The toughest job I ever had was as a general sales manager at a large General Motors dealership in Atlanta, GA.

I had a big sales force and five sales managers. And I was the youngest of them all. It was tough at daily sales meetings to come up with something new and positive.

I understood the motivational importance of these meetings, because when I was trained, my sales manager pounded into us that we were a direct reflection of him and the dealership.

He asked us to look at ourselves in the mirror daily and ask if we would buy a vehicle from the person in the reflection. That meant having a haircut, clean- shaven face, nice tie, crisp shirt and polished shoes. This has stayed with me throughout my entire career.

When my salespeople entered the meeting room, there was a full-length mirror so they could see how they would look to customers. I never expected them to look better than I did. 

In my entire career, I tried to look professional, to positively represent the products I sold.

We’ve lost that in some of today’s sales managers; I see a lot of slovenly attitudes toward personal presentation. Sales managers only are as good as the success of their people. But the managers are the ones the dealership pays to make this success happen.

The four basics of selling any product remain constant:

·      A proper greeting. It all starts with that handshake.

·      Identifying the customer’s needs.

·      A proper product presentation.

·      A professional closing of the deal. 

It doesn’t matter what software program you use or what computerized sales program you bought. These fundamentals will never change.   

Concentrate on the basics at each sales meeting. Give your people something to look forward to. Make it exciting. Present yourself in a way that you want your salespeople to present themselves to customers; they are a direct reflection of you. 

Do role-playing exercises to nail down these four basics at sales meetings. I still do those during training sessions and dealer 20-Group gatherings. Managers and dealers enjoy it because it takes them back to reality.

Anytime who has worked for me will tell you I have zero tolerance for not representing yourself as a professional. You set the example. You are paid to improve the personal income of your staff and their lot in life. That reflects how well you do.

You have to be good at it, or you wouldn’t have been given such an important job in the first place.

(Auto industry veteran Tim Deese heads Progressive Basics, a training and consulting firm. He is at