Money. Lots of it! Tons and tons and tons of it! So much that for the first time, we're witnessing dealers that have been hands-on since 2008 starting to slip away a little from the stores and enjoy "away" time again. And that's great. Until, at least, you think about the last seven years again.
If "Digital" has taught us anything, it has demonstrated that small can become bigger faster, the big ones often look like Swiss cheese and that up and down markets don't care about much besides presence. After the last fourteen years around the Automotive Web and six and a half in dealerships, what is striking is that digital has shown ambivalence and opportunity at undeniable levels.
And most still ignore the power and upside. Making money can make us stupid.
Even with sales up 3% so far in 2014 and last year's finish around 8% over 2012 (our average client was up over 30% last year and tracking again), there still is a strong desire not to change anything. And most of what we see is still what could be categorized as "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-trust-me-it-works" stuff.
When a tough market hits again, and it undoubtedly will, will we collectively be in a better place or will we still be grasping at straws and dumping expenses to match traffic and revenue? As shared by Jared Hamilton at last year's DrivingSales Executive Summit, we still aren't tapping into service marketing and penetration opportunities right now via digital channels (really any to speak of) while aftermarket still dominates search and revenue save for dealers really paying attention to categories such as tires, Quick Lube and equity mining. Digital covers all of those if CRM and marketing integration is done properly.
Tough times, and the subsequent good times, have taught us that when push comes to shove, no answer and direction is as good as solid ones. Because nearly everyone that was able to hold out between 2007 and 2009 is making money. Yes, the smarter ones are making more, however most are nearly printing money today.
Digital is still the "back marker" in a nearly-completely digital world. And the statistics for the entire market simply don't matter when it comes to your market. So what has digital taught you?
Share what you can about your experiences, good and bad, that steers what you do and don't do in digital today…
Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results
who's got their 2013 game face on? Nobody? Good, let's make things difficult!!!
2012 was one heck of a year: consumer demand is still up and growing for cars
(although demand still outstrips what sold), mobile use is skyrocketing (albeit
not remotely matched by dealers providing strong solutions), digital demand is
still growing at a breakneck pace (while use of traditional media by
dealerships is up), vehicle technology, especially in-car, is amazing and
overwhelming (while we still can't truly get a MPG sticker correct without driving like we're dying) and quality
is better than even with IQS improving (hand-in-hand with more
"media" coverage of massive recalls). Yup, 2012 was quite the year…
a car dealership what they're doing and about 16,500 answers will flutter
around "more _________ and less ________ while focusing on our key
strengths in _____________". And that, by the way, will be the answer
around January 5-15th because, unlike other industries that revolve around
retail, we seem to be focused on a date non later than January 5 to close the
year. Newsflash: 2012 is done. Make more calls, send more emails, offer more
dealer cash/rebates/incentives/consumer cash/financing discounts and leases and
you're still not going to sell more. Hello?!?! The "Oh, we pulled 10 more
from our competitor" crap doesn't fly. You'll sell what was essentially
already in the hopper and be happy with it.
Over the last twelve months we saw
highs and lows in the automotive industry, mostly driven by International
factors like economy, emerging markets, regulation, partnership and bankruptcy.
As a matter of fact, we are more tied than ever to what happens in Europe and
Asia, even considering how insular as we tend to be. Whether or not we get to
see a new Cadillac in the States depends more on what happens in Germany than
ever while BMW's success likely depends on what happens in South Carolina. 2012
saw the continued demise of storied as well as soft brands everywhere.
In the passing of this last year, it's
important to reflect on how we actually invited people into showrooms while not
making it any more enjoyable (except for the new showrooms which mostly made
the factory happy while getting better looking floor tiles and slightly better
tasting coffee to customers and some of those neat kids' play rooms we desperately needed). We
switched website CMSs, dealership CRMs, DMSs, SMSs and POPs but did satisfaction with
dealerships actually go up as much as 2012 IQS? Jaguar is still tops
(well, 2nd behind Lexus for 2012 models) on the list and they can't seem to
sell the damn cats…
What did 2012 deliver to your business?
If you've not asked your customers more than your factory reps, your
salespeople and your accountant, you will miss the boat by a larger gap in
2013. Yes, you will continue to sell cars next year and maybe, fortunately more
again, but where does that stop based on solely looking back or not at all?
Where your concentration needs to be,
right now, is around March 2013 because your next 6-8 weeks are already figured
out for the most part. No matter how many "cycles" we have, after 100
years of automobile sales most think that there is some magic to the last few
weeks of the year. Bullhooey.
If you want to succeed starting next
Tuesday, there is no other way to do it than be steadfast in every aspect of
your staff, processes, facility and follow through. Your greatest efforts need
to be put into place around the touch points (hint: it's not the cars!). Those
are showroom (real and virtual) and people. Nothing else matters without those. We are asked regularly how to "jumpstart" sales to the
effect that many talk about in the industry. If you've not been bombarded by
spam marketing and videos, it usually sounds like "100 to 500 cars
overnight with our processes" and "our sales events will have people
driving in from everywhere" and don't forget "our websites will
optimize so well (or drive leads so easily), no other dealer will be able to
touch your numbers, you'll dominate and just have to deliver cars". Rat
Get the best assets in your business
today that understand how everyday people use technology and expect to be
communicated with. If that means more green peas, then do it! Training?!?!
Tearing down your salespeople to build them back up means you have the wrong
people and wrong processes! It's not "that Internet thing" any more
than your cars are "those things that have engines and tires". It's
time to grow up and look forward. If you 15-pounder 15% of your customers, expect 50%+ of
your reviews to scream you suck.
If you want to look at things in a
nutshell, read another whitepaper about how great a solution is (6- to
12-months after it's relevant while you signed up to get marketed like mad by the
same company) and look backward. Our industry is depending on people who look
forward with only what's needed about past performance as indicators, nothing
else. Improve incrementally prior to making the huge, sweeping changes like we
hear about so much and maybe, just maybe, you'll see about 3-4 months that the
big stuff is not so big after all because you were able to move the needle
consistently. Overnight success is a short-term facade over impending disaster.
Count on it.
2013 can be great for many, even
amongst the raising concerns about economic and other pressures. The best
always raise to the occasion, it's just that it needs to be done in newer ways
more consistently. And remember to make changes with anything that you do by
benchmarking and recording first because so many will pull the wool over your
eyes and scream "we did it for you!". We see it every day. There are
some great dealership partners out there. Remember that opportunity is missed
by most because it comes dressed in overalls. It's work and most of the time
So relish in the success you've had in
2012, you deserve it! At the same time try not to look back all that much. It
will take longer to catch up than you realize. The automotive world moves at
the speed of retail. That is the only truth. So stop slowing yourself down more
Much success in 2012 and thanks for
continuing to read…
Best Practices: Professional
Stop what you're doing. Right now! Look back, quickly. Look back for a while. No, not over your shoulder silly. If you've been at least somewhat involved in the digital realm over the past 3-6 years, take a hard look back. What have you done? Where did your advice come from? How much time have you lost? How much momentum have you gained? How many wins have you had? And how many losses?
Everything changes, we know that. We also know that one man's garbage is another man's treasure. So in your looking back, what have you really learned? This is a little beacon asking you to close the door (or if you're in a cube or BDC or somewhere without a door, pretend to) and think about who, what and to where you were following. This is not a call to go back to basics, which is garbage, however it's a call to think. For yourself.
Too often we go with those that have been penned as the thought leaders, gurus, experts, published authorities, subject matter experts, pros, top of their gamers and the like. So that begs a question: what has been constant in your digital presence for the last three years? Four? Five?
Chances are, not much.
Fact is a lot of people, namely business owners and executive management, are scratching their heads over the past months asking themselves "why did we go down the (fill in initiative here) road?". Is SEO alive or dead? Does social media work or not? Did the new close work or deter customers? Was mobile marketing right or wrong? Great questions. Think about it this way: did your last tent event sell lots of cars? But….that's not digital, right? A tent event or massive offsite lot sale is not, true. Neither should your thinking.
All those things promote traffic, sales, new customers, conquest, retention and more. Of course they do…you can ALWAYS sell. Digital strategies are no different than picking up a good book. They're cause to make you think. Not copy! Short term gains never win over long term thinking. And to think you need to know or be on the path to knowing better.
Sometimes it's funny how operators operate. There's a lot to be said about how dealers are afraid. They're afraid to spend or try new things or go off into unchartered territory. Not to defend them, the truth is they're bombarded. And by everyone that has something to sell from $.02 pens to $20M facilities. And the shiny new thingamabob fits squarely somewhere in between.
So in your reflection, look as specifically as possible at what was done over your foray into the digital world, and what was not done. You see a lot of people are selling new mousetraps and reworking the old ones. Yes, for the most part they work better. You can only be a judge, just like with a book or white paper or study at a conference, after the fact. And quite a few have benefitted over the past years due to their desire and ability to win in the digital realm and congrats to those who have.
Just a heads up that you're trying to catch a cheetah, not a mouse. A cheetah can still run at over 60 miles per hour with a mousetrap clipped onto its paw. That is until it gets smashed to smithereens and the cheetah goes on as if nothing ever happened. There are so few mice in the digital realm today and most have mousetrap detectors.
There are some big things coming. Here is a heads up that the next big thing is not in hardware, software, advertising, marketing, mobile apps, CRM, retargeting or templates. You'll have to think about it. For those that do get it the remainder of 2012 and 2013, as well as going forward, will be easier.
If this was a hard one to understand, keep reading and coming back. And thank you.
The special time of the year is nearly upon us, again. From September through February: conferences, expos and 20 Groups with the veritable sales crunch of "you have to get this or you'll be left in the dust!" pitches. You can feel dealers' and general managers' certain body parts tightening up now (not that they aren't pitched every day of every week of every month or every year already).
With very little assistance, which is by choice, direction or information, vendors are chosen and deals are signed. Does that mean dealerships make decisions without "data"? Not necessarily. However decisions made with vendors' own calculators (remember when lead estimating in your market at certain NADA website booths was the fix of the day?????), skewed analytics/search results and by recommendations (you know, what works for a dealer with half the competition and market size one of their 20 Group buddies has should work the same for someone else in a major metro with twice the stores and massive gross degradation?).
What generates results are a combination of relevant data, unbiased information, support, updates and consistency. However what we still see dominating today are dealers using:
Without any SEO (and sometimes even basic optimization), micro-sites/landing pages and SEM with no/poor call-to-action, heavily redundant non-inventory based content (which Google LOVES! right?!) and the like…
The "take it as it came out of the box" processes and templates that can't get a call back from a desperate buyer, no management notifications set up, and people with access sending out marketing messages to dealerships' database that are not proper, timely or accurate…
Left up to companies setting up personal profiles on Facebook, Google Plus, Foursquare, etc. for businesses and/or…
Duplicating content on hundreds of dealership social networks and/or…
Solely following industry people's accounts and them fanning/following back and/or…
Simply buying audiences gaining thousands of eyeballs while most of the paid followers are in different countries (or simply spam accounts)…
…and the list just goes on and on and on.
If you want to sell cars, you have to do it right. Meet and greet, the walk, the drive, the pencil, the close (yes, the road to the sale to many) that can't exist without process, checklists, audits and accountability. Yet most dealerships' entire digital presence has none of those!!
What we need to do is do things right. Businesses are responsible for everything they do. It's 2012. If you don't understand websites and SEO, get someone that does in your store. Don't think social media is right for your point? Ask your customers where they want you to be and then get someone that does it in your store. And get advice before you hire your person/people or bring on the vendor! You must own every part of your marketing today and not turn a blind eye. And no, it's not too much to do or to get someone in the store or close to you to provide reporting that is not from a vendor's proprietary dashboard (read: manipulation) that can't be validated by another unbiased source.
There are no excuses for businesses today to not know how to do things right and expect results. Sending texts from employees phones without permission based marketing and legal/opt-out included? Having a website for a 150+ unit store that has 800 inbound links and no +1's? Promoting a blog that has the same content as every other (fill in your brand) store within a 1,000 mile radius? It's NOT fine. It's NOT ok. Get real.
Act as if you're a customer to your own business! What are the chances you'd return to your own website if the home page never changed? Would you buy concert tickets from a site that never featured your favorite artists? Would you Like United Airlines on Facebook if every other post from them was two sea lions fighting or two mimes fighting with an intro of "caption this"? would you follow Morton's Steakhouse on Twitter if EVERY post was simply a push from their Facebook account and no interaction with diners? Would you continue to read Marriott's blog if all it contained was posts about awards they were winning from magazines rather than updates on their resort locations that you wanted to travel to? Look it's really simple, it's just not easy.
Own your marketing. The pisser is you've been hearing this for over five years now from a number of sources in the industry including this one. Quit cutting corners and believing everything that the large enterprise-level providers are feeding you. How can one provider claim to be the #1 vendor in an industry and charge half of what everyone else does? It doesn't work that way! You know that…
Look at it this way. McDonald's (as good as some of you may think they are) is not number one in hamburgers. They are number one in volume! Do they serve the best burger? No! Their burger is not the best…and neither is your website/CRM/Social Media if you don't know better.
If you're going to do it, do it right!
Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results
You heard about them. You read about them. You phoned them. You had them in. You listened to them. You took the pitch. You signed the deal. And now, with services starting, either everything is the same as it was before……or the lights are on and it's kind of "ohh my my".
(Twilight Zone music in the background) You thought it would be different. You thought you knew what everything meant. You made that final turn…welcome, to real life after the pitch.
So what happened? Everything seemed fine. Well, what did you expect from adding the services? Did you write down your goals? Were resources already set aside to handle the new vendor? Was their customer service department part of the initial pitch at all? You know, the people that you'll call with questions and issues? Did you get an "out" clause or are you roped in tighter that a M3's engine in the space under the hood of a MX-5? Did you ever think "what happens if they don't do what they say they'll do?"
Let's face it, retailers want a fast, easy, painless, seamless, passive, snap-your-fingers solution. So why in the heck would anyone, unless they are offering an education with full disclosure in their pitch (read: NOT most vendors), tell you that they can't do what you need? It's so much easier to add modules and updates rather than focus on the effectiveness of a core product. It's a lot more fun, apparently, to fill up review sites with bogus users' glowing reviews than actually make it a dealership process to get recommendations. That's why dealers' investments fail and vendors fast profits are usually replaced with a shrinking client list over time.
Without question there are a few companies in the industry that are in a position to add to their product line. And because they can and are able to. Not just because they want to or are getting pressure from compoetitors. Can you find Nike golf bags, backpacks and glasses? Yup! If their shoes started sucking, those superficial products, as profitable and lifestyle "branding integrated" as they are, would be inconsequencial if the core product failed.
And, as a dealer/client, it's your job to turn the lights on. And that means ask the tough questions. Don't take the reports to heart, especially if there's no validation. When you turn the bright lights on, the cockroaches go running! When you have a partnership with your suppliers, guess what happens? Real growth, real education, real improvement. After the pitch should be the best part. If companies knew what was good for then, they'd pitch modestly and over-deliver. Now THAT'S a concept!
And life after the pitch should get progressively easier. Here's a great test and maybe something you want to try in 2011. When you start a new agreement with a vendor, ask for no more than 6 months commitment, maybe less if not month-to-month. After 50-75% of the initial period is done, indicate you're going to cancel at the end of the term and watch/listen to the response. That will tell you volumes about who you're doing business with.
Here's a few things to think about in your next (and likely soon) approach to new providers:
Ask: 1. How long have you been providing this service and who can I talk to about it? 2. What is your average turnaround time for support and completion of a ticket? 3. What hours does your customer service department work? 4. What is your after-hours/weekend customer service policy? 5. When was your last failure/cancelled client and what happened? 6. How many of my competitors to you currently work with? 7. How well does your service integrate with the system(s) currently used by my business? 8. Do you use internal or third party reporting of metrics? 9. Can I cut back on part or all of my services and what kind of notice do you need? 10. Do you subcontract and services and have you experienced service outages? 11. Is ongoing training or field support (not sales rep visits) part of your service?
Thinking about what your needs are away from how much more product and services you're being told you'll sell is critical. And go with your gut. If it sounds too good to be true (1,000 Facebook fans in no time, 200 glowing reviews per month, best sourcing of all customers of any ILM/CRM ever, increases conversion 20% every month for a year, sells cars for you 24/7, builds your client base while you're sleeping and more), it probably is.
And then there's the Golden Rule: Generally stay away from "#1 in (fill in the blank)". If you can see marketing from a vendor you are considering on every automotive network, in every publication, on every B-to-B forum and in your showroom (more often than you'd like), pretend you're a consumer –because you are!– and ask yourself this: do the best working companies in a vertical advertise everywhere? Are they screaming "we're number one"? Now, if you are always screaming "we're number one!" yourself, it might just be a match made in heaven.
Otherwise, for the rest of us, chances are there's too much focus on the frosting and not enough on the cake. Some frosting is so good, it can cover up what looks like a full, well-made, perfectly done cake. Remember that next time you simply grab the box and drive back to the office, thinking about how great everything will be, pull in, run into the store, flip on the lights and open the box. Ooh bummer…
Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results
Well if you didn't look, 2010 is nearly to a close. Last time you thought about it mid-year, it looked like 2010 would be clear sailing. Well, now it's cram time and you must be thanking the incentive and promotion gods (because they're on bid-time, even for the companies that usually don't).
So while the factory may have your store punching cars in a couple weeks and you may be planning that getaway you've deserved for a while, what are you going to do to surpass your numbers and go for broke? Will this be the time that you get serious about database management and using your CRM? Will it be when you take reputation management seriously and invite (yes, actually invite) your customers to participate in building your brand? Or is it simply time to get serious about following up with real intent on every lead?
Success over the last five weeks of the year will be partially based on history. All of it. Were you the type that waited until the night before finals to do an all-nighter? You know what you'll get before 2011 comes. Are you the type that starts with a bang and fades never quite committing? You know what you'll get before 2011 comes.
If you're the type that has gotten process down, approaches each day with complete opportunity, reads and participates in the fourms and communities, checks their performance against others (outside the store) and who believes that and acts like you are just another consumer, cram time should be a cake walk. You, my friend, are ready for 2011 already because you've already stuck to your plan for this year. Which, by chance, you most likely drew out at the beginning of the year.
For the rest of you, it's time to get serious. Really serious. Let's take a look at what should have moved business this year: Online. Digital. Web. Whatever you want to call it, Sales are originating from the Internet. How do you do that? The answers, yes answers, were available via a handful of conferences and by a number of the OEM's digital meetings. Did you go?
And we're not counting mandatory regional schmooze-fests, or webinars and other sales- and product-pitch based "information" sessions online nor NADA even though there are workshops. So let's assume, better yet guess, that around 6,000 people attended them (yeah, that's high). And assume that roughly 1.5 attended per store, with 30% attendance going to the independents. So around 10-15% of the franchise and 5% of the independent stores are learning. Ouch.
Based on those numbers, how can an industry hungry for sales really attack it? Cover your eyes 'cause here it comes: business as usual! How much have we progressed over another year when 2/3 of leads still are not addressed correctly and service retention is still lower than what it should be? So how many baseball bats will come out at sales meetings over the remaining days this year?
Cram time, when prepared for, is not cram time at all. Fear-based operation goes out the window. Management understands completely what is going on. Yes, including in the "Internet" department (ahem, why do we still call it that?). Cram time, quite frankly, should be what the customers do when they realize they'll be without that new (or newer) car for another year. They shouldn't be the ones smelling desperation.
So, were you expecting it? Are you prepared for it? Are you making it because of what you're doing or because your brand has television commericals with beautiful bows on cars, or radio spots yelling about year-end deals. If you're prepared, congratulations. If not…aren't you sick of it by now?
Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results
Let's face it, we're all consumers. Even the highest-paid CEOs in the world have to do it: shop and buy. They will engage a brand, a retailer, a transaction with one expectation in mind: satisfaction. Whether a $4 latte or a $4,000,000 property, there is a process we go through to self-determine the investment of time, research and transaction as well as intended outcome. So if your only measurement is analytics or items sold, you're sorely missing a huge part of what is needed.
Go to the majority of automotive websites, mobile sites, social media and advertising. Ask the average consumer, let alone highly-compensated executive, and you are likely to get an answer you don't like. Why is that? For the most part, we've been buying solutions while being complacent in our happy place: doing what we know and not changing that one bit.
The first layer of measurement was the showroom floor and service drive. Sentiment was shared, while not always freely, in a controlled environment where the impact was mitigated to the most part. That gauge has moved, for the most part, into the most transparent of places: the Internet.
And that is a double-dose of pain. So how do we change what is commonly referred to as one of the least-desired activities (going to a car dealership) that is connected with one of the most accessible of engagements (going to the web)? For starters, do it yourself. Go through your website. As a consumer. Hard as it may be, do it. Take off the dealer hat and pretend you actually need to find something you want. Easily. Quickly. The same way you'd buy an airline ticket on www.yourfavoriteairlinewebsite.com.
Then visit your website on your mobile device. If you are one of more than half the car dealerships in the country, you'll likely see a thumb-sized version of your full website. Disappointed yet? Now hop over to your Blog, if you have one of the best places to build your brand and capture eyeballs online. Because based on your website response, you likely don't offer the image, message, layout and experience you'd like yourself.
Have Facebook and Twitter pages? If not, don't necessarily jump in but if you do, look. What are you saying? Are you just displaying inventory, a feed of random content from somewhere else? Is it representative of what you do your store? Is it, like your CRM, automated? Or is it genuine?
And what about reputation management? While some have embraced it for more than a year or two, the neccessary processes and engagement still don't exist for the most part. And don't get disappointed yourself when you don't have a strategy and are ticked off with what gets displayed online.
Some dealers are starting the next generation of their dealership with consumer engagement. And guess what?! That's perfect. What better input than the people dropping thousands of dollars at your business? Customer advisory boards. Meet the dealership events. Club meets and other non-transactional ways to engage and ask your customers.
The disappointment your customers experience comes from within. And if you don't have a plan to assess, measure, change and improve consistently, the numbers that matter most will go in the least desireable direction.
If you are one of the dealers heading to Las Vegas for Digital Dealer, DrivingSales Executive Summit and JD Power Internet Roundtable, take advantage of the wealth of knowledge. But don't do it simply to compare and buy yourself. Stop. Sit down with other dealers, consultants and outsiders. Take a deep look at what consumers see. Ask the tough questions. Then engage the reps and vendors.
Start delivering online what you say you do in your brick and mortar existence. It's your greatest opportunity.
Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results
Two items that we talk a lot around but typically don't address directly are the 'blocking and tackling' in the retail business. One stops people from the inside, the other from the outside. The first limits a broader brand experience while the second keeps customers away. Slowly eliminate both and you'll win.
Dealership firewalls, website blocking, limiting controls and other less-than-trusting measures remove timely access and ability to become involved in what is the greatest area of traffic generation today. Add to that the understanding of what is happening in the market during the time in each person's day that it matters most. Whether posting to Facebook, sending test leads to competitors, scanning forums and reputation sites (likely for what Google alerts notified the store of), or seeing a competitor's site updates and overall becoming involved in the essential aspects of branding and reach, being online is essential.
No, just block everything. Enter the typical excuses for limiting adult access to the web at dealerships: time waste, inappropriate content, non-work activities and more. Wow, great thing that your IT director has that closed down!! Whew, and you thought smoking on the point, chatting incessantly on cell phones, water cooler banter about the dealership's 'less-than-perfects' and simply hanging out for the next up was a time suck. Boy the Internet did change everything.
So all of that other stuff is now ok and some barely negligible photo of a little known celebrity topless on some remote beach in Europe is wrong? It may be but the technology that allows a complete blackout of surfing the web in what can be extremely productive time can also be set up to allow the right use. Have someone violating your store's TOU? Then fire them for the same reason that you would for violating other company policies. Ok, enough about that dealership mistake that is completely circumvented by someone's web-enabled device.
The second issue is blocking the other stuff that your store also needs: customers. If you've not woken up to 2010 (or 2009, or even 2008 and before for that matter) and realized that people are judging you before ever deciding to step foot in your showroom you've got to take the blinders off. The days of hiding aspects of your operation, be it front-end or back-end, and surprising customers when they do decide to come in will kill you.
Dealerships that don't decide it's time for transparency are not only kidding themselves, they're also hurting the next store that dissatisfied customer is going to head to. It doesn't matter if it's tackling the next 'up' because it's your turn, stuffing someone that doesn't understand that you could have actually saved them money, stranding someone in the showroom because the used car manager can't find their keys or a litany of other lies and excuses, mistreat customers and you will have fewer of them. And they will let everyone else know online.
There is an abundance of complete disclosure on the web related to everything automotive. So why pretend it's 1994 at a dealership? Because that's what a GM knows or a GSM pushes? Sorry, that has no place in business and deserves to be eliminated completely from our industry's retail locations. The archaic practices that still exist need to replaced by true business excellence. Customers will build a wall so fast around your dealership it'll make your head spin.
So if these are your challenges for 2010, put new plans and goals into action. The walls inside and outside your store will bring your business to a halt. Removing them and getting everyone involved in building your business is the best course you can start the new year with.
Simply put in the words of John Mellencamp in "Tumblin' Down": Saw my picture in the paper Read the news around my face And now some people don't want to treat me the same… When the walls come tumblin' down
You don't control your reputation, the factory, area pricing or everything else than happens around you, especially on the web and you'll never again control customers. What you do control is your brand, actions and messages. You can influence your customers and that, my friends, is powerful.
Take down the walls… Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results
If you've seen the movie, you know the line. It's not earth shattering, but it was more than a decent movie. American Flyers came out in post-LA Olympic 1985 and starred Kevin Costner (very pre-Waterworld), David Grant (as his younger brother), Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing), Rae Dawn Chong (yes, Tommy Chong's daughter), Alexandra Paul (Baywatch), John Amos, Robert Townsend (plenty of star power there) and an otherwise strong cast.
When the brothers walk into the sports institute, the character played by John Amos (who heads the facility) reads the slogan hanging up above the various people working out "Res Firma Mitascre Nescit". David asks him what it means and he loudly proclaims "Once you've got it up…keep it up!" and then proceeds to yell at the contingent of sweating people "Right?!!" to which they all reply "Right!!".
While the movie has nothing to do with car sales, it has everything do to with perspective, attitude and belief. In regularly spending time with dealers, it amazes me how many salespeople don't keep a sharp mind and eye, let alone know the fundamentals of process and success. Sometimes I'll randomly select a salesperson and ask about their goal setting. Invariably we'll sit down and the first real question they're typically asked is "how much do you want to make?". Once they (sheepishly) reply, the very next question is "how many sales does that take you and how many leads to you usually need to work to get there?". You can guess the answer 99% of the time.
Successful people always find a way to keep it up. Sure, down times happen and you might even catch a leader in a true slump. I've been in weekly sales meetings where the store is down and the top unit (and usually gross) performer is upset with their sales performance even though they are still in the lead. Like clockwork, a person with significantly less to talk about will pipe up, usually with "I'll take those sales any day".
See, the thing is that goal setters hold themselves more responsible than any sales or general manager ever will. They have an idea of what they need to do in February come January 28. They don't need to be pushed into reality on February 21 when they're on the bubble at 3-5 units. Most of them will also have daily goals and tasks that they make sure are complete before they leave as well as writing down the next day's activities.
If you're in a sales tailspin or simply finish 2 or 3 units down from where you want regularly, there are a few things that you can do that will likely get you, well…up!
Work your leads as if they'll close within 72 hours (create action and excitement)
Regularly and effectively touch base with your clients (yes, on top of the 'stuff' the store sends)
Set, adjust and maintain daily, weekly and monthly goals (copy management for accountability)
Track everything you do. It's a pain…do it (don't resort to memory, even if you're 25)
Educate and refresh yourself on products and services (do your own walkarounds if you need)
Eliminate habits and poor performance activities, period (listen to motivational CDs or read)
A few of my contacts have even gone as far as paying for software and/or services out of their own pocket since the dealership won't pay for them, but they know that having them is one of their keys to success. Not letting anything stop you from reaching your goals is what successful people do every day!
Remember that when you're not learning, you're dying. Don't let your thunder be stolen by circumstance, a boss, a coworker, a client or the media. Make sure you can easily identify what you expect to happen every month and take the steps to ensure you're on the cause side of the equation. Oh, and once you've got it up…KEEP IT UP! Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results