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Sales managers key to sales staff success

Jason Cannon March 7, 2013

Sales staff are generally only as effective as those who lead them, making an effective sales manager an integral part of a successful dealership.

While management styles differ from person to person, an intent focus on motivation and communication is fairly uniform.

Dennis Boswinkle, sales manager for Nashville, Tenn.-based Nacarato Volvo says he holds a sales meeting with his six-member sales staff every Monday at 8 a.m. “without fail,” which lasts approximately an hour.

“I ask them to come prepared with what they’re working on, who they’ve seen and the things they’ve got in the works,” he says.

Chris Marsh, sales manager for Massachusetts-based Tri-State Truck Center, says he prefers to forgo standard weekly sales meetings with his four-person staff in favor of daily follow-ups and a monthly meeting to review sales programs/industry news.

“I like to keep in touch with guys on daily basis,” he says. “If you’re in touch daily, there’s not a lot of point in sitting down once a week.”

Jason Cluck, store branch manager for Arrow Truck Sales in Atlanta, holds a sales meeting every Monday and Thursday, each lasting less than an hour.

The Monday meetings are generally for new business, to review new programs and new information.

Cluck says the Thursday meetings are often led by the sales staff as they review their calls, their sales and their prospects. The Thursday meeting, he says, has become a motivating tool.

“Most of your good salesmen are very competitive,” he says. “When we meet and talk about deals, if one guy has less than the others, that guy is going to get in gear. Everybody wants to be top dog in the office.”

Once per month, one of Nacarato’s vendors will join their meeting and spend approximately an hour with the sales crew after the 8 a.m. meeting has concluded.

Boswinkle – who says his leadership style is, “rah-rah, maybe a little bit” – will join his sales personnel on any call at their request, but likes giving his crew the space to do their jobs in their territories.

“My guys have a lot of freedom,” he says. “They know parameters they have to live in.”

Marsh says he, too, allows his staff a lot of freedom, but is available to make four-legged or group sales calls at the sales rep’s request.

Cluck says his management style was “more buckle your chin strap and go to work,” but adds “I’m working on being a little more rah-rah.”

“I’m a numbers guy,” he says. “So, I do push results more than some managers.”

Boswinkle says he tries to arrange about two sales blitzes each year in each territory, but the salesperson in that territory is responsible for setting up the calls.

“A good blitz generates, if nothing else, a lot of leads,” he says. “The more leads you can give (a salesperson), the happier they are.”

Motivation can be one of the largest hurdles for managers to overcome as sales of trucks have been far from stellar.

“Last few years have been tough,” Boswinkle says. “Sales in the industry are not as strong as they have been. The year 2011 was good year, but that was driven by pent up demand. (Sales personnel) get disgusted waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Marsh says he tries to keep motivation high by ensuring that the sales staff is properly trained through standard Freightliner and Western Star courses, and ensuring the staff remains focused on task, realizing that results will come when best practices are followed.

Cluck says helping staff properly prospect and allowing the sales team to openly share their success stories have proven good motivators.

Nacarato requires all sales staff take one training class per month, which is offered through a mixture of in-house training and from vendors, most of which is completed online.

Marsh’s staff undergoes mostly online training, generally bi-monthly with sporadic sessions held by vendors.

Arrow’s sales staff undergoes in-house training and the company offers e-learning via its Intranet.

After a probationary period, sales staff are sent to Arrow headquarters in Kansas City for training and networking with other Arrow sales team members and also spend one week training in service shops.

Cluck says new hires are required to complete the initial training, but there no requirements once they get on their feet.

“For the good salesmen, you don’t have to require it,” he says. “They know the value of it.”

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