Thursday, October 1, 2009

It Makes You Wonder

Ah, the inequities of life.

I sell cars.  Truth is, here lately, I mostly look at them.  But that wasn't always the case.

In 1998 I began working for a brand new dealership in Central Florida, owned by the Kelly Management Group, but more importantly overseen by Mr. Robert (Bob) Kelly.

I first met Mr. Kelly in January 1999 when he visited our store while on his winter season in sunny Florida.  The Kellys lived in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, not far from Pittsburgh.  It was cold there in the winter.  It was warm in Florida.

Mr. Kelly owned seventeen dealerships at that time, and Palm Bay Ford was the newest.  It was there he decided to change the way cars and trucks were sold.  We had a plan, developed for Saturn by Chris Saracino, whom Mr. Kelly hired away.

It was the Palm Bay Ford Sales Plan.  A simple title.  A new way of doing business.

Without going into all the details here, let's just say it worked, and worked well.  I started as a sales consultant, worked my way to Sales Manager, then Finance Manager.  I trained new hires in the Sales Plan.  I saw that there were only two types of people who own dealerships:  those who love cars and love business,  and those who don't know a thing about cars and love business.  Mr. Kelly was the first type.  He taught me by example that it was important to know everyone who worked in the store, from the detail guys to the janitor.  I did.  He showed me it was important to call everyone by their name.  I did.  He made sure that he was always encouraging people to do better, not by berating them but by complimenting the good and correcting the bad.  I miss him.

We sold 78 vehicles our first month.  When I left in 2001, we were selling 300 monthly.

I'm in a store now that struggles to sell 60 vehicles a month.  A good month.

You know how in sports when a team doesn't do well they fire the manager?  It's the opposite in the car business.  Here management blames the sales consultants for the lack of production.

We had daily sales meetings in Florida, training people in product knowledge and salesmanship.  Here we have one meeting a week so we can be told how sorry we are in a back-handed way.

For instance:

Manager:  "Now we all know times are tough right now and we're doing the best we can.  I'm not blaming anyone, but..."  

Translation:  "I'm going to take the next 30-45 minutes and tell y'all why it's your fault the dealership's not selling vehicles.  And we'll do the same thing next week, next month, next year."

Manager:  "I know y'all think we have an inventory problem, but all the dealerships around here are in the same boat.  They don't have any inventory either, but they're selling more than we are."

Translation:  "Yes, we may be sitting on vehicles we've had for six months or more but I'm not buying any more until y'all sell these.  I don't care that nobody's even opened the door on one.  I bought/traded for them so I know we don't have too much in them.  Not after nine months."

In Palm Bay our Used Car Manager, Bill German, wouldn't allow a vehicle to stay on the lot after 45 days.  If we didn't sell it, he took it to the auction.  Did he take a loss?  Sometimes, but not often.  He knew how to buy and sell.  And if we were slow, at least we looked busy because the inventory was constantly changing.

Customers are no better.  Here's how that goes most of the time, if you can get far enough along that they don't believe you're a crook:

Customer:  "I ain't payin' a penny over invoice for that new Exploder.  I know y'all ain't losing a dime selling it fer invoice.  They's money hidden in thar somewhar."

No, we're not losing a penny.  We're losing the interest we paid on the floor plan, the money invested in personnel to sit with you and listen to your crap, anything we spent on advertising, etc.  It's a lot more than a penny, you idiot. 

Our dealership has what's referred to as a "sales tower".  It sits at one end of the store while the salesmen are located across the showroom at the other end.  It's called a tower for a reason.  It's made of ivory and all who dwell there pontificate about important matters such as the latest video on YouTube, who'll win the game this week, or other things that have nothing--NOTHING--to do with selling a car.  If any salesmen are caught talking about the same thing we're not doing our job.

Do you know how salesmen get paid? If you sell a car, you get paid on the "commisionable gross", that amount between what the vehicle costs and what you sell it for.  Remember the idiot customers?  They don't care if I get paid or not.  They just don't want to get screwed.  It doesn't matter if I do.

If you work a pay period and don't sell anything, you get paid minimum wage, less taxes, insurance, etc.  But in the car business, that pay is also referred to as a "draw", pay given to you against commissions you'll earn.  If you get paid a draw and don't sell anything, when you finally do sell something, guess what?  You have to pay that money, the "draw", back to the store.  If you don't sell something for a while, you're what we call "in the bucket".  It is hard to get "out of the bucket".

Ah, the inequities.

Every dealership has a "golden boy"--one who sells the most, makes the most money.  We have one.  He can't close a door, much less a deal.  He gets all the leads from every advertising source we use, his name's on our website as THE contact person.

I usually sell as many as he does, as do a couple of others.  Yet he's held up as the example of how it should be done.

I'll keep doing what I do, thank you very much, lest I should imitate him and become like him.

Daddy used to say "You may screw me, but you better kiss me first."

I'm not even getting a hug.

Now I don't want to be King of the Forest, so if this sounds like bitching and moaning, believe me, it's not.  It's more like Rage Against The Machine.

I think it was Zig Ziglar who said, "You manage things and motivate people."  I must be taking crazy pills, because neither one's being done here.

Our last meeting?  Yesterday?  We were told that you can't do the same thing you've been doing and expect different results.

Sure we can.  Been doing it for months.  But you're right about one thing.  We've been getting the same results.

Is it the "players" or "the coach"?  Makes you wonder.


Michael Ruffin said...

Please tell me that your boss isn't one of your "three readers" (your phrase, not mine).

bella said...

I lol'd, Dad.

Another amazing example of a "director directing a group" and not a "leader leading a team". Amazing. I'm praying the Lord sends you a better opportunity... You're the best, Dad. Mean it. I always talk about how brilliant you are.