Waiting for the next up…so please wake me…

That is what the death of retail sounds like.  More often than not, especially lately, it is common to hear more excuses than Elizabeth Taylor’s list of husbands.  If you want to wait all day long (in some cases all week long) for something to happen, join the Fire Department or Coast Guard.  If you are a true salesperson with a strong desire to make money, get going or allow someone who wants to get going, gosh darn it.

Most sales staff I talk with has this tendency to believe that their network is going to bail them out, or the next launch will help them, or the incentives that will be announced can save their month or even their referrals will drive a sale or two…very soon.  How many of you are members of LEADS or another group of professionals that feed referrals to other members of the organization?  How many have their social and business networks  Would everyone please stand up that has invited their new owners from the last month to come in for a face-to-face thank you and a chance at a prize (read: not the store, not your boss, you are doing it on your own accord).

No, it seems that the creative ideas flew out the door with the last ‘over 20 car month’.  Folks, don’t watch yourselves out of business!  What if the traffic statistic estimates do come to pass and there’s 10, 20 or even 30%+ less people coming to your dealership?  What then?  That’s when you’ll really get busy working your CRM and Internet leads?

Work no less than 10 leads a day (old, new, orphans, etc), if not 15 or more.  Ask your clients this month some compelling questions, keep track of the answers (not in your mind), ask for real referrals, call them at the office or home 20 days later to see if they’re still completely satisfied and give them a reason to come back.  Start asking if people prefer contact via email or text rather than prodding them with "can I have your email address, please? It’s a requirement here at our dealership or else my deal is not complete".

Go to lunch somewhere that you haven’t been every day/week/month and leave your cards with the owner or manager.  Sponsor your kid’s sports team pizza outing this week and give a flier to all the parents with a good discount (and one that won’t get you disciplined).  And be reciprocal, nobody likes a mooch.

If you are fortunate enough to work the Internet department, stop the water cooler talk and curb your not-so-sales-oriented habits (we all have them) and get down to contacting and selling.  Your month will be the better for it, I promise you.  Yes, that means stop reading this so you can email that "Jack" back…

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

What Will You Call This Week?

The question more appropriately phrased should be “how is your week going to be?” but asking that of most dealership staff today will likely result in the same: “ask me at the end of the week”.  Why is that?  I’ve never met a successful person who answered that way and definitely not consistently.  Fact is the week you are going to have has already been set.

Moreover, it’s not the week your customers make for you nor the week that your inventory will allow you to have.  The week you will have (and everyone else will have) starts by the time you head to the dealership Monday morning and unfortunately not after you get to check how many fresh ups you get to work on.

Many of the customers you’ll have this week will come from your September leads or referrals (and quite possibly August).  The beauty of the Internet is a double-edged sword.  You get the customers that may be ready to buy…and a whole lot that may not be.  Take a minute and check how many June through August leads that told you “I’m not ready to buy” you’ve contacted in the last twelve days.  Not by eNewsletter or mass email or an automated fill-in-the-blank.  An honest-to-goodness, live-in-your-face personal email or call.

It is such a great opportunity to use technology to its complete ability.  It’s not a crutch and should never take away from the great skills we have. Sometime between our cars being average (at best) in the 1970s-1980s and now, when cars are quite simply better than ever, we forgot that people buy cars from people they like and that it takes great people to do a great job.

As long as you’re sending one-sentence responses (with spelling and grammar errors), not asking questions, forgetting to qualify customers, neglecting to confirm appointments and have no clue how to extend a brand and experience properly and, ahem, waiting for the next person you can tackle on the lot, you already know how your week is going to be…and did about a year ago.  Do a great job, please.

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Back To The Grind…And Reality

With the JD Power Internet Roundtable over, it was time to hit the trenches again.  And that means a dose of retail reality.  Being around the industry’s thought leaders, dealer groups, service providers and the rest was great, I just wish that a thousand more dealers decided to show up instead of using the budget cutting reason to stay away.

If you are not learning, you are dying.  There is no more proof needed than the auto industry.  Not just learning, you have to apply what you learn and be adept at not repeating the same mistakes over and over. So it is no surprise that talking to and visiting dealers today yields the same result as before the Roundtable.

Now, the industry needs attrition to a large extent in the form of dealerships (read: predominantly domestics). And its clearly part of the initial pain to see dealers suffering and pulling back at a time when they absolutely have to keep their operations and presence working efficiently and, among other things, spend money. What never works is burying your head in the sand.

The biggest issues at retail regarding resources are who’s handling the leads/customers and what you’re using to engage them.  This person believes that nothing will change that needs to until we truly start thinking about our business differently, planning for our business differently and staffing for our business differently.

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Day Two At the JD Power Internet Roundtable

Day two (late!) and another day of packed sessions with compelling messages and great panels.  More questions from the audience would have set the bar even higher but the buzz was there.  Also, heavy focus on opportunities tied to the current market issues was making head room: viral marketing, social networking, reputation marketing, technology platforms and the like.

The big issues for dealers are how to understand, staff for (this includes capable vendors in addition to/or employees if you choose) and execute on a diverse marketing plan, covering the items above as well as carrying their own unique brand online.  It’s clear that both the manufacturers and dealers need major assistance in this area and will that ultimately it will depend on the dealers to produce on many fronts.

One theme that was consistent about the retail segment is that the dealers that don’t ‘get it’ will not be around for long and that the ones that truly shift their primary focus online, track their effectiveness, hold their sales force accountable and follow process, process, process will win.

Folks, you don’t have to go it alone. Look for, ask for and get help now.  More soon…

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Day One At the JD Power Internet Roundtable

Well, what a day and not even a full one! Like last October’s event there was standing room only at almost every session. There was great content and the most open and direct dialog I’ve heard at an industry event.  Both the Third Party Site and OEM/Dealer panels were definitely spot on for what’s happening, what’s coming and what hurts for the auto business.  The questions were relevant and did not seem to be the typically expected setup to an advertisement from the speaker.

It is clear that the overwhelming majority of people here are looking for help, answers, facts and hope.  After the ‘bleak’ statistics session, it was right on to the meat and potatoes.  During the break and networking event, the chatter was definitely oriented around working toward solutions and dealing with industry issues head on.

As for the IM@CS Internet Fundamentals session, it was a pleasure to have such a large group and hear the input, questions and needs of the audience.  The comments and feedback after the event is greatly appreciated and will definitely find its way into future presentations. Thank you again to JD Power and Charlie Vogelheim for the invitation and courtesy.

Check back tomorrow for the day 2 report….

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Want To Learn Something New This Week?

There will be a different-than-usual beginning to the JD Power Automotive Internet Round Table in Las Vegas October 7-9th.  Three concurrent events targeted at automotive retailers dealing with pushing their online reach start at 1:00p on Tuesday at the Bellagio.

IM@CS is pleased to be hosting the Internet Fundamentals session to assist dealers first (or still) getting their hands around the what, why and how of 'to do's' for their online presence.  In the Fixed Ops/Service arena TimeHighway and are going to present opportunities to dealers.  Marketing to Women is the third topic, one that is very much misunderstood and typically not executed on well for our industry, headed up by Melanie Kovach of and including a great panel of speakers

So far over 750 automotive and non-automotive industry leaders, influencers, manufacturers, marketers and solution providers are expected in making this the marquee event in the industry.

J.D. Power has established
several ways for participants to connect to each other at and after the Roundtable
including a blog, micro-blog, social network and website.

For real-time, frequent Roundtable updates, please join Twitter
and follow the events at:

Watching Wall Street More Than Your Street?

It’s not hard to get mesmerized by all of the financial ramblings going on out East.  The bailout, the impact, the feedback and the typical deluge of uninformed commentary and guessing.  Not too different from what happens on car lots every day…plenty of uninformed consumers and guessing sales people.

Whether or not the market has been shored up, what are we doing to shore up our business?  It’s clear that you can’t spend $1M a month when you gross $500k revenue-wise.  By the same token, the start of your business disappearing is when the marketing, retention and engagement aspects start disappearing.

Our job as the ‘Internet Cowboys’ (and cowgirls) of the auto business is to be that lifeline and outreach when, gosh darn it, people stop just showing up at our showrooms.  It’s time to ring the statistics bell quickly: about 80-90% of car buyers start their research and purchase process online.  You’ve been hearing it for a while now.

You must use every tool, piece of software, hardware and beautiful, inviting tidbit of marketing to get a customer to your door.  You have to become better than you were when the industry was (fill in the blank) percent higher than it is now.  Don’t forget who is in full control of the sale until it is relinquished to the customer.  Give people permission to buy a car, they want to do so.  Folks, we’re not rocket scientists and brain surgeons (although over the last few years, dealerships have been filled with more out-of-the-industry professionals  than ever before).

Think about it this way: one four-letter word (WORK) translates into another one (CASH).  If you are looking for some quick dollars and the golf-all-day lifestyle, stand in line for your state’s lottery or, better yet, try to get in with Warren Buffet as he seems to be buying (by the way naysayers: he hasn’t stopped buying).

Somewhere along the line over the past decades, we forgot that the car business was a relationship-based business.  Using a CRM does not mean, for a minute, that you are building relationships.  Actually in many cases it means that everyone with a log in to your CRM can see the mediocre job that’s being done.

Today I was talking with a salesperson at a client when another walked into the immediate area.  He stated that October was going to ‘suck’ again and I proceeded to tell him that is exactly what will happen…for him.  As for the salesperson I was originally talking with, we’ll see.

Folks, water finds its own level.  Are you expecting to sink or swim at the end of the month?

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Is It The Beginning of the Month Yet?

The old automotive adage means less today than it ever did.  Over the past couple weeks, the cries of “worst month I’ve ever had” have been heard loud and clear.  Considering everything happening in the market, economy, wall street, etc it’s no secret that things are tough.  One thing that the Internet has shown dealers is that there truly is no ‘month’ (and likely never was).

One of my clients had one of their sales staff tell him nearly a week before the end of the month that this person would not take any more leads until October started.   Our customers shop, research, negotiate and buy every day of the month.  With the Internet (and through studies that JD Power, Compete, RL Polk and others demonstrate), consumers are not tied into what used to be perceived as typical shopping habits.

Dealers are (finally) realizing that their customer sold today may actually have contacted them four months ago.  With the tools and software available today (like CRM applications), we have the opportunity to do a better job with both our clients and prospects.

What hasn’t changed at all is two fold:

1. People buy from who they like, trust and would refer.
2. Dealers than plan their work then work their plan, goal set, teach, empower, mentor and support have the best staffs for item 1 above.

Remember that while you’re only as good as your last sale in the sales world, you are only as good as you allow yourself to be.  If you stop trying, stop learning, stop engaging and stop selling, you will likely know the result you get.  What day of the month is it where you are right now?

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results