Re-thinking the Sales Department

August 27, 2008

Every day I am increasingly convinced that there is a serious dysfunction in our dealerships that prevents us from realizing our used car potential. When used vehicle departments fail to meet expectations, it is assumed to be the responsibility of the used car manager. I would assert that the actual failure has less to do with any individual and much more to do with the organization as a whole.

The primary dysfunction begins with the fact that today, the used car business is all about the internet. In other words, most customers enter our dealership as a result of their internet experiences. Yet, very few used car managers have responsibility for the dealership’s internet strategies or tactics. In fact, experience shows me that the used car manager at the dealership is usually far removed from the realm of the internet business. He or she is largely focused on the critical traditional tasks of inventory/asset management. Yet, despite this common separation of duties, it is almost always the used car manager who bears the ultimate responsibility for the performance of the used car department. Their pay, recognition, and job security depend on both the virtual and physical sides of the equation, but yet they seldom control both. Therefore, is it proper to attribute the success or failure of this department to any single individual that happens to have the title of used car manager? I don’t think so. Rather, I believe that the performance of the used car department is an organizational responsibility.

To support this premise, contact any CarMax in America and ask to speak to the used car manager. You’ll find that they don’t have one. That’s not to say that there aren’t individuals at CarMax that perform the duties of the traditional used car manager – it’s just that they recognize that what it takes to be successful goes far beyond the traditional used car management skills.

I think that it’s high-time for us to re-think the traditional dealership organizational structure, the one that has a new car manager, used car manager, and of late, internet manager. The market has clearly changed and with it, the required skill set for success. So why do we continue to manage our business the same way that we have for the last 100 years?