Advice: What Builds Top Performers’ Longevity?

A picture of Jered Sobel from Sobel University speaking by headphone

After surveying hundreds of top-performing dealerships and salespeople, I have noticed a near universal truth regarding top sales performers.

Long-term productive employees schedule and use all their vacation time. Long-term productive employees have no concerns about their continuing career viability. Employers with a deep bench of long-term productive employees make sure they position those employees to care for their customers.

This is a simple sales department formula: Long-term productive employees create long-term customers, who in turn create a sustainable business.

Some dealerships’ employees have the mindset that they work for the customer. If that is true, we need to make sure those who provide our customers with care are also caring for themselves.

When employees worry about personal safety, their family’s health or their future longevity working in a position, those worries and fears will hinder serving customers at the highest level.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that if safety needs are unmet, nothing else matters. If safety needs are unmet, humans cease to function on any higher level than simply meeting those base needs.

When employees dread taking off time to be with loved ones because of losing job security, or they worry whether their job will remain viable during the next economic crisis, fear and worry will cripple their work and the quality of care they offer to customers.

Why would a salesperson spend time cultivating a clientele if they believe their job is “just a job?”

Why would a manager care whether a customer is unhappy if the manager will not be around to deal with long-term ramifications? In a world were brand loyalty is not as strong as previously, what creates a loyal client base?

One of the top RV salespeople in the United States attended my comprehensive sales class a few years ago. She was in our advance December class with other top salespeople in her industry. She learned collectively that these other top performers had rich personal lives. They took quality vacations in addition to the first-rate efforts they expended at the dealership.

The following year, she scheduled more vacation time than she had taken in the previous five years combined. The time off, in addition to the new skills gained from the course, helped her improve her sales volume by 50 percent above the previous year. Keep in mind she was already a country-wide leading sales top performer. A 50 percent increase above being one of the best of the best is a high mark to hit. Big percentage increases are easy when the numbers are low. Her numbers were not low.

One would think more time off would equate to fewer sales opportunities. What mattered was the skill level applied to the opportunities and the salesperson’s overall qualities. She performed even better when given more time with her friends and family. Perspective and balance empowered her with the ability to function at her best. With higher-quality work, she increased her gross average by more than a third.

Happier salespeople lead to happier customers.

Last month, I had another salesperson who I would describe as smart as anyone participating from his home in our virtual Comprehensive Sales Course. His upside potential was incredibly high, but during the class, he got very sick.

His temperature rose to more than 101 degrees. He passed out. When he felt as if his head were melting, he decided to drive himself to the doctor.

He wanted to work during his illness, respecting the work opportunity to receive education and better himself. That was his priority even when I directed him to reconsider and not worry about missing the class. I explained how his manager and I would handle rescheduling him to complete the class another time. Even after I told him I was solely worried about his health, he still wanted to work his way through the course.

As long as he worried about how his employer would construe his not working through the illness, about potential future medical bills, or about how time off could affect his perceived viability to his employer, his ability to excel in the class was being hampered. Having these fears and worries limited his long-term abilities.

Without confidence and trust that his managers and company would protect him, he ultimately will fail to attend to his customers the way I knew he could.

Both these examples teach the same lesson. If you want your customers to receive the highest-level care, sales teams must not only be properly trained, but they need to be in a mental and physical state to do so, too. Now, caring for our sales teams to increase productivity goes both ways. The top salesperson would never compromise her organization to gain personally. The young salesperson would not put his sales manager in a position to question his work ethic.

Top salespeople never put their bosses in positions where they must make a hard decision about their staff.

Sometimes, managers and owners become distracted by short-term elevated performance numbers. Many salespeople did a spectacular job in 2020 who were not so good before. They will not be able to sustain their 2020 numbers in 2021. Be wary of situations where overwhelming demand (like in 2020) elevated an average salesperson’s sales numbers with temporary “top salesperson numbers.” The closing line, “You can get this one now while we even have it, or the next person will buy it,” will fail to close deals in future markets.

One salesperson at a dealership I work with appeared to have “finally turned the corner.” He posted pace-setting numbers for two consecutive months after his state mandated business shutdowns. In my conversations with him, I realized “pace-setting numbers” would not last. He did not change, but urgency in the market did. As summer peaked, the market changed again. His numbers went right back to where they were before.

Once-in-a-century pandemics happen only once in a century (we hope). Many skills and behaviors that were tolerated because salespeople were needed and productive are not the same skills and behaviors that carry long-term sales teams through all economic situations. Top salespeople are not looking at their job “as a job.” They see their work as a career they get to build, a career that will afford them the quality of life they want for themselves and their families.

They do not hold their managers hostage to different work rules, and they do not hold owners hostage, either. They are respectful and understand that the better the dealership does, the more opportunities they will have.

Top salespeople work hard but require balance. Top salespeople do the best with the opportunities they have, but they need the skills required to succeed in every economic situation. Top salespeople need to have job security, but in return must position their dealership/employer into a healthier, more successful company.

So, to be a great manager and have a successful business:

  1. Build long-term, productive employees and ensure you provide opportunities to create personal/work life balance.
  2. Prioritize employee development, education and training.

Statistics show you will be rewarded with long-term business security by your dealership’s clientele.

Jered Sobel serves as faculty at Sobel University, a company dedicated to training top dealerships and salespeople around the country. His previous experience includes working as a dealership salesperson, hiring dealer staff and working as a general sales manager.

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