Rob East, general manager of national sales at BMW Group UK, answers AM's eight questions and reveals how flexible working needs to help both BMW's staff and its customers.
What are the main responsibilities of your role?
My main tasks are leading the team responsible for engaging with our BMW retailer partners to maximise all sales and customer opportunities by ensuring that our customer offers are relevant and appealing.
We work in partnership with our retailers to realise each market area opportunity and to ensure our network representation is financially viable.
In addition, I’m responsible for the continued improvement of dealer performance and profitability, and for the direct management of the BMW sales regional managers. Timely delivery of all retail sales campaigns also falls within my remit, ensuring BMW UK sales targets are achieved.
Essentially, the team and myself are the custodians of BMW’s interests and brand reputation from a sales perspective.
What are the most significant challenges ahead in your field of work?
I would say there are several key challenges which also opens up opportunities too. In the short term, the various global supply constraints and the geopolitical volatility have had some significant economic effects for all OEMs.
The rapid switch to electrification has also proved to be an interesting development.
Longer term, I would say that customer expectations have changed and the possible change of OEM sales models across Europe will also be an interesting development.
How might these challenges be overcome?
Embracing and being comfortable with change is going to be at the core of these challenges. By ensuring that the customer is at the heart of all commercial decisions we can keep our perspective and focus too.
Our team is critically important to make sure BMW Group stays on track. So, focusing on team engagement and retention is vital and we’re fully supporting the transition to flexible working.
What attracted you to this area of expertise and how did you get to your current role?
It was always an aspiration of mine to work within the automotive sector and I have a love of anything with a motor – historically this would have been described as a ‘petrol head’ but now maybe an ‘electric head’ too. I’m fortunate to have held roles within a retailer group (East was a graduate trainee at Hartwell in the 1990s), leasing company and OEMs, which has given me a really broad understanding of the industry.
I joined BMW UK in late 2018 as the general manager for corporate sales and then moved into the national sales (retail) role in March, which I am thoroughly enjoying.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career, and how have you made use of it at your company?
There are a number of key lessons. First, try to take a longer-term view. It’s all too easy to live in the month.
Next, take the opportunity to see the work you do through the eyes of your customers; perspective is really important.
Finally, I would say try to harness the power of the team around you to drive strategic change and then always deliver what you say or commit to.
What drives you?
The opportunity to continually learn and be challenged by the people around me and a constantly changing industry.
What’s your favourite app?
It’s got to be ebay.
How do you relax?
With two children there isn’t much time to relax. When time permits, I love to spend time on my motorbike (of course, it’s a BMW).