. You have probably heard all of this. All of this the experience has led me to give a speech when a new recruit comes in.

Gene Daughtry

When I hire a new salesperson, I explain to them how we look at their position. I explain that the office space we provide is similar to a hairdresser’s station in a salon. The salesperson needs to realize he is building his own business within our business. We are partners. We provide the space, phone, lights, facilities, inventory, support, repairs for his/her customers, and we even pay them before we get paid.

As a salesperson in our establishment, you need to build your business. Your inventory is the customers and prospects you gather and work. You need applications every day. You do not have an inside sales job; it is an outside sales job. If you plan to sit here and wait on customers to show up, you will fail. You need to go out and find business. Everyone you encounter is either a potential client or a bird dog for you. Everyone you have acquaintance with should know you can get them a vehicle. We expect you to have people calling and walking in asking for you. Yes, we will market and have customers come to the lot. You will be required to help those customers when you are here; you should want every opportunity you can get. Your inventory is not the vehicles; that is our inventory, here for you to sell. Your inventory is the list of customers you build to work. You need to know what every person in your inventory is needing for transportation. You should have people you can sell this week, next month, three or six months from now and next year.

We will train and mentor you on how to maintain that inventory and work with you to succeed on every possible opportunity you present to us. We are partners. We share the profits. I then explain to them that we will not over hire for the business we can handle. “What does that mean?” I ask them. It means we need you here, every day you are scheduled. If you are not here, then someone else has to cover your spot. It is nice when as a salesperson on commission you can make money even when you are not in the dealership but that means someone else had to handle something for you. It also means you got half the potential commission and the other person did your job for the other half. That is not the end of the world but when one of your teammates is helping your customer and another customer comes in that is a fresh “up” the salesperson helping your customer misses the opportunity for a whole deal.

There are other parts of my speech that cover our “No Eggshell” policy, our “it’s not my job” policy and the very important one about what is stealing on a commissioned sales floor.

Since 1998, I have hired and maintained teams this way. The combined stores pushed $100 million on the books and thousands of vehicles. It has always worked for me. Commissioned sales are not for everyone but can be very rewarding for the right people. I want salespeople that advocate for their customers and work hard to get deliveries. Every operation I have been in there was always two to three people who got it. They made very good money (usually one who made more than $100,000), but they also did the work. They understood lot rodeos, keeping the place clean, dealing with snow, helping whoever came to the dealership and what was necessary to get a deal done. If they did not get it, we parted ways and looked for another team member.

Gene Daughtry has been in the dealership part of the automobile business since 1990. He has created 4 different BHPH dealerships from startup to mature portfolios, all with complete service facilities. Currently, Gene is the senior consultant for AMS Consulting, part of Auto Master Systems Dealer Management System. Gene does procedure writing, operations training, consulting and offers AMS Digital Marketing and AMS Analytics to BHPH and LHPH dealers. You can reach him at or call (479) 970-4049.

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