RelationshipCommentary & Insights

Relationship
Building Customer Relationships with Tactile Action-Based Marketing

By

If you’re like most dealers, you invest thousands of dollars each month into various marketing channels. Some of which you may be deploying right now: TV, radio, digital, email, direct mail, social. If you’re not active in your community while building positive connections to your dealership name, and your team, you’re missing out.  I call it tactile action-based marketing, it’s people building relationships in your local community. Your store doesn’t have to be in a small town to make it work or to make a significant impact. I advocate for this type of outreach because it’s hands-on, cause and effect marketing, which builds relationships with both community members and local businesses. It begins with an action on your part, social media is a great launching point, and turns into word of mouth in your community. Done properly, it turns observers into engaged fans. It is also simple, cost-effective, and you can start right now. How does it work? Instead of focusing on the dealership, put the emphasis on your customers and the community, two subjects that hold people’s interest. Consider how many people pass by your dealership on any given day, does seeing your sign or building spark a positive response in them? Imagine building great relationships with people who aren’t even your customers...yet. How do you know if you need to implement tactile action-based marketing? A quick scroll through your Facebook or Instagram will give you the answer. It’s time if your pictures primarily show your staff, vehicles, or vehicle deliveries. If in your advertising, all you talk about is money, it’s time. If your posts are dominated with phrases like: “Here at ABC Dealer” “We want to buy your car” “The 2021 Make Model…” “Our goal is to…” It’s time, right? Your followers will stop paying attention if it’s "the all about you" show. Start by sharing customers’ wins Share about their businesses. How about posting what their children accomplish? Don’t forget to recognize community member’s accomplishments, sports team’s wins, and academic accomplishments. You can be a positive light in your community. Show gratitude Engage your social media followers with #thankfulthursday, each week on social media give away a gift card to a locally owned restaurant or small business. You just made a potential customer happy while supporting and promoting a local small business. Win/Win! Support your schools and teachers whenever possible Not only are you showing the teachers what they do is important, but also, you’re showing the parents you value their children. Parents are especially responsive when someone tries for the benefit of their children. When you say, “We care about providing you an excellent experience at ABC dealership” the community knows this to be true because they have seen your actions in the community. When you say, “We go to bat for you to get you the best interest rate,” this carries weight because you have been going to bat for them in their businesses and their schools. One hand washes the other, see how it works? Let’s start creating an amazing experience all the time though changing your social media approach and building relationships using tactile action-based marketing, you won’t regret it.
Creating the Ultimate Dealership Customer Experience

By

I was talking about mindset with my good friend Tommi Weeden and I was explaining to her that sometimes I work with guests that require A LOT. What I meant by that is they seem to take longer to get through the process. They can be walking "time bandits" in all honesty. She told me something that really resonated with me. Tommi told me: remember that everyone is different and we all process things differently. For this reason, don't look at your customer as "high-maintenance". Consider them "white-glove". That's when the lightbulb went off for me. Reframe Your Mindset White-Glove by definition means marked by special care or attention. By shifting your mindset and reframing from a negative to a positive, the whole experience is different. These days, automobiles, for the most part, have become commoditized. Meaning, unless it's a rare used car with low miles and custom modifications, or a new car with limited production, when they want a new car, the customer can send out the same email to ten different dealers and the race to the bottom is on! Therefore, we must focus on the customer experience, now more than ever before. The manufacturers are pushing this with surveys and secret shoppers on the customer's side; while simultaneously tying the dealers' trunk money to various programs that sound like alphabet soup. If you don't achieve certain metrics on these surveys, your dealerships' payouts are reduced, or altogether eliminated. Working at a Cadillac-Buick-GMC dealership, I can tell you firsthand, they want us to create what they refer to as, "Cadillac Moments". This is the "wow" factor. Honestly, it's not a bad idea. It's also not something we needed the factory to convince us to do in the first place. After all, you can't retain customers if they don't enjoy the experience. For us, this is second nature. To a struggling store who has bad or no processes, these factory programs can be life saving for the dealership's longevity. Consider These Four Questions To Create Your Dealership "Wow" Factor What are some ways you can personalize and white-glove your guest's experience? How can you surprise and delight your customers? How do you create lasting, memorable moments with your customers? What can you do to make the deal appear to be quicker and simpler, regardless of how long it actually takes? Why not start out with something as simple as offering them something warm or cold to drink when they come into your office? Find out if they are purchasing the vehicle to celebrate a recent success or promotion and make this all about THEM! The purchase of a new vehicle is a VERY exciting time for many people, and this is a simple way to build excitement with them. How about finding out what kind of music they like to listen to ahead of time, and have that playing when then enter your "House of Happiness" as my mentor GP Anderson would say. When you are about to give them two tickets to the magic show, why not make them as comfortable and relaxed as possible; this will result in giving you and your dealership a competitive advantage over your competition.  By custom tailoring your presentation and your behavioral interactions with each guest, you will ultimately build and develop deeper loyalty and trust with each customer you engage. You can really only achieve this by taking the time to understand and even anticipate the needs of your customers. This allows you to "outrun" objections to issues prior to them being raised by the customer, thus preventing issues and resulting in a pleasurable experience for your guests. You have to do the deal and process the paperwork, regardless. Therefore, why wouldn't you make it fun for you AND the guests, and by doing so, increase your grosses and your ultimate satisfaction with the process? This to me sounds like More Winning! #bing #noextrachargeforapositiveattitude
Everybody is Your Friend, You Just Haven't Met Them Yet

By

I was leaving my building in downtown Denver, heading to the dealership in Boulder this morning and I was thinking to myself how grateful I am to have the most wonderful circle of influence that I have in my life. Not just because of the people who had mentored me over the years, but also for the people I had found over my career who cared about me when they didn't have to.  In this business, I have discovered that we don't simply sell cars and complete the necessary paperwork. We end up being three things: a detective, a psychologist, and a babysitter. Our main priority, above all else though, is to protect the dealership. Our second goal is to serve the guest and maximize profitability. So how do we do this when we are working with total strangers, as opposed to the repeat and referral deals? Smiling. Live for the smile of the day! Put your guests at the heart of your business and constantly strive to scratch their record by injecting a touchpoint and creating a moment. Your ultimate goal should be to have your guests leave your dealership and share the word about your world-class service and come back as customers for life.  We want to cement our customers to us. That's why we sell prepaid maintenance and service contracts. We want to create the exceptional experience our guests deserve. The best way to do this is to start becoming the most positive person in the dealership – make your daily goal to infuse excitement into every deal you can. If you have a genuine passion when you work with people, they will be able to tell. Authenticity is key! Successful business managers know that they have to have readiness & integrity to get the job done correctly beyond the passion. Have you ever noticed that some people always seem to be "lucky" and other people always seem to "be on the struggle bus"? It's not by accident, usually. Over the last eighteen years in this business, I had realized that when I was a rookie in F&I, I would become easily upset about a deal that didn't go my way. I felt it was my god-given right to sell every one I met something. I've learned that the less pressure I put on myself to sell something, the more people buy from me. I find it is much better to have fun with the process and transfer that energy and enthusiasm over to the customer. When a customer is having fun with you in your office and enjoying "the process," the amount of time you spend with them diminishes in their eyes. The old saying, "time flies when you're having fun," is so true.  Becoming a connector of people is how we make a living in this business. The first dealer I worked for used to always say, "go meet the people." Make friends with everyone you meet. The truth is, everywhere you go, you will meet and encounter people. Why not make sure that everyone you come in to contact with gets connected to you. Meaning you tell them who you are, where you work, and what you do.  Following this simple step, which does take effort, will lead to you building your circle of influence much more rapidly and much bigger than you could imagine. I can't tell you the number of people who started as total strangers walking into my office, walked out, gave hugs, exchanged cell phone numbers, and became Facebook friends. The best part about what we do is the relationships we make. The real finesse in F&I is managing your relationships. Not only with the customers but with the salespeople, the lenders, and everyone you come into contact with. If you can master your ability to connect with others somehow, you will master this profession just as surely. Every deal is an opportunity to make a friend. 
The Power of Dealership and Customer Trust in Automotive Marketing

By

In the deep dark recesses of black-and-white television, there was a game show hosted by Johnny Carson called "Who Do You Trust?" The show was a long-running hit because, in a comedic way, it explored a fundamental human emotion — trust. That emotion resonates strongly in the auto industry because it is far easier to sell vehicles to people if they trust you, your business, and the process than if they don't, which is why it is a mystery that auto retailers don't spend more time cultivating trust within their potential customers. Though some strides in that direction have been made over the past 20 years, auto dealers and auto salespeople still lag virtually all other professions in terms of trustworthiness. Recent rounds of polling by the Gallup organization say that Americans believe only professional lobbyists and members of the U.S. Congress are less honest and less ethical than car salespeople. That's a pretty low standard, isn't it?  In its series of "Trusted Automotive Brand" studies, AMCI Global, the respected auto industry advisory company, found the customer's perception of trust in the auto industry is, at best, tenuous. The most recent of the studies calculated that the "Trust Indices" of the top automotive brands are below 50 on a 100-point scale, with 1 being not trusted and 100 being completely trusted. In comparison with many other consumer product and retail categories, carmakers and car dealers lag well behind. Some might find it ironic that consumers put more trust in retailers who sell them shaving cream or soft drinks than those that sell them $50,000 vehicles, but that is the current state of the business. "The auto industry has been chasing satisfaction for decades now," Ian Beavis, AMCI's chief strategy officer, told me. "But the industry is still putting $4,000 on each car to persuade people to buy. What we've found is satisfaction is not nearly the driver of loyalty and advocacy that trust is."  "Trust is an emotional measure," Beavis added. "The industry builds things; it is used to working with things. But to build trust it must rely on the human element." Trust a powerful human emotion and an emotion that is closely tied to buying decisions. While many observers and critics of the industry suggest that providing the car-buying consumer with more information and data will improve the process, what they fail to grasp is that the purchase of a vehicle is, at its heart, an emotionally driven decision. As I said more than 20 years ago in my book,  The Complete Idiot's Guide to Buying or Leasing a Car , nobody really  needs  a new car. Instead, the industry revolves around the fact that millions of people each year really  want  one. If a new vehicle's purchase devolves to simply a rational "asset acquisition" that would best be done by a professional, a lot of the art and most of the profit leaks out of the business like air shooting out of a punctured balloon. Instead, the best way to court an emotion-driven purchase is to cultivate that emotion with another deeply held and powerful emotion — trust. If consumers trust the product, the maker of the product, the retailer of the product, and the process they go through to purchase the product, they will be far more likely to buy — and pay more — than if they lack trust in any or all of those aspects. Further, Beavis and I agree that it has never been more critical to the auto industry than now. An automotive retailer's role is changing before our eyes as electrification, autonomy, and mobility services become more and more prominent. Consumers want to learn about the new technologies from people they trust. They don't want to figuratively keep their hand in their wallet pocket as they are being educated about very expensive technology. Factors That Diminish Trust The sad fact is that several extremely common auto industry practices are not just neutral to building trust; they are antithetical to it. Take the time-honored "ups" process, for example. A prospect walks onto the lot, and the next salesperson in line goes out to greet her or him and, one hopes, start a relationship that will culminate with that person agreeing to transfer $50K of their money into the hands of that dealership in return for a vehicle the prospect could buy at any one of a number of same-brand stores in their market. That's a multi-thousand-dollar crapshoot right there. Isn't there a chance customer, salesperson, and store would be better served by letting the customer choose the salesperson they'd like to work with? Not traditional? Too difficult?  Yes to the first. No to the second. Many dealers around the country are having success by posting photos and biographies of their salespeople online. That way, customers can decide for themselves who they want to deal with and, implicitly, who they are likely to trust. Among many who have discovered this a successful strategy, I have interviewed a salesperson in Minneapolis who uses his musical background to build rapport with his potential clients, and he reports that many of them have not only purchased cars from him but have also become friends. Why? He establishes trust with them. Another traditional sales technique that is antithetical to building trust is the age-old F&I process. Consider the psychology of this from the customer's point of view. The prospect has typically spent at least an hour with the salesperson and has managed to put aside the in-bred lack of trust in that stranger at least enough to essentially complete — at least in his or her mind — a deal for a new vehicle, a very big thing in that person's life. And then what happens? While the customer thinks the deal is done and only "paperwork" remains, she or he is then marched into a different office to meet a new person with whom they have no relationship at all. Then that person immediately tries to sell them stuff. A lot of stuff. Expensive stuff. Can't you see the tenuous level of trust that was built between the salesperson and the customer go flying right out the window? Instead of taking this trust-destroying path that should have disappeared when policemen quit hitting suspects with rubber hoses, wouldn't it be better to empower salespeople to take the customer from first inquiry to delivery? Isn't this approach more likely to engender and reinforce trust and grease the wheels of a sale? Note, too, this doesn't preclude selling products and services that are typically sold by the F&I manager. Quite the contrary, if the salesperson whom the customer trusts is selling these goods and services, the take rate is likely to be higher than in the traditional process. Developing Trust You don't have to be a clinical psychiatrist to see that developing and nurturing a trusting relationship between customer and store personnel is a good thing. Who do you want to buy something from? A person you trust or a person you suspect is dishonest, unethical, and thus untrustworthy? That should be a no-brainer. So how do you develop and nurture trust between your personnel and would-be customers? As I outline in my most recent book,  The GR Factor: Unleashing the Undeniable Power of the Golden Rule , the key is treating people (and prospects are people, by the way) in the manner you would want to be treated. In the book, I wrote this: "Treating others as you would want to be treated is not only a philosophy and an attitude, it is also the basic premise that enables win-win situations, and win-win situations are foundational to sustainable business success." That is not just a religious affirmation. It is something you can, quite literally, take to the bank.
Cupcakes and Etch in the Finance Department

By

Sometimes even the best pros in this business will get a deal thrown at them that they know is an uphill battle from jump street because of how it was worked. The appearance of any opportunity is gone. This is where a true F&I pro will push pause and think before reacting compared to the know it all rookie who huffs and puffs about a "cash deal." The deal has to be done whether you make any back-end profit or not, right? Therefore, being upset about getting a stripped-out cash deal doesn't change anything except your mood right before you process the deal, important! Instead of being crapped out, look at it as two things: a challenge, and a teaching opportunity. I recently had a deal where a salesman worked the deal as hard as he could and the desk agreed that the customer would pay $40,000 OTD. They were going to send the customer to his bank to collect his cashier's check and then complete paperwork with me after he gets his money. The salesman asked me if I wanted to talk to him before he (the customer) left, I said, of course, I want to talk to ALL of the customers. I said, go put your paperwork together, just like a regular deal, then I will do his paperwork and review any options he has available, give him his total, and send him to the bank. After immediately bonding with the customer and knocking out all the basic forms, I went into my presentation. After careful review of the customer's offerings, the customer picks the vehicle service contract and hands me a credit card for the $2,873. He then left and an hour later came back with a cashier's check for $40,000. What just happened? The salesman actually convinced himself that he had gotten it all. It might have been all he would pay for the truck; it wasn't all he would spend on his protection options. Moral of the story - don't give up before you've even tried! Challenge yourself to stick to your process and show the salespeople who don't really believe you have a shot that you not only will take it 100% of the time but that sometimes you'll actually get it! The salesperson's teaching moment is that once a customer writes the check, they have made the physical and mental commitment to finalize or admit on paper they are purchasing something. It is always better to make all of your offerings BEFORE you have them take that last step and write the check. That way, all of the F&I products can be considered before making the final buying decision. The other situation that pops up from time to time is the deal that has to be written at buy rate just to get it done, so your efforts might be less motivated than if the deal had two points in it and they would only buy the vehicle if we could protect it with a VSC and GAP. How many of you desire to do a buy rate deal with etch? Not many people. This is the customer who has bought three vehicles from me in the past and always bought products and been very agreeable on the rate. Her score was in the high 600's, but this time around, the extra options just aren't in the budget. Do you push to get the deal bought and close it anyway? Absolutely. This is the lady who brings in gourmet cupcakes from whole foods before you've even prepared a first pencil. Five years ago, when she was a stranger and a new customer to the store, I offered a VSC and GAP. She shot me down on both. I persisted that GAP would be highly beneficial when a total loss occurs. She then takes the GAP and a year later totals the vehicle and is relieved to learn that because of my recommendation, she gets to walk away from that mess and start over with me fresh again instead of having to write a check for $6,000 to become a pedestrian. Recognize that you have built a loyal relationship with a customer and that not every time they do business will be a favorable deal to the finance department. Remember though that how you make them feel, and how the salespeople see you treat the deal will impact your future dealings with both parties. Sometimes you just have to eat the cupcake and be thankful for the etch.
truecar
The Real Value of Third Parties in Automotive

By

I’ve heard third-party listing sites described as a necessary evil in automotive. They provide valuable information to consumers and valuable leads to dealerships but many argue that these connections should happen without the third-party and their additional cost to dealers.  Everyone is right here: some organic customer/dealer connections do happen, but I believe the real value of third-party vendors is the connections that would not have happened without them.  You’ve heard me say it before and I’ll say it again: it can be hard to step into the shoes of our customers because we know so much about our industry. But consumers favor third-parties channels because they provide information consumers want that is difficult to find or nonexistent on dealer websites today. (PS: If you want to address this problem, check out this article on how experience in automotive hinders our ability to create an ideal consumer website.) These include a marketplace of consolidated inventory from almost every dealer in the region, independent, validated reviews about the dealership, upfront pricing, vehicle features, and even validated pricing. CarGurus offers a marketplace intelligence tool that guides the consumer towards great values. TrueCar’s price curve offers market-based peer pricing for the vehicle you’re considering. By making it easier to shop across a broad network of normalized dealer inventory, these services add tremendous value to consumers. And in today’s climate, these third-party listing sites provide even more value to dealers today. The majority of consumers are limited to shopping from their homes so we are anticipating people spending more time researching and comparing their options online than they have in the past. This means aggregators will become a more essential part of the buyer journey as consumers shop your showroom from home. And without the limitation of dealership location, consumers who may not know about your store and therefore don’t think to check your individual dealership website will likely find themselves browsing your inventory on an aggregator as they research their new vehicle purchase. (More thoughts on shopping from home with the help of third-party listing sites here .) If we look at non-automotive digital retailing journeys, third-party listing sites like Amazon and Walmart are leaders in eCommerce. Their value proposition to both consumer and seller (dealer) is near identical to the third-party listing sites as is their billing model. When looking at another industry, it’s easy to see how valuable these vendors are in the buying cycle. I personally can’t remember what online shopping was like before third-party listings were available.