Car sales is the greatest job in the world, I truly believe this. We sell vehicles we do not own to other people and get paid to do it. How awesome is that?

Somewhere along my career I lost the magic. I still appreciated my job, but I forgot what a privilege it is to walk into a car dealership that I did not own, turn on the lights for which I did not pay the electric bill, sit at my desk which was purchased for me, prospect on my very nice computer and phone which belong to the owners, greet a customer who came in as a result of marketing I did not pay for, and using only my personality and the information I was trained to know, sell this person a car I don’t own – and get paid handsomely!

I was the happiest, bubbliest salesperson anyone had ever seen. Why? Because I was GRATEFUL for the opportunity to earn money without any of the responsibility of overhead. The concept of sales excited me – especially the idea that if I worked harder and was better I would earn more.

I wonder how many other automotive industry veterans started out with the same elation and awe at the opportunity afforded us. How many of us were astonished at how easy it was to sell cars and make money? I thought I had won the career lottery and genuinely pondered, “Why doesn’t EVERYONE sell cars? Could there possibly be any profession other than car sales where the sky is the limit? I’m a freaking genius!”

You already know where this is going, don’t you?

I don’t know exactly how long it took for the reality of sales to overtake my wide-eyed naivety. A couple years, perhaps. After a while, the steady grind of six days a week with four bell-to-bell shifts began to feel less like a privilege and more like a prison. I forgot how grateful I was and instead joined the watercooler swamp of bitchdom.  “These pay plans suck, the leads are trash, the managers are imbeciles, the owners are greedy, no one appreciates me…”

My rookie excitement gave way to apathy; my appreciation was gone. The pay plans hadn’t changed (that much), the leads were no different, the managers were always imbeciles (you know who you are), the owners had not changed, nor had the executive company’s appreciation, or lack thereof, for me. The only thing that had changed was my attitude.  Call it burn out or a reality check, but it happens to the best of us.

The real question here is how can we persevere and regain our joie de vivre? For managers, how can YOU stave off the inevitable attitude shift in your green peas and reinvigorate your senior sales team members? Below is a list of the top mood shifters for staving off sales person burn out:

  • Work/Life Balance: Many traditional (fancy word for “old-school”) dealers cringe at the idea of pausing the grind for “me time.” This, however, is precisely what sales professionals need to keep from fizzling out. Work a reasonable schedule and take your vacation days for actual vacations, not just sick days. Take sick days too! Nobody is impressed by Frank the Tank coughing up a lung during a test drive because “sick days are for wussies.” Stay home, Frank. Seriously, stay home. And get some Robitussin.
  • Recognition & Appreciation: Money is the number one motivator in the workplace, but it is not the only way to reward individuals who call your dealership home. Publicly praise and compliment your team. Offer special incentives for superb performance. Encourage and inspire your staff with one-one-on attention, wisdom, training, and concern for their wellbeing, not just their work performance.  A hand shake, pat on the back, and “You are appreciated” can go a long way for a front-line soldier who’s battling the been-here-too-long blues.
  • Involvement, Advancement, & Stretch Roles: I caution against the age-old tradition of moving your top sales guy into a management role because excellence in sales rarely translates into upper management potential. I will advise rewarding your rock stars with opportunities to become more involved in the decision-making elements at your dealership. Invite your sales staff to brainstorm with you on next month’s marketing plan. Host a lunch meeting where sales people can openly share their ideas for improving your dealership’s processes. Promote your top three sales people to a next tier, like Star Sales Team Lead Extraordinaire (or something less lame.) Cross-train your floor team on finance. Invite them to shadow the GM and owner. Show them that they are valuable, and their insight is appreciated. Show them what their future might hold.

Sincerity is the key to all these efforts. Don’t just go through the motions of including your team, actually listen to their ideas. You might just be surprised what they come up with.

I would love to hear from other car sales people and management executives about what motivates you and/or your team to push through the grind, to maintain that sparkle and appreciation. How do YOU stay motivated?