Posts tagged automotive
As the vilification train continues to carry-on full steam ahead (not going to mention the hated company du jur), I ask myself, why aren’t dealers looking at themselves in the mirror? No one holds a dealership at gunpoint to utilize their products. I know I rant about this a lot, but when are we, as an industry, going to take responsibility for our own actions? We research every facet of our business, yet don’t take the time to research the people we do business with. For an industry that practically invented selling, we get duped all of the time.
Instead of grabbing our torches and pitchforks every time an outside company wants to disrupt the car business, let’s instead think of all of the reasons companies want to replace automotive sales people (they regularly get outside funding to do this, for $#&@’s sake). Let’s reflect on why the general populace has such a skewed and negative prejudice towards the dealer community. Let’s stop thinking in terms of PVR and start thinking total lifetime value of a customer. Let’s lift ourselves up.
Whether we like it, or not, the world has changed. Pandora’s box is already open. We can’t go back. Let’s embrace the continuing change in buying habits (REMEMBER: Every minute, people gladly pay more not to shop at Walmart, eat at McDonalds, or drink Maxwell House). Let’s add value. Let’s earn our money. Let’s set a benchmark in reputation. Let’s take away all of the negative ammunition anyone can use against us (venture capital money, or not). Let’s stop being the victim.
The best days are ahead of us, friends. Are you going to be a driver or a passenger?
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.
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?
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.
Like many of you, I have sat through multiple presentations and webinars regarding social media. While some may touch on it, and others may focus on it, the term “brand building” comes up quite frequently. While on the phone with a dealer recently, it occurred to me that a good portion of our peers may not quite understand brand building, and hence, have a hard time applying it in the real world. For social media, this is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse.
Simply put, a brand is the identity of a business, product, or service. What comes to mind when you think of Coca-Cola? How about Nike? Now maybe Apple? I’ll bet somewhere in your mental imagery, classic white script across a red background came up, along with a swoosh, and a glowing white apple with bite taken out of it. These companies have done an extraordinary job of marketing a consistent brand image, and have created a culture surrounding their businesses. If you need more examples, just walk into your showrooms. You will see brand imagery everywhere.
What comes to mind when you think of your own dealership? (Note: this works best when you think of the positives.) Is it a dedicated, veteran sales staff? Is it consistent OEM recognition? Is it community involvement? What makes your store different from the one down the road? Hopefully, multiple things come to mind. Take those thoughts and jot them down.
Now think about how you want your customers to perceive your dealership. When they think about your store, what images do you want them to conjure up? How are they perceiving your identity on your website’s homepage? If you are drawing a blank, then it’s time to start working on that. Ultimately, it’s up to your business to craft that identity.
I think we are all well aware that Coke, Nike, and Apple have millions of dollars to commit to advertising agencies, not to mention the top-notch marketing talent they have available to them in-house. They are global brands competing on a global scale. Should you aspire to have their type of brand awareness? Absolutely! Do you need their millions of dollars to reach your market of 30,000 people? Absolutely not!
You have the advantage over national advertisers. You understand your own market better than they do. You understand how your closest consumers talk, think, and dress. If you are using your CRM properly, you may even have notes on where people go to church, where their kids attend school, and how much their fifth-wheel weighs. This information is available to you for free!
Speaking of free, those commercials you normally fast forward through are full of free inspiration. Try actually watching some commercials. What messages are you taking away? What tag lines are you hearing? Tune-in the next time you see commercials from mega-brands like IBM, Microsoft, GE, Red Bull, Starbucks, and UPS. Pay extra attention to what your OEMs are advertising and the images they are reinforcing. Take note of the fact they are not advertising “the largest inventory,” “rock-bottom prices,” or “(region’s) number one (whatever)…”
When you are ready to start coming up with brand ideas, talk to others. Bounce ideas off your spouse. Ask your friends. The wider the variety of people, the better. Then, sit down with your coworkers over some pizza and start brainstorming. Try to come up with one sentence that best describes your dealership (or department).
When you feel good about what your network has to say, have the same conversations with your most loyal customers. In fact, take a walk down to the service department and have that conversation with customers while they are having their maintenance performed. Find out if your brand identity is in line with a perceived value (be prepared for the worst). Compare notes. If the messages are the same, fire up the marketing machine. If they are not, you need to dedicate yourself and your teammates to bringing the ideas closer together. This is when you employ brand-building efforts (like social media, video marketing, and dare I say, a TV ad) to distill your message down for consumption by the masses.
Sounds like hard work, right? It can be, but it’s well worth it. Your customers will know what separates you from the competition. You will attract customers who are looking for an alternative to their local dealer. You will create a value proposition beyond price. Best of all, you and your teammates always have a guiding principle to fall back on in times of question. Trust me, you’ll forget about the hard work when you immediately start reaping the benefits. It’s “time to change everything,” “have a Coke and a smile,” and “just do it.”
There have been several great books that have been published about brand building or indirectly touch on the subject of branding. One that immediately comes to mind is the Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for turning Ordinary into Extraordinary, by Joseph Michelli. While it wasn’t written specifically about branding, it caused me to evaluate my business practices and offered some great perspective. It’s a short and compelling study so you should have no trouble finding the time read it. (I read it in one plane trip). If you have some books that have been inspirational to you, please share. Now that the gift-giving holidays have begun, we can add some books to our wish lists.
On our DealerKnows’ Virtual Dealer Training program, we help dealerships maximize the technology, solutions, and opportunities already in place. With this comes a considerable amount of negotiating with vendors to improve their products on behalf of our dealer clients. No system is perfect, despite what vendors say, and often it takes a fresh set of eyes to show a dealership what they are missing with that provider. Product enhancement requests flow when we take on a new client and our Virtual Training platform can help evolve your use of a system/site and can help the vendors get better as well. And there lies the rub.
With advancements changing in the online marketplace daily, vendors must realize their products must change as well…just as quickly. Dealers won’t wait around forever as their vendor clients continue to sit on their hands. So here is my challenge to every vendor:
I want a Vendor Scorecard. I believe vendors should create a scoring system that allows all of their dealers to see, review, and vote on what advancements their teams should put into action. Not support issues (though a Vendor Scorecard could be beneficial for this as well), but an idea exchange where people on the ground can tell the people in the high rises what their system NEEDS to be able to do. It could be a small password-protected community within your software that allows ALL dealers to post their product enhancement requests so that ALL other dealer clients can see. Make it available to your own loyal public. Each product enhancement request should be time-dated and stamped so we know just how long it takes the vendor to react. Not respond… react. Fix. Change. Develop.
Then, take it to the next step, and allow every dealer client to VOTE on which product enhancements they most desire to see active sooner rather than later. You will create your own weighted scale as to which improvements to focus on completing. If you so desire, consider giving those few dealers that utilize your system to its fullest, are your oldest clients, or represent you in the online communities a heavier VOTE than others.
The automotive resource site, DrivingSales, has taken one step by bringing Vendor Ratings into the forefront and asking the automotive retail professionals that peruse this site to vote on who and why they recommend the companies they’ve chosen. This has been a good way to help vendors gain exposure and allow dealer personnel to give feedback to their peers. When a vendor’s reputation is questioned on these sites, it is amazing how quickly they respond. They either scurry to cover up the negativity or do their due diligence to correct it before it damages their business.
The end goal here is to let your own community of clients that USE your product to IMPROVE your product. I think there is a progressive way to do this without risking a vendor’s reputation.
If you are a vendor reading this, please don’t hate me for saying it, but your product/solution/sites CAN improve. Not “will”, but “can”. You can enhance your offerings to dealers if you just listen closely to your current clients. Above and beyond negotiating with vendors on behalf of our clients and suggesting new technological opportunities, we help them get the most out of their current solutions and websites. When we look to improve a vendor’s offerings for our dealership clients, though, we see far too many no-brainer enhancements that still are not being implemented. When I request a change from a vendor or give them (free) advice on how to better their offerings, I hear the same responses constantly. “We are working on it.” “I’ll pass it along.” “That is scheduled to be in our next release of enhancements 6 months from now.” What else do I hear? “I don’t understand.” THAT is the problem. You aren’t using the product the same way an Internet Sales Manager or Sales Manager uses it so you have your blinders up to the real needs of your software.
Dealers are asking themselves daily: “Where the heck do all of my product requests go?” “How many times do I have to suggest an improvement for it to go overlooked?” “When will this feature become available or active?” “Is anyone listening to what I want?”
I see no better way to get a vendor’s attention than making product enhancement requests a centerpiece to their customer service initiatives. Customers will finally be able to track their relationship with the vendors and hold them accountable if need be. Make them time-stamped suggestions with enough of your constituents voting for it and there will be no way a dealer can have a deaf ear. It is time more vendors listen to their clients first instead of listening to their own random ideas.
As I said, this is a CHALLENGE. The first vendor who decides to make the direction of their technology a democracy by creating a similar Vendor Scorecard available for all of their dealers wins my approval and another blog post dedicated to their innovative ways. Fair enough?
Like some of you, I am just getting caught up from nearly two weeks of conference action in Vegas. After attending and participating in three conferences (I only know a few who stayed for four!), my head was left full of charts, graphs, concepts, and ideas. Beyond the sensory overload from all of the content, one thing became abundantly clear to me: I was surrounded by people with passion. Pure, unbridled, go-tell-it-on-the-mountain, passion. Hearing people tell their story, wildly gesticulating with their excitement. The enthusiasm was contagious!
Many of us have passions in life. For some, it’s the outdoors. For others, it’s sports. Still for others, it’s working in the garage. You can debate for hours about the best way to rebuild a carburetor. You work tirelessly on your fantasy football team at all hours of the night. You spend weeks scouting out the best place to put a deer blind. You have rooms dedicated to mounted fish, classic Fords, and the New Jersey Devils.
I’m one of the guys who’s extremely passionate about his career. I love what I do! I rarely ever stop thinking about how I can improve processes, discover efficiencies, or make people more productive. I’m bouncing ideas off my friends in the industry all of the time (and they are always bouncing ideas off of me). I know my wife wishes I’d take a break in the evening, but she tolerates it because it’s what I do. I feel like the car business found me and I’m going to give a 100% back.
I know many of you, however, don’t feel that same passion. Maybe you feel like you are stuck in a dead-end job or someone around you constantly drags you down. Well I have bad news for you: your customers can hear it, see it, and feel it. How are they going to tell you “yes” when all they see is ‘no’ ? Unfortunately, the car business is not one of lateral moves. You’re either productive or you’re packing.
If you’re lacking that passion, you don’t need to get a prescription. I’ll leave the pills to Pfizer, Glaxo, and Bayer. I’m merely suggesting you change your outlook on what you do for a living. When asked, I’m guessing most of you would say that you sell cars for a living. I would argue that the sale is the end result of what you do. Before that vehicle puts rubber to the road, rolls over the curb, and starts killing bugs (did I miss any?), you need to sell yourself first. If the customer is not buying what you’re saying, then you have a tall hurdle ahead of you.
So how do you change your outlook? It’s actually pretty simple. Start thinking about what you really do every day. You’re not some robot that picks up the phone, pecks away at the computer, and shuffles papers around. You’re a cheerful voice after a hard day at work. You help people save their hard earned money. You are your own business. You assure people that they are making good decisions. You’re solving people’s problems. You make lasting friendships. In some cases, you’re even helping people achieve their life’s aspiration. You’re not selling cars: You are changing people’s lives!
Now I can hear the skeptics out there now saying that I’ve read too many books (and some other things that can’t be written here). To the naysayers, I say give it a shot. Talk to your customers with the same energy you would talk about college basketball during March Madness. Remind yourself that you are providing a valuable service to people. Sometimes it’s simpler than metrics and technology. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can make all of the difference. What do you have to lose?