By Jim Hammill
President and CEO
Erwin Hymer Group of North America
In a high market like the one we all have now, it’s unlikely that we industry people think as much about how we should all work hard on trust and relationships. We assume everyone is happy. And we might assume we don’t have to keep strong, good relationships. That’s a mistake.
For instance, build strong relationships with the front-line sales team. It’s a group that should be close and have trust with dealers and dealer staff. Communication lines need to be open. Friendly, open communication is very important. And be positive — positive, positive, positive.
The one area that people in this industry should try to, maybe, alter a bit, is the attacking of front-line salespeople. It never seems to fail, if the dealer or dealer management are upset about something a manufacturer has done or is doing, they then take a hard run at the sales representative they have.
They call me, for instance, and they say that rep, that person, is suddenly the “B” team. They tell me that that salesperson is a “terrible rep.” “They haven’t been to our dealership in years.” “They don’t train anybody.” “They never answer phone calls.” “He’s a drunk.” He is “screwing us for product.” “He’s disorganized.” “He’s a delegator; never does any work himself.” “Maybe it’s time we got a strong rep.” “He hates us, we always get nothing from you guys when he’s around.”
Inevitably, these facts are almost always shown to be untrue. When I review it, and call salespeople at the dealership, check history, check expenses, check travel records, it’s completely the opposite. So, its either frustration or simply a coping mechanism for the dealer person. Or it is a very weak tactical move to try and create leverage on the rep.
But, it’s really destructive. The manufacturer salespeople are really negatively affected. It takes positive energy from them, it makes them less excited to deal with a dealer who does that. The dealer ends up less supported, inevitably. And some dealers will stick with it.
And, in almost every case, the front-line salespeople did absolutely nothing wrong. They did everything right.
In our company, decisions about product, new dealers, new brands, discounts, allocations, etc., are done in a collaborative setting. The salespeople do not make decisions by themselves. They are part of a strong team. It’s not one person, and it’s not appropriate to attack that person.
It’s important that dealer ownership, management and staff recognize that the front-line sales team, both out in the territories and at the factory, are their strongest advocates. And when you attack your advocates, you are hurting your own business.
Think about it? After you attack him? Is that rep going to give you more allocated product? Is that rep going to treat you the same way? Is he going to work hard for you after you slam him?
I have seen these behaviors for many, many years, and the dealers and staff that act professionally, and don’t make disagreements personal, they are the ones who sell the most, make more profit, and who are the most stable. They think the “relationship” is more important. And they are right.
It’s okay to disagree and advocate for your dealership. Just don’t attack the person who is helping you the most. That’s not wise, and it doesn’t build relationships. And this is a relationship business. Don’t get personal. Stay to the facts, and we all win better.
This is a great business we are in! Be strong! Be positive!
Jim Hammill is the president and CEO of Erwin Hymer Group of North America, which produces Roadtrek motorhomes and Hymer travel trailers. The company is headquartered in Kitchener, Ontario.