There comes a time when dealership management teams simply have to exhibit leadership and steer the ship instead of waiting for the currents to drift them to port. I continue to encounter numerous dealerships that have extensive, and I might add in some cases, very expensive CRM software in place. The software covers all the actions of the floor, Internet and in many cases, back-end activity. The biggest continuing problem I see is what I call the “why isn’t our business growing?” question. The case in point happens to deal with the simple fact that most dealerships that have installed CRM software still think that some magical transformation will convert the dealership into a growth spurt because it now has software.

Impact GroupBack to the case in point, this week I spoke with a dealer who is getting ready to change all his Internet departmental platforms, including a new web site (again), new CRM software (again), new lead providers (again), new location in store (again), new approach (again), and a new ISM (again).

One year ago, we wrote and trained for all the standard operating procedures and processes inclusive for the ISM, management support and sales personnel as they interface in building the department. The processes included Internet management, incoming and follow-up telephone calls, owner base management and total CRM software practices and procedures. The management team at the time in our initial meeting was all too happy to agree to adhere to the standards for success we laid out. All vowed to practice leadership to ensure the processes were carried out by the ISM, the sales team and it all relied on the management team to make sure it occurred.

The second month after the install and training took place the store hit record numbers both on the floor and the Internet department. In fact, the new enhanced processes we installed yielded a 330 percent increase over any month ever reported for Internet sales. OK, one would think that the good news finally hit the management team in that processes and training are keys for the success toward growth. On the contrary, it was as if the feeling was, “wow, we have finally made it all work over the last 60 days and it will continue to do so all on its own so we (management) can go back to doing the mundane desk stuff where we are really comfortable.” Leadership went away and the department was left without a rudder and consequently began drifting to far away places.

My subsequent re-alignment meetings and conversations via telephone with the dealer were always directed at the fact that the ISM was sailing off to these distant lands (concentrating more on finding new improved mousetraps and software complements to the existing system) because management stopped leading the basic processes and leading the personnel to  ensure fulfillment of those things. The management team completely fell off the leadership wagon and actually ignored the fact the ISM and salespeople were not complying with the agreed upon processes, which gave them initial successes. Why? My feeling is sometimes management does not want to invest themselves by learning new practices and processes and then becoming accountable enough on a daily basis to adhere to the new standards. And, what does that do to the sales team? Just like kids whose parents do not exhibit good parenting leadership, the kids find their own activities to become involved with and they are usually not the right ones. Management cannot employ and mandate new processes and usage of new training techniques without practicing them themselves.

So, now the dealer is starting all over again as if a new magic potion will revive and make it all well. Unreliable leadership is the reason for failing, nothing else. The processes fell apart and management allowed it to happen. This is one example of leadership failing to do its duty.

I have said over and over again that the software is there only to facilitate well-trained people and good solid processes. The formula is 10 percent CRM software and 90 percent CRM based people and processes. Yogi Berra used to say, “Baseball is 50 percent physical and 90 percent mental.” We should say that CRM is 10 percent technology and 212 percent leadership. Become the leader that consistently leads because that is the only way you will experience store growth.


Chuck Barker

Chuck Barker has been CEO of his two companies, Impact Marketing & Consulting Group, LLC and Impact Summit, LLC, for the last 24 years, both located in Virginia. His experience ranges from an executive with Harris Corporation (16,000 employees) one of Fortune Magazine’s largest companies to the automobile industry where he has performed all executive positions. His companies specialize in growing businesses, dealerships and people. He delivers unparalleled sales & service development programs, management leadership workshop programs and dealer/principal business & profit improvement ideas for automobile dealerships. He has recently published the first comprehensive ‘in-house’ sales training solution program for dealers entitled The Dealership Success Guide.