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The Great Dealership Debate That Shouldn’t Be

"Hear ye, hear ye! For all of you, thou shalt be indentured in thar' olde sales department.  And for the rest of ya blubbering fools, 'yer lucky to call the Internet department over yonder home!"  Boy, sounds like a clip right out of a bad Tom Cruise period movie about horse sales from the 17th century, right?  And to top things off, he loses his English accent about 17 minutes into the flick…

All right, it may not be that bad where you work, and it may be the 21st century, but why is there still a separation between most dealership sales 'departments'?  Why is there still a debate about whether or not they should be integrated?  Is it because the favorite 'floor' sales person loses status and the spooned deals?  What is it about the 1987 mindset that carries otherwise unacceptable practices forward?

Your entire sales department shouldn't be handling Internet leads because nearly all customers are now shopping online.  It's not enough to make those not taking website ups handle "online jacks" simply because there is not a trickle of showroom traffic to speak of, and definitely not to support the size of your team.  Do it because it is simply the right thing to do.  How you do it is up to you.

Dealers: quit responding to the market, conditions, volume and what you perceive to be business indicators and start being proactive: building, planning and expecting more.  Nobody ever built a birdhouse, let alone an empire, by standing still and waiting.

Yet people that otherwise can absolutely, positively produce more numbers, revenue and profit are not in organizations that support the opportunity, vision or appropriate business model.  While a good number of dealers have shifted their resources to completely cover all aspects of sales including web-based leads (and you deserve a lot of credit for doing that), most of the market continues to have a small segment handle what continues to be debated as a different kind of customer.

Fact: Consumers no longer bend around businesses, especially those with dated practices.  If you haven't checked in a while, they're no longer around.  Competition, the Internet and consumer-generated content/virtual word of mouth have changed our industry.  Businesses must listen to, connect with, communicate with and engage with the consumer on their terms.  To use an old adage: quit trying to find a square peg into a round hole.

If you no longer drive to the airport, stand in a 52 minute line and deal with a counter agent to buy an airline ticket, why are you expecting people to deal with an automotive retailer in ways that are also 20-plus years old?  Remember this next time you're in line returning a high-tech item that
you bought online from your favorite electronics retailer: you'll
likely find yourself in the same line as the people who bought items in
the store.  Imagine that…the same line!

It's time to look at your business with new eyes and focus.  Don't do anything less than you'd expect from the places you do business with.  No debate about it: there is no such thing as an Internet department.   There are only the ones that haven't figured it out yet…

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Moving The Needle: From A Get Together To A Ground Swell

It is going to take lots more than talk, snake oil and rain dances to turn our hobby back into an industry with integrity, consistency and accountability (if we even had those in the first place).  It is more than about time to make change rather than simply talk about it.

Somewhere between the low-ball numbers form some industry experts and the pipe-dream estimates provided by others, there is a more accurate one and that's where we'll ultimately end the year.  Fact is the number is still going be a boatload below what it was just a couple years ago.  Now we can do our best to get to some better 'state of the industry' but the last time I checked, it still happens through selling and servicing cars the right way: one at a time.

Let's face it: consumers control content, the banks are controlling most of the consumers' spending (or at least for now), and there's no love lost for the venerable car dealer.

A couple weeks ago there was a Automotive LA Dinner, put together by Philip Inghelbrecht of TrueCar, and it was a great example of trying to get together to move the needle.  Eleven industry colleagues, most meeting for the first time, came from as far as 150 miles apart to meet in the Long Beach area and share insight, expertise, information, backgrounds and opportunities.  Our next meeting is supposed to be around the New Year, I hope sooner.

Next month's DrivingSales Executive Summit is going to be different.  charlie Vogelheim and Jared Hamilton wanted to put the dealers' future and opportunities in the spotlight, rather than the typical highest-paying sponsor or best-known industry speaker or colleague spearheading an event.  I hope this becomes a series of events with unprecedented support for the attendees, instead of greasing the skids for someone else.

The list of companies hosting webinars to get information out there for free is compelling: Cars.com, Powered.com, Automotive News, Ward's, Dealer.com and more are spending time, money and attention on where the water level really is: retail.

When the needle really starts moving in the right direction is when most of the events and support are the rule, not the exception.  It's a matter of finding the folks who weren't particularly impressed with an event, sitting down with them and finding out how to improve things.  Video after video, post after testimonial about how great an event or speaker or consultant was when half of the people in attendance leave a room is not going to benefit anyone.

Our responsibility is to improve, educate, compel, engage, support, enlist and activate.  Simply going through the motions and putting a new cover on old tricks (like reusing a one- or two-year old article and calling it fresh) , saying the you can deliver on something and then not or simply doing nothing at all – i.e. 'waiting' like so many dealers like to play it – is a move in the way wrong direction.  Don't get the wrong assumption: getting back to basics is great. Great for teaching someone how to close that doesn't.

You can't get a newspaper person to get the web, so don't try to.  You can't get a person who's never used a cell phone to text a message, so don't try to. But if we act like a village (no laughter, please) and raise the collective water level, we can do amazing things.  The needle can move much quicker in the direction we want and need if we eliminate the roadblocks, maintain above the status quo and help one more person each day achieve something more.

And maybe, just maybe, we might get someone who's never turned on a computer to end up taking 70 leads a month and closing at the third or fourth highest rate in a dealership.  We might see more dealerships starting to implement true customer satisfaction tools, employ true SEO practices, get advanced training on their CRMs, get a higher ROI from truly targeted service marketing and even utilize mobile web (I don't care if it's 0.005% of online users now, it won't be next week, next month or next year so quit using ridiculous excuses!!!).

Remember: it's our job to help move the needle, not someone else's.  Let's get the needle movers together.  Unite!…and stay thirsty my friends…

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Everything About Social Media That Can Be Explained In A YouTube Clip (Where Else Would It Be?)

This has to be the easiest post ever. And probably the best since it’s in someone else’s voice (video). This is one of the best ways to ingest some compelling data around social media, even if you take it with a grain of salt.

Whether you believe in the fundamentals of social media or not, understand the impact as well as influence or not, agree with the investment of time and resources or not, this should at least open your mind to the scope and reality. If you’re in business, you should be using every tool in the shed rather than excluding one since it didn’t come with instructions and a guaranteed return of investment.

Enjoy, let us know what you think!

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Powered Webinar: From Zero to Community: Practical Advice for Growing and Nurturing an Online Community

Powered_Logo 

Live Webinar on Thursday, September 17th

Featuring Newell Rubbermaid, The Community Roundtable and Powered

A successful social marketing program requires the same comprehensive,
well-planned approach that traditional marketing programs demand, and it
entails careful consideration of how your company will participate. At the
heart of most social marketing programs is some form of online community that
can help integrate social media elements into a cohesive program aligned with
your marketing objectives – from creating customer engagement to brand
loyalty and advocates. Online communities take dedication, perseverance and
commitment that go far beyond building a site or joining an existing social
network community.

Register to attend to learn:

  • How to drive ongoing, active engagement within a branded online
    community
  • Tips for leveraging social media such as Twitter and Facebook to
    drive awareness of your community initiative
  • How online communities help address the need of your customers at
    every stage of the buying cycle
  • The importance of community management on the health of a
    successful online community

Register here!

Come On! What’s Social About A Price? Nothing!

After tip-toeing around this subject
for most of the year, it's time to take a more direct approach.  With more
car dealers using "social' media these days, seeing the overwhelming
amount of non-conversations are staggering!  A quick visit to the majority
dealer accounts on Twitter and Facebook reveal the following:

  • use of what are supposed to be social sites and
    services for essentially 'unpaid' advertising
    • The home of the $199 lease
    • Largest volume dealer in the
      area
    • Amazing inventory
    • More models arriving daily

  • use of auto-follow and auto-retweet programs to 'simplify'
    building followers
    • 30-day old accounts with
      2,000+ followers
    • Retweets of Automotive News
      articles
      • Consumers can't access as
        it's subscription only, and why share?
  • limited contextual links and content
    • video links are exclusively to
      store's site or YouTube inventory/walk-arounds
    • Using same links over and over
      with only slight modifications


Here's the hint that will hopefully get you to use social media for what it's
intended for: it's called social for a reason.  There is absolutely
nothing remotely social about car prices, lease specials, inventory, and 'buy
here!'.

Social is about conversation, influence, sharing, participation and ultimately
growing your virtual community.  And take note: this happens after
time.  It's organic and you have to learn.  It's not about control,
rants (although those can be fun in moderation), telling, limitation or
virtually throwing the keys on the roof.  Nobody cares about 100 tweets
telling how much you'll promise to save them, less the fine print.

Share funny stuff, eye-opening stuff, cool videos, first-to-market stuff,
did-you-know stuff, share fun events, invite people over to do things for free
and ultimately build a relationship around having conversations.  You'll
be amazed at how many customer service situations you can remedy, how many
times you can correct someone's misunderstanding about a capability or spec on
a vehicle and ultimately plant some seeds so that, when it's time, you already
have a customer that doesn't give a rat's behind that you are giving away gross
on "1 car at this price'.

So take some time and learn, understand and start participating instead of just
posting.  Just participating in social media doesn't give you any passes
or kudos.  Be real, be original, be compelling and be relevant.  If
you know you're market, friends, followers and customers, chances are you'll be
more successful.

Dealership staff: Don't talk to people.  Talk with people.  Listen to
people.  Create a valid, unpaid following that is interested in what you
share.  Be fun.  Be intentionally unintentional.

Go ahead, dare to be unique and different.  You might just end up being really social…

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

First Of The Month Syndrome: You’re Not Starting Over

Month end is behind you, save for those few deals that are going to be back-dated to August 31. Hopefully with C.A.R.S. you didn't need to do that. Now it's a whole new month and you're thinking "I'm at zero, clean sheet of paper, time to hit my numbers!"  Since we know so many people that do that, there must have been one parent in all of our families that, when we were infants, whispered in our ears "you'll think like you'll get paid, you'll start over on the 1st, you'll scurry like hell to get everything done on the last day of every month". Man, talk about a dysfunctional     family!

So here you are, 20-40 years later, convinced that a calendar determines your effectiveness and runs your life.  While nobody is here to tell you it's not how you get paid, quotas are set, assessments are handled and forecasts are created, quit thinking that way.  You're not starting over.

Especially in today's Internet-based world, the first of any month is just another day to tackle the 30-100 leads in your queue.  You can let the management and executives control the way a company operates but you don't have to be controlled by a calendar.  When you remove yourself from that process, your vision grows and you can see things in better perspective.  Again, don't start a revolt or fight the way your GM runs your store.  Just start to believe there's people (your customers) that work and believe in a 365-day world.

When you start planning beyond 30 days, in reality most folks hope on 30 and plan less, you can better see marketing effectiveness, referrals building, many leads actually taking 5-12 weeks to buy (rather than ignoring them until the week before and finding out they bought elsewhere), track trends and cycles, even bring customers back for parts, accessories, warranties and more!

If you truly believe that your number is 'zero' when the last month expires and the new one starts, maybe look at how you're holding yourself back.  It might just be your condition, but for those that can change, it might be the most fun you've ever had at a dealership…and possibly the most money too!

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results