SEMA eNews Vol. 12, No. 26, July 2, 2009

Why the Best Salesman Isn't Always Your Best Manager

Eddy Kay, one of several scheduled presenters during the 2009 SEMA Show Education Days, is the principal of the Eddy Kay Group and author of Retailers Amnesia. His seminar “Selling Against the Internet: Secrets of Successful Retailing” is scheduled November 5, 9:30 a.m.–10:30 a.m.

Following are his thoughts on successful retail management:

"I want to be the manager! I want to be the manager!” cries the poor naïve salesperson. Don't feel badly. I wanted to be the manager, too. Right up until I was one. It isn't that manager is a bad job. It's just I had no idea how to be one. I knew how to be a salesman because I took some courses. Watched some videos. Read some books. And because I was the number one salesman in the store, they promoted me to manager as a reward.

In fact, what had happened as a result of the misguided promotion was that they lost their best salesperson and acquired a totally inept manager. All I was aware of was I got an extra taste every month and the other employees had to kiss my ring. They forgot to inform me that I was responsible for hiring, firing, scheduling, maintanance, training, accounting, bank deposits, general paper work, and let's not forget the big one: the alarm company had my name as the first one to call.

3:00 a.m.: "Hello? Mr. Kay? Sorry to bother you."

"No problem. I always get up seven hours before work. It gives me a chance to brush my teeth and get some coffee."

There is absolutely no correlation between being a good salesperson and being a manager. It's like rocket science and heart surgery: two different jobs. Most of the time the manager gets burned out and quits. So what happens? The company promotes another salesperson. Most colleges offer a four-year program in management. Somehow, I was supposed to have acquired this education as the result of a phone call. However, I took the job anyway. After all, my manager did nothing. I knew how to do nothing. Therefore, I was perfectly qualified.

All tasks (and kidding) aside, the toughest job a manager has is the motivation and satisfaction of their employees. No one gets burned out on success. And if you can allow your employees to feel successful, they will stay, work and thrive in your environment.

Let me give you some things to consider. First and foremost: Your employees are not mind readers. Don't think for a minute you and they have the same values or ideas as to what is right and wrong. What you think is polite they may feel is unnecessary. For example, you would never hire anyone whom you thought was rude. Of course not. However, how many times has an employee walked right by a customer without saying hello? That's rude. Why should you have to teach you crew such basic manners? Because it makes you money.

People like to shop where it's friendly. But I'll bet your employees were never told that politeness equals sales. In addition, I'll bet they were never told to greet everybody with a friendly smile and pleasant manner. You, like all managers, took for granted they knew the difference between right and wrong.

Well, they don't. You have to tell them everything. You think this is common sense? Well, it may be sense, but it sure isn't common. If it was, I wouldn't be ignored every time I go shopping.

Second: "I need you to make sure the store is clean.” Does the employee know what your definition of clean is? You walk in and they vacuumed the floor; therefore, the store is clean. Unless you told them otherwise, they did what you asked. You have no right, as a manager, to be disappointed they didn't get rid of the empty 42 oz. soft drink cups behind the counter, or wipe the finger-cheese from the displays, or clean the bathroom. Not just the toilet, but also the sink, the floor, the walls.

Did you tell them to get rid of the girly magazines so the female customers wouldn't be insulted? If you did not, the dirty bathroom is the result of poor management, not a lazy employee. I was amazed when I walked into one of my stores and saw they had five back issues of Mobile Electronics magazine in the waiting room. The customer is waiting for their car reading about how much profit the store made on them. When I asked, with great wonder, what compelled them to do such a thing I was told, "No one said not to."  

You know something? They were right. I mistakenly took for granted they were smart enough to know better. In essence, it was my fault those magazines were out. You have to let your people know how you want YOUR store to be run. Not their version of what you think. And don't be afraid to teach them something so elementary they're offended. You don't know what they don't know.  

You should have a rulebook for them when they hire in. It's called a Policy Manual. And you may think because they got one, they read it. Sorry. I am presuming you understand the premise. Here is how it works for you:  When you ask an employee to do a task, a task they have been trained to do, and they do it correctly, you have the opportunity to pat them on the back.

But you have to say more than "good job' to be effective. You have to cite their accomplishments along with the accolade. Otherwise, it's just another empty stroke. Here's an example: "Bob, I asked you to get the store clean. I came in and saw it was vacuumed and you got all the garbage out from behind the counter. The boxes on the floor are straightened and the burned-out light bulbs have been replaced. The store looks good. Congratulations. Good job."

When you do it like that, Bob knows that you know how hard he worked. Now “good job” means something.

"Hey guys, we sold a boatload of stuff today and all the installations went great. Good job!" When you define it, he feels successful. He not only did a good job, but he has a good job.

It goes the other way too. You can't chastise someone without going over the details as well.

"Dan, I asked you to clean the bay last night and you forgot to take out the garbage. I need you to do that so the bay looks neat and doesn't smell like a landfill. That way when a customer walks back here, it looks professional. And a professional-looking shop breeds more money." I not only told Dan what had to be done, but told him why it had to be done. He's more likely to do it if he can see the benefit. And when I catch him doing it right, I will take the same road I did with Bob. Dan will feel just as successful and appreciated.

Before I was taught what to do, I failed miserably. I was frustrated beyond belief. But I took some seminars, read some books and eventually became a really good manager. I often wondered who got the job after I left. I have a sneaky suspicion it was the number-one salesperson.

View details on all of the seminars and presenters during the 2009 SEMA Show Education Days.

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