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What Does a General Sales Manager Do Really?

Written By: NCM Associates
Posted on September 03, 2015

At the NCM Institute we conduct our General Sales Management I, II, and III classes about every other month. They are often our most attended classes, so there’s lots of energy, and we are working with variable managers who have years of success in order to claim the title of general sales manager.

Often, even before introductions, our instructors will ask the class something like: "So exactly what is a general sales manager? Is it someone who has more experience than the other sales managers? Or someone who can cover for the used vehicle manager or F&I manager on their days off?"

We get a lot of looks like: Is this a trick question? Or is there something else we are missing? It definitely depends on the size of the store. In some larger stores, the GSM might very well have had success at the new vehicle, used vehicle, and F&I management levels; and he or she is in a position to oversee the other variable managers. In smaller or medium sized stores, the GSM may not have had that same breadth of experience. Or in the case of the used vehicle department, they may not have had much experience managing the used vehicle challenges in the Internet era, where everything has changed.

We find there is very little commonality in what a general sales manager is and exactly what they are responsible for. So we tell our students that the way the NCM Institute approaches this is that they are the “general managers of variable operations.” That sure sounds like a cool title to have, but what exactly does that mean?

As with every class we teach, we start with the discussion of Accountability Management & Leadership. This takes most of the first morning, especially since we are now talking about individuals who will be leading, coaching, and managing every aspect of variable operations.

Within Accountability Management we refer to the Six Primary Elements of Accountability, and they are:

  1. Planning your work and working your plan
  2. Clearly defining and communicating your expectations
  3. Inspecting what you expect
  4. Measuring what you intend to manage
  5. Rewarding positive results and responding to negative results
  6. Developing and implementing a systemic structure

By this point in time, most of these managers realize they are in for a very different experience than they had anticipated. We then dive into their numbers using the NCM 20 Group composite and profit trend analysis tools. We start looking at YOY new and used vehicle retail unit sales; YOY per vehicle retail gross; YOY total new and used gross; and YOY net F&I income. Then we look at several expense categories like: advertising, selling expenses, and YOY employment expenses. How are we trending? Do we know? What are our strategies based on the knowledge we have?

After the financial management discussion (which we often call “a punch in the nose”), we circle back to a full discussion of the second element of accountability management: Clearly Defining and Communicating Your Expectations.

We start this discussion by asking if any of the students’ dealerships have a current organizational chart in use; written job descriptions and objectives; and are any of the processes they use, like the road-to-the-sale, in writing? We get them to reflect on just what tools they really have in place to lead, coach, train, and manage with. By this point they realize we have huge upside opportunity for improvement and we still haven’t actually begun to talk about what they thought they came to us to learn.

Then we move into the discussion of Opportunity Management and Prospecting. We begin breaking down the sources of all of the opportunities to do business. We agree there are four sources:

  1. The walk-in customer
  2. The in-bound phone call
  3. The in-bound internet lead
  4. The salesperson self-generated lead (be-backs, repeat/referral, circle of influence, etc.)

We show them how each category has its own closing ratio and per vehicle income opportunity. We spend a couple of hours showing them how they can help their people focus more on the self-generated leads, which close at 50%, so they can start weaning them off the dealership-generated leads that most salespeople (and sale managers) count on for most of their sales.

Then we get into the discussion of Recruiting and Orientation which elicits some really great conversation. Then we spend a lot of time discussing Training Disciplines and Techniques. Because most of the managers in our GSM class have had quite a bit of experience, the level of interactive discussion amongst themselves is the most we have in any of our NCMi courses. And we know from the evaluations from our students that they value the content of these in-class discussions as much as everything we bring to their attention.

We then wrap up the class with the (much-needed by this point) discussion of Time Management. They are wondering how in the world they are going to be able to fit all of these new, critically important ideas and processes into their daily, weekly, and monthly schedules. They come away knowing it’s all very doable, IF they make the commitment to begin mastering Accountability Management. They have written a number of guarantee of action plans that will be sent back to their general manager or dealer to begin the buy-in and implementation processes. They can clearly see how they, and all the other variable operations team members they lead, can become increasingly more productive and profitable.

Learn more about our General Sales Management program or any other NCM Institute course.

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