When I flipped on the TV this morning, I was greeted by an infomercial purporting the next breakthrough in fitness training. We’ve all seen them before, promising dramatic results in 90 days; working where others have failed before. Despite the fact that these infomercials have been dominating American morning and late night television for decades, the rest of the world still calls us fat.
Twenty seconds later, I flipped the channel to something else. The first commercial that came on was for a revolutionary new supplement that works within seconds, and “changes lives.” What really hit me was the bold yellow letters stating that is was doctor recommended. Would a medical doctor really publicly recommend something without FDA approval? Please…
My generation has been bombarded by these commercials for our entire lives. Biggest, largest, most, greatest, best, number one…we’ve heard it 1,000,000 times before. We have no choice, but to be skeptical. Person in a white lab coat claiming to be a doctor, seen it. D-list celebrity endorsement, heard it. BS, smelled it. We’ve nearly gone deaf from the boy crying “wolf.”
Falling into the abyss of ubiquity is now measured in seconds. Continuous radio bombardment has just become noise, that is, if you listen to terrestrial radio anymore. DVR has all, but killed TV commercials. Have billboards regained their impact from the fifties? How about those sandwich board spinners? How about the people on the side of the road freezing/roasting in the company branded t-shirts? Balloons? Inflatable gorillas? Gorilla suits? Do any of these things get your attention anymore? Not only are these “me too” techniques tired, but they simply blend into the texture of everyday life.
It only took a few generations, but advertising fads are over. Now many will groan that (the much maligned) social media is a fad (as was the Internet). I’ll be the first to say that many of the Facebooks, Twitters, and Foursquares of the world will collapse, be acquired, or evolve into something else. However, the visibility and amplification these companies have given John and Jane Public have utterly disrupted media as we know it. We no longer have to depend on clever marketing from Manhattan to tell us what we want. With the few strokes of the keyboard we can get advice from folks all over the country about where to eat, where to visit, and where to shop. Folks just like you and me. If they were alive today, guys like Marconi, Tesla, and Farnsworth would probably be pretty perturbed by this.
However, unlike most guys, Marconi, Tesla, and Farnsworth would’ve taken the time to learn how to use these social channels before jumping in headfirst. Despite the writing on the wall, many car dealers still stick to the establishment; cranking out TV and radio commercials touting the newest, biggest, mostest, and bestest. Those who’ve heard about many of the new-media services, have taken to cranking out posts touting the newest, biggest, mostest, and bestest. These “leading edge” dealers seem to be more concerned about being on the new-media services, as opposed to reaching out to those who turn to these emerging services as respite in the first place. Keep chasing people with stuff they don’t want to hear, and they’ll just keep running away.
The alternative is to embrace the paradigm shift. Open your arms to those who are tired of being chased. Take off your white lab coat, and become a person. Fire the D-List celebrity, and promote yourself. See through the whizz-bangery of technology, and use it as a common thread to connect to people. Turn off your inflatable gorilla, and tell someone the story about it. Stop looking for something to believe in. Become someone to believe in.
How often is it that your non-automotive friends want to do something related to your automotive career? Besides helping take a few layers of rubber off a new Camaro SS, probably not that often. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when some of my non-automotive friends enthusiastically asked me about going to the Driving Sales Executive Summit. That’s right: the same folks that silently plead for me to shut up about the car business actually want to attend a conference for the car business.
Despite the fact that this will read like a commercial, it’s not intended to. The fact of the matter is that I support any retail automotive event that seeks to help dealer personnel become better at what they do. While some events cover the basics, and others seek to introduce new solutions, DSES always offers a glimpse of the future. Moreover, it seems to take into account the consumers’ angle. Since I’m pushing a decade in the car business, and my experience is 99.9% digital, I don’t like being stuck in the echo-chamber. It’s one of the few automotive conferences that get me excited (and oddly enough, doesn’t have a military theme).
What makes it exciting? Two words: thought leaders. While other conferences take pride in featuring automotive legends, DSES consistently features up-and-comers from the business community at large. Although some may call it highbrow, it’s a place where you might get social media advice from someone with 900,000 followers versus someone with 900 followers. You might get business advice from leading business school faculty versus someone who inherited a turnkey operation. You might get technology advice from those who work in Silicon Valley versus those…who are, um…really good sales people. It offers the perspective of business professionals speaking about automotive versus automotive professionals speaking about business.
As you start to plan the fall conference season, and you are forced to pick & choose, evaluate what you need to get better at. Do you need to get a broad spectrum of basic concepts? Do you need solutions that can be implemented today? Do you need to evaluate new tools? Do you need to learn more about changing consumer habits? Do yourself a favor, and evaluate the speakers and their content before you decide which conference to choose from. Better yet, ask your non-retail-automotive friends (I know you have a few) who would they rather see. After all, you are not selling cars to car salespeople: You’re selling cars to real people.
Post script: I have to give a shout-out to the folks at the OTHER conference for cajoling Erik Qualman into being the keynote speaker. Since you are probably like me, and will be attending both conferences, you’ll get to see Gary Vaynerchuk, Aaron Strout, Jason Falls, and Erik Qualman speak (along with the usual suspects) in the same week! Who needs SXSW?!
Let’s say that you’ve had a persistent cough for two weeks, but haven’t had time to go to the doctor. You finally break down, and go to urgent care one night because you’re not getting any better. After waiting four hours, you finally get seen by a guy in his early twenties with acne still on his forehead. After going through some cursory checkups, he tells you that you have syphilis. He hands you a prescription slip with someone else’s name on it, and wishes you well. Given that you haven’t been to Bangkok lately, and that you’ve never cheated on your spouse in the thirteen years of your marriage, you decide that maybe you ought to get a second opinion.
If you’ve read some of our recent blog posts, you probably know that Joe Webb and I have gone off a bit on those who are new to consulting. Trust me when I say it’s not meant to personally attack anyone. Unlike the medical world, there is no certification, title, or otherwise, to indicate one’s level of expertise. In fact, there is no state licensing to make sure that you are sound to practice. There is no governing body who administers examinations, or confers expertise. Instead, we have resumes and word of mouth. That’s it folks.
Many of us in the dealer, consulting, and vendor world have spent a tremendous amount of time educating ourselves. Besides the obvious attendance at retail auto conferences, we sit in on webinars, read books, and some of us even take classes. While some were educated at the school of hard knocks, others learned (and survived) in active combat, and still others have excelled in postsecondary education. Because all we have to rely on is resumes and word of mouth, there is no way to distinguish those of us who have dedicated ourselves to mastering our craft, and those who haven’t. More specifically, there is no way to distinguish between those who are in it for a quick buck, and those who are in it because they care about the condition of retail auto.
Because there is no way to formally differentiate between the practicing experts and the self-proclaimed experts, the dealer loses. The dealer loses on beta-quality technology sold by a good salesperson. The dealer loses on vendor-driven training administered by people who have never sold a car before. Most of all dealers lose money on (one nefarious consultant after another) consultant who have nothing to offer other than their level of expertise. If the dealer loses, then everyone loses.
This is probably the same reason why so many vocations have adopted formal licensing. Think about all the professions that require passing an examination to practice. Everyone from physicians and attorneys to hairdressers and tattoo artists have to pass at least one administered exam. Why? Because someone who did not care about their practice (or reputation) swindled someone out of money, gave someone septicemia, burnt someone’s scalp, or gave some unsuspecting schmuck syphilis. Organizations were born to make sure you didn’t eat rancid meat, get electrocuted by your lamp, or use snake oil as a cure. Most commonly these organizations, laws, or entities evolve to make sure the consumer is protected.
As I commonly posit, why should we be any different? Why aren’t we working harder to create a governing body to allow those who want to become certified as experts take an examination to do so? I know individuals have tried to do so in the past, however this is bigger than one person. It’s time that we put our egos aside, and work together towards something for the greater good. I know there are many true professionals out there who would like to demonstrate their knowledge. I know many more who would seek the protection of an umbrella organization. We need to give them the opportunity to do so.
I’m not beginning to say that I have all the answers. What I can say is that if this organization is going to exist, it can’t be a club (the last thing we need is another Good ‘Ole Boy Network). It can’t be an offshoot of an existing organization, rooted in the traditional ways (old habits die hard). It can’t be formally sponsored (it’s already too hard to cut through the vendor noise). It can’t be easy to join (take a look at the requirements from the Project Management Institute or the CFA Institute). It can’t be governed by a few, because nobody has all of the answers.
The next time someone approaches you about how to improve your business, think of all the licensed and certified professionals you deal with on a regular basis. Think about the police officers you know, the teachers in your kids’ classrooms, the EMT that gave you CPR training, and the electrician who wired your garage. Think of all of the training they went through, and the continuing education they’ll have to go through. Then ask yourself: Don’t I deserve the same?
If you happened to study business in college, or are a corporate strategy junkie, you’ve probably heard of Michael Porter. If you haven’t heard of him, Porter is an esteemed Harvard Business School professor, served on Ronald Reagan’s Commission on Industrial Competitiveness, authored nearly 20 books (Amazon carries thirteen of them), and has published countless articles. Most would agree that Porter’s prophetic work has laid the foundation for the last 30 years of competitive strategy. I’d have a poster of him on our bedroom wall if my wife would let me. While Porter’s work has spawned numerous books, essays, and academic articles, I want to concentrate on one key piece: core competency.
Simply put, a company’s core competency is what only that company can do best. Ideally, this particular factor is not easily imitated by its competitors, and can be leveraged widely through many products, in many markets. For example, ADP was able to adapt its payroll technology it developed in the 50s for use in multiple industries, in multiple markets, and plays an integral roll (like it or not) in the car business. The better a company understands and develops its core competency, the more dominant position it will have in its market.
A lot of things happened long before you got into the car business. Slow, unreliable, cars made a dealership on every corner practical during the time franchise laws were written. An onslaught of foreign competition flooded the markets during the seventies because the domestic car business wasn’t prepared for rampant inflation and a decade of oil crises. The widespread suburban sprawl of the last twenty years has only paved the way for upstart competition that never existed across town. Oh, and that Internet “fad” happened, too. You can’t count on your location, your OEM, or having the most/newest/cheapest/bestest cars in town. In a 100-year-old business, it’s all been done before.
What hasn’t been done before? You.
You are an individual. You’ve collected years of rich life experiences that make you unique. Nobody can replicate you (scientifically, maybe, but not your personality), just like you can’t copy anyone else (unless you want to be known as a fraud). You are not the cheapest available option (and neither is Apple, Nike, Ducati, or John Deere, by the way). You have values, you add value, and people gravitate towards you because you possess certain qualities. Understanding these qualities not only allows you to transact with customers, but it will allow you to mentally connect with them, as well.
Many of us fall into the of trap copycatting. We feel that if we follow in the footsteps of someone we know, or a brand we admire, we can achieve the same success. How did Microsoft do with the Zune (you’ll never get that $200 back)? How’s IBM’s PC business working out for it (congrats, Lenovo)? How’s Buzz doing for Google (that buzz you hear is Twitter laughing)? Even the best companies can fall short when they fail to connect with the customer by straying too far from what they do best.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. It’s easy to read articles, attend webinars, attain OEM certifications, and comb through blog posts. Reading and retweeting the latest Seth Godin or Guy Kawasaki post only takes two clicks. Simply following the pack doesn’t create any hurtles for someone who just wants to copy you. In fact, it makes it much easier for them to follow. If everybody is following best practices, you aren’t creating any distinction to set yourself apart to the customer.
Instead, use best practices to create a foundation for you to build on. Understand the philosophy of the author or presenter. Frame it in the context of who they are, where they’re at, what they know, and more importantly, what they stand to gain. Now focus it through your lens. Apply it using your words, your emotions, your experiences, your research, to your customers, in your market. Measure your results (every variable you can think of, not just what’s required), and discover where you excel. Use these strengths as the bedrock on which to build your core competency.
Unfortunately, Michael Porter is too busy solving global issues (seriously) to turn his attention to the auto business. It doesn’t mean you can’t. Understand those qualities that your competition can’t emulate. Don’t count on someone else to carry you to success. Dedicate yourself to recognizing and measuring your strengths to feed your core competency. Be proud of what you do. Blaze a trail that no one can follow, create an unbreakable bond with your customers, and build a fortress that no one can knock down.
Initially, I intended on giving you all a day-by-day account of the sessions from the 2011 South by Southwest Interactive Conference. After going through four and a half days of notes, I realized one common thread linked all the presentations to together: to do. Not wait. Not over analyze. Not ask for permission. Just do. Nike was on to something.
Many of the panelists and presenters started with just an idea. Contrary to popular belief, they didn’t have access to tremendous amounts of capital. Not all of them were trust-funded super geniuses that went to Harvard or MIT. In fact, many acted, looked, and spoke just like you and me. The key difference is that they were willing to take an idea, and do what it took to get there. When they got there, they hired and inspired those around themselves to continue to take it to the next level.
Before those who embarked on their idea spent any money, they took the time to create a fundamental vision of what they were going to do. They made sure to think through every dimension of the space they were planning to enter. They reached out to others for mentorship. They wanted to understand how, and in what context, the end user was going to take advantage of the product or service. They weren’t worried about the technology or the mechanics because those would come along later. They focused on how the product or service would reach the customer, and how it would improve the customer’s life. For some, it took years. For others, it was a eureka! moment.
When that vision was crystallized, there was no hesitation to begin development. Prototypes were developed, tested, measured, and scrapped until the kinks were worked out. Failures do happen to even the very best. In fact, quick failures were considered a blessing. The results could be meticulously dissected so that the successes would be repeated, and mistakes would not be repeated. As development continued, testing left the developers, went to family and friends, then focus groups, and then the general public. The testing never stopped. The products and services continued to evolve to better serve the needs of the end user.
As many watched their ideas come to fruition, they never lost sight of who they were. They didn’t conform to the culture common in their line of work. They didn’t water down their personality, their ideas, or even their language. They were honest with their partners, coworkers, in their presentations, and in their writings. They were honest with themselves. That honesty reflects in their company’s brand, and what they do.
This is just a small piece of what I’ve taken away from the conference. Sharing more thoughts is some of what I am going to do. Giving my clients what they deserve is what I am going to do. Being a more effective teammate is something I am going to do. Making time for those important to me is something I am going to do. I’m going to act on a plan, and continue to move forward.
What are you going to do? Are you going to laugh this off as some feel-good excrement, or are you going to think about it? Are you going to push aside your ideas? Are you going to play it safe? Are you going to ignore that feeling in your gut? Are you going to go through the motions? Are you going to quit? Are you going to take the easy route? Are you going to keep lying to yourself and those around you? Or, are you going to do more?
Like most of you, I “work” a lot. I spend countless hours a day, reading, writing, videoconferencing, teleconferencing, and on the phone. I also find myself constantly checking and updating the calendar, checking my phone for text messages, chatting on more than one chat client, and conversing on Twitter. It’s typical that I have a minimum of two browsers open, with at lease four tabs running on both (closer to 10 on Firefox). I also have a PC running a couple different CRMs that only run in a Windows environment (yeah I know, some vendors are too cheap and/or lazy to create products that operate in different environments, but I digress). Still I find some time to run a business. With all of this stuff to handle, the “work” is really managing it all.
Most of my clients have it worse. They also have the various channels of communication to manage. They have reports to run. They have people to manage. They have discussions with their managers. They have storewide meetings. And, best of all, they have customers that show up at random. The lucky ones have the budget to work with external resources to help manage and streamline operations, but the majority still find themselves trading their personal time for work time.
For those who keep trading their time, I got bad news for you: There are only twenty-four hours in a day. End of story. Your kids are going to grow up. Your spouse is going to grow older. While your clients are going to put that gold watch on your wrist, they’re not going to come to your funeral.
Time is the most valuable resource. Once it’s gone, you can never get it back. It’s time to fanatically manage your time. If someone wants to take your time, push back. Learn to prioritize your day. Learn to stick to accomplishing what’s most important, and move on. People understand that you will call them back. They’re busy, too. If emails required an immediate response, they would come in the form of a phone call or a knock at your office door. Manage your time wisely, and have the time to enjoy the results.
High School was a difficult time for most people. What wasn’t important just a few years prior, becomes essential in just days. It’s a time when we become aware of who we are, and who we want to be. It’s when we realize, that despite our misgivings, we want to be popular.
When I was growing up, your shoes could either make you, or break you. There was a general hierarchy of shoes, with the generic pleather shoes on the bottom, and the high-tech, athlete endorsed offerings on top. If you weren’t wearing Nikes, you were just on fringe. If you were at the pinnacle of popularity, you were wearing Air Jordans.
What many kids came to realize, is that simply wearing a pair of Air Jordans did not miraculously transform them into the most popular kid in school (or a star basketball player, for that matter). Yes it may have given them access to the upper ranks, but it didn’t necessarily guarantee them the hottest girl in school. Because of this, some kids only owned one pair of Air Jordans.
In the retail car business this same mentality exists. There is this attitude that because someone in the twenty group is having success with a vendor, that everyone in the group can repeat that success elsewhere. Although a pair of Air Jordans might have taken you from zero to hero as a kid, buying the best technology can’t.
Popularity, like many other attributes, depends on many variables. Your parents’ social status, general attractiveness, athletic ability, and intelligence all played a roll in how your classmates looked at you. The same holds true for your dealership. If your parents owned the dealership, that’s going to play a roll in your success. The image your brand portrays is also going to play a roll. The dynamism of your staff to quickly move to beat opponents is going to play a roll. Your ability to utilize the collective knowledge of your team is going to play a roll. Understanding these variables, and many others, are going to contribute greatly to your accomplishments. As hard as you may try, you can’t buy popularity, just like you can’t buy success.
Before you sign another contract, think about your life as an adult. Did you have to buy a pair of Ferragamo’s to become successful? Are you losing track of how many vendors you are contracting and canceling? Have you realized that there is no such thing as a magic bullet, or is there a pair of $125 tennis shoes sitting in the corner of your room that you outgrew after six months? Mars Blackmon was wrong. It wasn’t the shoes.
As many of you already know, my wife and I welcomed our second son into this world during the third week of January. Although he was considered a full term baby, he wasn’t quite ready to leave the warm confines of mama’s belly. A short time after he was born, I carried him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where he stayed for eleven days learning the subtle intricacies of breathing and eating. Although the hospital was quick to assure us that this was “normal,” it didn’t make it any easier (the hospital ranks among the top 100 in the country, so who am I to argue). After a week of slow progress, he suddenly turned the corner for the best, and was able to join us at home shortly thereafter.
If any of you have had to spend an inordinate time at the hospital, it becomes abundantly clear how much today’s medical professionals depend on technology. With just a few sensors, hospital staff can measure almost all of the body’s functions at just a glance. Barcode scanners are used to monitor all patient records, banking who did what, when, into a central database. As an efficiency aficionado, I was awestruck by the precision.
In the time between chatting with the nurses, twiddling my thumbs, and watching newbie sleep, I kept coming back to the use of technology. The doctors and nurses ranged in age from early twenties to early sixties. Like all people, they ranged in disposition and attitude, from bubbly to curmudgeonly. But the one thing that became crystal clear for me is that, unquestioningly, they all used all of the technical tools given to them. Even if it were an option to not use the tools, it was out simply of the question.
Since it’s extremely hard for me to stop thinking about work (remember, I’m one of the weirdos who finds comfort in their job), I kept coming back to the same point in my head: As automotive sales professionals, we have more tools available to us today than at any other point in history. However, unlike the medical professionals I watched everyday, we don’t embrace our new tools with the same fervor. Why is that?!
Now, I’m guessing you’re waiting for me to go off on a “shiny objects” diatribe. I think enough has been written about that already. I’m going to take a different angle.
Think about all of your friends who work outside of the car business (if you don’t have any, think about your parents and their friends). What tools do they use on a day-to-day basis? Now imagine they made a conscientious decision not to use those tools. What would happen? What if the barista decided not to use the espresso machine? What if the soldier refused to carry their rifle? What if the courtroom reporter decided to use a pen and paper, and not a stenotype? What if the desk attendant of the hotel your staying at right now declined to give you a receipt? At least to yourself, you’d probably say that person isn’t doing their job. In fact, you’d probably say something much worse. Why are we any different?
Throughout my career, I’ve had the chance to see multiple dealerships from multiple angles. Whether it’s handling a dealer trade on the retail side, implementing a new technical solution on the software side, or side-by-side with a dealership partner on the consulting side, the expectation is not clear from the top-down on how technology is to be implemented inside the dealership. Despite the commitment of thousands of dollars, month-in, month-out, there is no true mandate to use the technical tools that are made available. The problem is further exacerbated by the lack of monitoring, and the lack of consistent training of these tools. If rules governing facial hair are in the employee handbook, why aren’t there rules governing the use of technology?
Let’s take the customer relationship and lead management tools for instance. We know the burden of proof the vendor get puts under by the dealer. We know the financial burden the vendor puts on the dealership. What burden is being put on the staff to fully utilize this tool? From what I’ve seen over the past decade of participating in the car business, it’s tantamount to throwing the keys to a Ferrari to an eleven year old and telling them to have fun. Without the proper experience and training, it’s a recipe for disaster resulting in wasted money and broken hearts.
Whether it’s contact management, pricing tools, analytics services, or employing a whole cadre of consultants, one thing is clear: the act of possessing these tools does not guarantee success. Between world wars, the French committed tremendous resources to constructing sophisticated and impenetrable border defenses along what is referred to as the Maginot Line. And all the Germans had to do is drive around it. With no standard operating procedure, and no set consequences, nothing stops users from circumventing the tools.
In any business, even most dedicated of front-line staff has to know what is expected of them. Whether the policy is to achieve at all costs or follow a systematic method, the folks implementing the process need something to adhere to. Without that clear expectation, front-line managers have nothing concrete to enforce. Without that clear expectation, upper management has no way to objectively hold their managers accountable. With no finger to point with, vendors and front-line staff get replaced, thus lumping additional negative return on investment in terms of set-up fees, hiring, and firing costs. Want to stop the revolving door? Set expectations.
If they’re not already, get your people excited about the tools they have available to them. Create an environment where your employees, like the medical community, seek out new ways to utilize the systems they have available. Proactively ask vendors for training and workshops. Encourage, and even incent, your front-line staff develop standardized processes for using dealer tools. Like the espresso machine, the rifle, and the stenotype are part of the job at other organizations, let your employees know that the tools that are provided are expected to be used to the fullest extent possible. You have the tools to create and monitor success. It’s up to you to not let your business flat-line.
Normally, I have the topics of my blog posts picked out well in advance of posting, however this month I can’t stop thinking about the events that are happening right now. During the last few months of last year, and the first couple weeks of 2011, I’ve been involved in some eye-opening conversations. The subject matter of these conversations is now a matter of public discussion (or amusement?). Whether you’re pointing and laughing, or disappointed, we need to realize that we can be our own worst enemy.
One of the reasons I got involved in the car business is that I wanted to help improve the negative reputation car salespeople have. A variety of polls conducted over the years have shown car salespeople to be viewed among the least honest and ethical of any professionals. While some of the sources are questionable, the granddaddy of pollsters, Gallup has shown in a recent poll that car sales people are tied with lobbyists as the least trusted of professionals. Congratulations us.
I’ll admit it’s bad form to send someone off a blog post before it’s finished, but do me a favor: run a Google image search for car salesman (or just follow this link). What do you see? Is that you? Are you the guy smoking the Grenadier? Are you the guy with the Mr. T gold chains? Are you the guy with the plaid suit? Didn’t think so. Unfortunately, this is how people see us.
So, what are we doing to fix it? Apparently, we’re adding more fuel to the fire.
I’ve certainly seen some questionable car sales practitioners over the years, but I’ve also seen a lot of good ones, too. The funny thing is that you don’t hear much about the good folks. Certainly the nefarious ones have customers who are more than vocal about their dissatisfaction (their customers are friends and family to everyone else, by the way). For some reason or another, you don’t hear much about the sales people with strong moral fiber. Or the sales people, who are youth ministers, involved in 4H, participating in Relay for Life, volunteering at animal shelters, or have served their country overseas. Or how about the professionals who have not only read the blogs, but have developed their own expertise, created their own strategies, and have shared their own success with others. We all work with people like this, or at minimum, have made their acquaintance. Why don’t we hear more about them?
Instead of learning more about exemplary sales people, we get to hear and read about new consultants who seemingly pop out of the woodwork. Unfortunately, the term consultant is a bit ambiguous in the retail automotive world. In the rest of the business world, as well as in health care and the public sector, a consultant typically possesses subject matter expertise and pedigree that is well beyond what can feasibly be attained in-house. Look at the executive leadership of Accenture, Deloitte, and Booz Allen Hamilton, to name a few. These folks are among the very best the world has to offer. Our industry, on the other hand, is wrought with empty-chested, fly-by-night “experts”, who glorify the negative stereotypes, charge exorbitant fees, plagiarize material, and seem to multiply by the month.
This is what I find most troubling. The dealerships who have recognized the need to change, and decided to commit considerable resources to bringing in a consultant have to choose from “experts” who fit the negative stereotypes they need to change. How exactly do you expect to overcome these pejoratives if you continue to contract the same type of people who ruin reputations in the first place? Moreover, how can dealers hire them in good conscience when there are videos on YouTube of them publicly flaunting their jewelry, McMansions, and sports cars?
The true measure of a consultant’s success is not what they have financially accomplished themselves, but what their clients have financially accomplished on their behalf.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I too possess some of the above items. I wear a (1) gold chain, and, from time to time, wear an aspirationally branded Swiss watch. The gold chain (and the gold crucifix that hangs from it) was given to me by my deceased grandfather after I went on a pilgrimage to see the Pope sixteen years ago. I’ve only taken it off for medical reasons. The watch I purchased several years before I was in the car business when I was doing due-diligence at a venture capital firm during the go-go dot-com days. I’ve acquired my fair share of material possessions over the years, but you won’t see me flaunting them on YouTube (you’re welcome). I take far more pride in the results I have achieved on behalf of my clients.
Whether you are new to the business or have been involved at multiple levels for many years, it is our burden to overcome these stereotypes. How do we do that? We can start by:
- Offering consistent and outstanding service.
- Overwhelming customers with honesty.
- Educating customers with information that is not available online.
- Adding so much value that we are indispensable to our customers.
- Sharing personal details about ourselves.
- Participating (regularly) in our communities.
- Supporting causes.
- Hiring manageable people.
- Working with skilled trainers that produce verifiable results.
- Resembling the nurses, military officers, pharmacists, and teachers who have strong professional reputations (and who are our customers).
If we do these things every day, we can surely start to chip away at the negative reputation we’ve given ourselves.
If you want to keep reinforcing these stereotypes, just keep dressing yourself like a Kay Jewelers vomited on you. Keep asking customers if they are calling about the (nonexistent) specials. Keep practicing the underallow/overallow numbers game. Keep on not using your CRM/ILM to capture important personal information. Keep flaunting your material wealth (and general douchebaggery) on YouTube. Keep winking sweet nothings at the camera. Keep promoting yourself as an expert when you haven’t been recognized as one. Keep doing these things… and let those of us who want to be recognized as respected professionals blow right by you.