THE LOT PARTY
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The weekly sales meeting was held on Wednesday for reasons that escape me. For the first couple of months I thought sales meetings were exciting. Being new in the business and all. After that, it didn’t take long for the monotony to set in. A point of enlightenment happens when you realize that the Sales Manager has sales meetings only because the General Manager says that he should. We would hear what we had done wrong in the past week, how great the Sales manager was when he was selling, things like that. Sometimes they would go around the room and say how many units that each person had sold. We always had to pull out our ratty used car list and go over a few pieces of inventory that was either sold or had just arrived. Blah, Blah, Blah.
It seemed like the really bad meetings always ended the same way: with the announcement that it was once again time for a lot party.
A lot party is when the sales force goes out on the lot and rearranges, organizes and parks every single new vehicle in stock. It would be Mat, Rick, Linda, Dave, Don, Nick and myself. The disorganization was magnificent. One person would take the job of lining everybody up so that each car was park straight and even. The best ones were on the hottest days. Getting into a car, that had been sitting for a few weeks, putting the key in and starting the car, only to quickly find out that the last person in the car had left the air-conditioning on high. That meant all of the dust that had accumulated in the system was blown right into your face.
I laugh at the fact that that is about as hazardous as car sales gets. Along with everybody barely missing each other as we move cars. I do remember a lot of barely awake or hung over people, stopping to smoke cigarettes too often and drinking coffee. Sometimes it was less than one hundred cars to move and it could take hours.
All of that changed with one simple phrase uttered by Dave; “We should just do it ourselves”.
It was Tuesday morning, the day before the sales meeting. Dave and I were out on the lot. We knew that the inventory was a mess. As soon as Dave said it, I knew he was completely correct. The two of us went and got every single set of keys and put them in every car and truck. We decided to start with the Pick-ups on the front row. One ton, first, followed by three quarter ton, then the half tons. Sport utilities were in the next line. Followed by a full line of Chevrolet cars. Small trucks and vans were parked on the last line. It looked great when we were done and it took about an hour.
Two great things happened. First, when we went into the sales meeting and the manager sent us out for a lot party, we were already done. I really think that irked him to not be in control. Second, we really knew our inventory.
Dave and I continued this activity for the rest of the time we were on the sales floor together. We had sat in half of the entire inventory every two weeks. The two of us knew every single car and truck by name. Knowing our inventory had an effect on our sales also. Dave and I dominated the sales floor from that point on. Out of the nine hundred new vehicles sold that year, we sold four hundred of them. That left five hundred for the other five to sell. Dave and I both received the prestige’s sales accolades of being inducted into Chevrolet’s Legion of Leaders and becoming charter members of the Chevrolet truck Honor Club.
We took ownership of the lot and made sure it was always just the way we wanted it. When other salespeople would make the stupid mistake of telling people that we didn’t have the car that they wanted in stock, we would know better and be able to take the customer that they had dropped, and make the sale.
I consider this a turning point in my sales career. Instead of waiting to be told, to do what you already knew, needed to be done, we just did it. This was true employee empowerment. Dave had opened my eyes on how to look at the things that needed done. Look around. Decide what needs done and do it. It was never again a matter of coming to work and being told what to do.
When we were able to take our biggest drudgery and turn it into a productive asset, a complete success, you would think that everybody would be happy, right? I remember it as a start of conflict between our manager and us. He had power and exercised authority when he told us to do things. After that, he had to find other ways to feel in command.
Dave had an amazing effect on my career. As General Manager of Sierra Motors in Jamestown, I still look at the lot through Dave’s eyes and see the jobs that need done. And just do them.