Posts tagged buyer motivation
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?
After a couple weeks of decompression from Vegas, I’ve had a few sleepless nights to think about what I learned (remembered?) from my trip. It seemed that calls for branding were even louder than last year. As I listened to said calls, I looked around the room to gauge reactions. Some people nodded in approval, while others looked at each other with a quizzical look on their face, while others mindlessly tapped away on their iPhones. Over the years I’ve had many great discussions regarding branding strategy (When Business People Go Wild, I know). I went on a bit of a tirade on the subject last year, and it looks like it’s time for another one. It’s pretty clear that branding needs to be empirical. If you can’t touch it, feel it, smell it, taste it, then you can’t pass those senses along to potential clients.
Defining a brand is hard, which is probably why so few companies do it well (I’m going to go a little academic on you, so consider yourself warned). Webster’s has a few definitions for brand: a mark made by burning with a hot iron to attest manufacture or quality or to designate ownership; a printed mark made for similar purposes (trademark); a class of goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer (make). Our oft quoted pal Seth Godin goes further, stating: “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.” In his newest book, “the End of Business as Usual,” Brian Solis came up with 9 Criteria for Establishing Brand Essence: Focus, Feeling, Individuality, Experiential, Consistency, Credibility, Longevity, Personal, and Portable. If you stayed awake long enough to read these different definitions you probably realize that it’s safer to take the 30,000 foot view.
Since we all can’t be Nike or Apple, let’s do an exercise. In Guy Kawasaki’s book “Enchantment,” he mentions his “Enchantment Hall of Fame” to get one’s creative juices flowing. He lists the following categories: car, Macintosh, airline, city, book, political leader, actress, engineer, TV host, female blogger, male blogger, singer, parenting, architecture, and clothes (I’ve included Guy’s list, as well as my own, below). I’m going to hijack Guy list for the purpose of example. Please proceed carefully: it’s not the fastest car, the hottest actress, the best band, or clothes you aspire to own. Just answer the questions (if you’re too cool for school, feel free to skip ahead):
|Car||’65 Mustang||Ferrari 288 GTO|
|City||Istanbul, Turkey||London, UK|
|Book||“If You Want to Write,” by Brenda Ueland||“Infinite Jest,” by David Foster Wallace|
|Political Leader||Nelson Mandela||Harry S Truman|
|Actress||Queen Latifah||Natalie Portman|
|Engineer||Steve Wozniak||Adrian Newey|
|TV Host||Mike Rowe||Jeremy Clarkson|
|Female Blogger||Jenny Lawson||Amber Naslund|
|Male Blogger||Robert Scoble||Christopher S Penn|
|Singer||Corrinne Bailey Rae||Layne Staley|
|Parenting||Adopting Children||Natural Biology|
|Architecture||Antoni Gaudi||Frank Lloyd Wright|
|Clothes||Aloha shirts by Anne Namba||Brooks Brothers|
I agree that some of these categories aren’t things that readily come to mind, however that’s why its an exercise. I’m also not going to argue with Guy Kawasaki because he has a bajillion followers in seven different galaxies, and more than 100 pages of reading after this passage. But let me ask you, can you can you give me at least five reasons why you chose your pick? Here are some easier ones for you:
|Restaurant||III Forks Austin, TX|
|Hotel chain||Marriott (JW)|
|Sports team||The Detroit Red Wings|
Take all your picks, and start asking yourself these questions:
- How do your choices/products make you feel?
- What memories do you have associated with them?
- What are you consuming?
- Where are you consuming it?
- If you have the choice, why are you buying it there?
- Do you feel a twinge of guilt when you do not go with your picks?
- Do you get a feeling of disappointment when something changes?
- Do you feel the need to share with someone at the company when your expectations aren’t being meant?
- Who are you buying it from?
- Where was it made?
- Who made it?
- How was it made?
- Who started the company?
- Where was the company founded?
- Do you ever go with the cheaper option?
If you can’t possibly answer these questions on a regular basis, it’s time to start. Let’s face it: these are gut-questions. These are also the same questions your customers have about you, as well as the products and services you sell. As consumer-facing automotive sites continue to consolidate, and the reliance on social media becomes stronger, the amount of differing opinions will continue to shrink. You need to understand the fundamentals of branding before it’s too late.
Learning what it takes to exude brand from everything you do, takes a great deal of time, consistent effort (ask Tracy Meyers if it happened overnight), and a ton of energy. Hopefully, by going through this process (and practicing) you will not only have a better understanding of your own tastes, but will begin to understand all of the dimensions of a strong brand. Continue updating your hall of fame. Who knows, maybe next year you will be the one doing a brand presentation.
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.
Originally posted 9/7/2010 on DrivingSales.com
I bought a book a short time ago, and at the top it said: “Ignore this book at your own peril.” The quote is from the best selling author, entrepreneur, and Marvel Superhero Candidate, Seth Godin. Having read most of Godin’s books, I immediately bought the book he was endorsing.
While I won’t bore you with the details of the book (it’s an awesome read), it’s a prime example of buyer motivation. Although I had no intention of buying a book that day, I physically walked into a book store, browsed through the business books (yes I’m a nerd), saw the quote by Godin, grabbed the book, and promptly paid for it. The bookstore didn’t sell the book. The authors didn’t sell the book. The publisher didn’t sell the book. Seth Godin sold the book.
How often are you asking your customers how they heard about your store? How they decided what products to consider?
What prompted them to start shopping online? How they heard to ask for you? In fact, how often are you asking questions?
I’ve been actively mystery shopping dealers for the better part of the last five years, and it’s not very often that I’m asked personal questions. I’ve seen plenty of volunteered information about the dealership’s history, the General Manager’s name, and the MSRP of the vehicle requested. It’s not very often that I’m asked if it’s better to communicate via email or phone. I’m rarely asked if I’m considering comparable vehicles. There have been solar eclipses since I was asked how I chose their store.
Why is this question so critical? It’s simple: it gives you instant feedback about how well your customer acquisition/retention methods are functioning. The answers could range from “I was searching the Internet for good deals on Chevys” (that SEO is paying off), to “One of my friends mentioned your name on Twitter “(high-five to the social media gal; get the bird-dog check in the mail), to “I saw your ad in the newspaper” (people DO still read those), to “I’ve bought my last four cars from you! You don’t remember?” (it’s officially time for a new CRM). Asking this one simple question gives you the pulse on what methods of outreach are working in real-time. As an added bonus, it gives you insight into how your customers make a decision.
If a customer’s cruising Google for good deals, it’s more likely that they are value conscious and not too dealer-loyal. If a customer reacts to a Facebook post from a friend, it’s likely that they are influenced by third parties and that they are looking for objectivity/credibility. If a customer is responding to a newspaper advertisement, they’re more likely to be reactionary and more of a “traditional” shopper. Is it not easier to respond with valuable information when you know which hat to put on? Is it not easier to make investments if you know it’s already paying off?
Although I’m pretty sure I’d turn elsewhere for car purchasing advice, Seth made it easy for me to spend $22. Your customers are following various sources of advice everyday to get that same guidance. These sources of influence are selling your product, selling your process, and selling your dealership. The good news is that it’s much easier to find out who or what these sources of influence are than you think. All you have to do is ask!
Hey, by the way…what made you click on this post?