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Discussion Point…

Today’s sales model is out-dated and fails more than it succeeds, so why do we keep using it? The consumers continue to plead and beg that we find a different way of conducting business and lets face it… we comply only as far as we have to, to meet factory C.S.I standards. We only take it this far because of fear of losing control of the customer. I stumble across some statistics of how the car buyer perceives us and how we conduct business today and I have to be honest I was a little set back by the results. So I conducted some of my own focus groups and found that these stats were right on! 97% of shoppers wanted to look at the inventory without being hassled. 85% said the salesperson was not professional and didn’t like the aggressiveness of the sales people when they 1st stepped foot on the lot. 99% insisted on a professional presentation. 87% felt an attitude of indifference or lack of concern from the salesperson. 90% never got a complete product presentation on the vehicle and 91% believed the salesperson did not know the product. Now for me that was enough proof that we, as Automobile Sales Professionals, need to find a better, more consumer friendly, way to conduct business.
I was a GM of an Auto Group in AZ and stumbled across a small, new to the market, company that seemed to have the solution to these problems. I asked them to come and present it to me. I was pleased to see the company was composed of Dealership owners, GMs and GSMs… “car people”, unlike some of these other companies who have little to no actual auto sales experience. These were people who had experienced the same problems I had but found the solution. I was so excited and impressed with this new company that I resigned my position and came aboard as the VP of Marketing and Product Development.
Today’s world has become a technological driven world to the point that it is almost a new language and we have no way for our salespeople to speak this language to the consumer when they come on our lot. We have developed a way for your salespeople to not only speak this new language but do it in a non-confrontational manner without losing control of the customer. Today there are over 50 million users of the iphone and ipod touch. So with this technology we have developed a product presentation tool that is a fully automated data provider and allows you to constantly monitor the customer’s activity at your desk top. It breaks down the customers fear barrier. It gives an accurate and consistent product presentation, all the while selling value rather that price! It integrates with your current CRM. It automatically follows up via email to your sold and unsold customers. And it gets your service and parts customers back on your lot, looking at the new products.
What other industry do you know today, that could have the customer perception similar to the auto industry’s and survive? Maybe there is a reason for our problems today!!!

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Hey Chad,

I am looking forward to revieiwing your application next week as planned in the hopes of overcoming my first impression that it may dilute the human interaction that differentiates the real world experience from the virtual one but I am curious to know who you are referring to in regards to your reply to Uncle Ralph? I can't find any suggestion that cars would be sold only online - but maybe I missed it??
this is the qoute I was referring to.
The shift from the real world dealership to the online version is almost complete
After reading it again I realized that is not what you meant. We look forward to next week. Being a Dealer and solution provider I am a little protective of the real work dealership but understand the value of the online solutions as well.
I believe this is the quote from you that Chad is talking about....

"Also, I have learned that a succesful business model today is the one that is built for tomorrow and all trends show that online relationhips are growing to the point that eventually an online transaction will be preferred. Just look at AutoNation's announcement to sell cars online and deliver them with a three day return policy. It is just a matter of time".

Suggests the evolution that will eliminate the brick and mortar facilities....
Well, by definition the word "preferred" suggests that a less desireable option exists so I don't see how that would imply an exclusion of an alternative - such as the brick and mortar dealership?

In any case, since this is a teaching environment perhaps I should provide some insights that extend beyond this forum since you seem to be suggesting a conflict between the real and the virtual world that doesn't exist and never will. The auto dealer of tomorrow must understand and work within the guidelines of human nature which has survived on the WWW. The evolution of the Internet to a pull/push medium vs. the push/pull advertising/marketing medium that old world car dealers are still focused on is what will decide the future of the auto business and who will survive.

First grasshopper - no insult intended, just my way of asking you not to take it personally, let me ask you a few questions:

1) Do most car shoppers hate car dealerships and have our old "hard sell - buy or die" tactics earned us that reputation and relationship either intentionally based on our presumption of controlling the information that the customer wanted to get the transportation that they needed or out of our arrogance that we can sell anyone anything because we are smarter than they are; real or imagined?

2) If a customer could get the information that they needed to buy a car without having to visit a car dealership and suffer through a sales pitch from a fast talking car salesman - and they still had the opportunity to drive it before they had to buy it - would they?

3) Does a customer care how much profit you make on them or are they focused on getting the best deal that they can - which is not always based on price by the way since most people will pay for the luxury of being treated honestly!

3) OK, if you answered yes to number one. two and theree you are correct - that is not my opinion that is empirical data confirmed by a multitude of industry professionals - then let me make my point about the future of the car business and the role of the Internet in changing it - not dismantling it.

Social networking is built on human nature which drives consumer's buying habits online or in the real world. People like to do business with people that they like and making friends online extends beyond conventional spheres of influence without the baggage of having to remember their birthdays and buy them presents. When you need a friend in the car business you just push your shopping questions to your online network to get their advice and/or ask if they know anything about the car or the dealership that you found online and ask if they have any suggestions or experiences that they want to share. After all, what are friends for!

This habit started with travel and hotels and electronics etc. when people asked for consumer comments about their experiences to help them make a buying decision. Remember, I agree that the real world dealership will still have a role to play in the buying process - I simply suggest that their role may not include conventional negotiations or selling systems controlled by the dealer with or without a hand held compter!

The Internet will evolve beyond what it is today because consumers demand that it will and technology suggests that it can. The efficiencies required by downsized dealers to sell more for less will eventually force an economies of scale that will eliminate the ability to subsidize a relatively ineffective sales person. That is not to say that people will be eliminated - only that their job description and areas of responsibility will have to change.

Consumers interacting with online personal shoppers with people skills vs. sales skills will empower the consumer to be in charge of their shopping experience and the subsequent transaction, or at least allow them to feel like they are. Once they select a vehicle and a dealer thay will be able to visit an "experience center" where they can test drive and take delivery and service the vehicle - or, as with AutoNation - they can test drive it for a few days and return it to the dealer who will convert it to a rental vehicle since rental fleets are now in need of inventory after the recent consolidation in the auto industry; but that is an entirely different lesson to teach.

The role of the brick and mortar dealership and the sales people in it will have to change because human nature won't! The preverbial cat is out of the bag and POWER TO THE PEOPLE is the rule of the day. The ability to approach customers from within a social networking site without the baggage of trying to sell them something is already here.

Frankly, I have a new client with a marketing platform that will allow auto dealers to promote themselves inside of the social networks in the form of consumer comments vs. marketing to the social networks from the outside in; but that also is a lesson for another forum.

I knew I could count on you to start the name calling and mud throwing here!!! I saw you coming a mile away and I'm glad you showed everyone here your character. How is that not offensive, calling me grasshopper?

As far as your "3 Questions" who wouldn’t agree with them? They are common sense! Congratulations Captain Obvious!

Anyhow, I truly believe that you would argue with a wall that you have never seen, researched or heard of, because you like to show your ignorance and hear yourself talk, rather than listen, because you read a dictionary once!
Just like with the wall, you have not done any research on I’m A Looker or seen it first hand and continue to ignorantly minimize its potential of assisting or improving what you are endorsing as well as many other applications in the industry.

To everyone else here, I am sorry for this very brief correction of someone who crossed the line of professionalism. I assure you it will not continue because I am done replying to his Stubborn way of "Teach Teach and never Listen and Learn".

To Phillip, the Jack ass, no insult intended just my way of describing you with an animal that has similar characteristics (stubbornness and a difficulty listening), I’m sure you will have some virtually intelligent come back to defend your obvious attempt to demine me, but remember God gave you two ears and one mouth so listen twice as much as you talk and add something beneficial to the discussion or don’t say anything at all!
@TR - If it counts for anything, I have had various dealings with Mr. Zelinger over the past couple of years and he truly is a "stand up guy" and true to his word... Sometimes the way we read each other's comments and posts is different than the way we would perceive people if they were there in person and conversing with us...

Also, I looked at your I'm A Looker videos and web page and thought that the whole program looks like a great way to not only differentiate a dealership, but also to connect with those customers who relate to the idea of "Can't I just browse your inventory and POS materials like I do at every other retailer?" I think it would be ignorant for anyone to comment negatively or discredit your I'm A Looker strategy and program execution without actually giving it a 100% sincere trial implementation... Your results to date are difficult to refute, and why would anyone want to?

There are a lot of ways to attract customers and as far as I am concerned, the overemphasis on "In-Market Car Buyers" that most Internet or Digital Marketing Solutions, Strategies and Tactics seem to solely focus on is an incomplete marketing plan and a strategic error...

I personally believe that the way to build a better business for any dealership is to engage with future customers, communicate with all car owners in your local market and establish top of mind awareness and positive perception BEFORE people realize they need or want a new or used vehicle... But, what the heck do I know?

I have been using the Internet to sell cars since the Pre-Web era of 1985 to 1991, and was setting up Internet Sales Departments in 1997... Was there in dealerships in 2000 when the "Dot Com" bubble burst along with the rest of the stock market and many dealers actually believed "good riddance, I am so glad the Internet is going away...". Yup, I done seen a lot, boys and girls. And one thing I know for absolute F&^%ing Certain; there will be new ideas, strategies, tactics and solutions that help dealers sell cars more efficiently and profitably that will appear in the future and which none of us have yet imagined.... So, having an open mind and investigating solutions like "I'm A Looker" is probably a good idea.

P.S.: I also figured I should give Jerry some more validation of his "Chest Thumping" criticism of me... I have always related to the big Silverback Gorillas at the Zoo's primate exhibit on a personal level.
TR: Are you just kidding Phil?? When I started reading your comment I was absolutely sure you were just taking the piss.

Hey, chill out buddy, Philip Zelinger is about the very last person on the planet to insult anyone. If you have a new product he is about the best friend you could ever find.

I am sure he is only testing you to get all the loose ends straightened out. I would vouch for his integrity and his very deep seated and cutting edge knowledge of the business anyday.

Well, I guess that means that our planned presentation of iamalooker is cancelled. I am sorry to hear that as I was hoping to listen and learn what I might have been missing so I could intelligently pass it onto my dealer clients and affiliated automotive advertising agencies. .

I am not sure what name I called you but I certainly apologize if you read one into my honest attempt to provide some insights into the point that apparantly you still are missing. Once again, obviously my fault since I was only trying to stick to my initial and only reason for participating in this post.

My only concern with your repeated replies was that you hadn't addressed my concern that you were avoiding the possibility that the key differentiator between the real world shopping experience and the virtual one was the ability to shake a hand and have the personal experience of making a real world friend and your iamalooker might dilute that experience.

Oh well, I guess I will never know.

PS: Before I posted my first reply I visited your site and went through your entire online video presentation because one of my dealer clients had asked me to research it for him. I guess I will have to make my suggestion based on the information that I have already recieved through your replies.

Thaks for the insight into your product and your exhibited response to an honest series of questions to better understand you and yours for consideration by me and mine..

As you suggested - no need for any further replies.
ooops, sorry. I just found your source for the name calling. Obviously it is a generational thing since I loved the Kung Fu TV series and "grasshopper" was the loving name offered by the older more experienced teacher to the skilled student who was presumed to be willing to listen and learn - just in case there was someting that he didn't know.

I for example started by trying to listen and learn from you but I shifted to presume to teach because I thought that you might appreciate the fact that I thought that you were repeatedly missing my point. Sorry, my bad.

Have a great weekend.
This topic is great Chad. I’m not sure if this is all just really about successfully predicting the future of the automotive business or not but it sure seems that way. There are a lot of people and companies that are banking billions on the fact that Dealerships will be gone one day and there will be one big computer in Detroit that takes all the orders for each manufacture. For me, that is where the FANTASY is.

If a professional salesperson approached correctly, I may keep him/her with me to find my car but if it’s some dude with sunglasses on, gold chain, just GIVE ME THE “ImALooker IPod” and leave me alone!

The biggest threat the Internet has is the Internet. It busted once and might bust again. I know, that sounds ridiculous but so did it at the tail end of the 90’s. I remember in about 1996, there was all this talk that the Internet will replace the local car dealership. Then the Internet Dot Coms went on to bust and BUST BIG!

The Internet and all these Social Sites bug the hell out of some Dealers. Dealers want to sell cars, they don’t want to post crap on Social Websites all day. Let me quote a big Dealer out of NC yesterday who told me “Ever heard of an Internet salesperson come into the boss’s office with a big smile and high five because he just got a 6 pounder”? I told him “nope”.

I’m not saying all Dealers are this or that but it is a fact that there is something NEW EVERYDAY on the Internet for Dealers and everyone else to decide on. It gets old fast and frustrating. Plus, to add to the fun of predictions, Most is ALL FREE.

Dealers are being pulled this way, that way and “follow me here, follow me there. They are being told “look you need to be on over 100 sites, banners, bloggers, Maps, Forms, Reviews, but most important, be on MySpace” Then YouTube, then FaceBook came on. Now it’s Tweeter! Then we got SEO and bidding on words, terms. Then as Brian Pasch pointed out, Third party lead companies are using their customer’s (dealerships¬) names to get leads to sell back to the very dealer paying them, for crying out loud!

What is next? Is Twitter the end? No its not, everyone knows the next BIG ONE is coming. Thousands of companies are investing Billions right now to make sure. I just hope it’s another kid from his dorm room. I love those the most.

With all that said, I LOVE THE INTERNET! I wish it was around when I was a kid. It is just a wealth of information and I have embraced it 100% for years. Watch the old Twilight Zone episode “Kick the Can” from the third season (1956 I think). Wow!

Anyway, my point is just that the Internet is so important to our business. It helps consumers understand all the makes and models out there today and gives them info they never had before. And yes even buy cars. It’s all good.

The Internet helps Dealers be more productive so the cost to sell a car drops. The Internet is the best thing ever but we have to learn to use it right. If I use fire to burn a house down, that’s not good. But if I use it to cook a nice steak (that I’m getting ready to eat right now) then it’s a good deal. The Internet has forced some Dealers to clean up their act just like all the other industries.

I don’t know anything about “ImALooker” really but from what I uderstand so far, makes sense to me. Over 50% of buyers today are women. I have not surveyed anyone and have no stats but I bet most women will take an informative IPod over a Slick Salesperson most of the time. Dealers need to train and give their customers choices. Nothing wrong with that!

We just need to find the sweet spot to use the Internet right and not let the Internet use us. I predict we will not stop and keep moving technology along way, faster than Dealers or Consumers are willing to play but who knows. We will see.
Chad - I agree with you, and perhaps I misunderstood the "Fantasy" part... I do not believe brick and mortar franchised dealers are in any peril, at least not during my lifetime... And, I also believe that the MAJORITY of car sales will continue to occur with the final delivery involving a hand shake and a warm smile for many years after I am dust. What I have seen is that there are times when people WILL BUY A CAR ONLINE, but they will surely be the lesser volume of transactions for many years to come... For example, we have seen parents buy cars for children in college towns far away from their hometown, we have seen US Military stationed overseas buy cars online, we have seen thousands of people buy cars on ebay motors online every day.

When I was 24 years old a sales manager told me that nobody would ever sell a car over the telephone... I proceeded to make a point of selling as many cars as possible over the phone. I once sold 12 Ford Tauruses over the phone and using a fax machine. There are cars sold every day in this country over the phone, via email and scanners, fax machines and on the web using secured applications... Just because somebody has always worked in dealerships that do not allow such crazy things to happen, does not mean it is science fiction or fantasy.

Heck, when I moved to Texas and sold cars there, I was amazed that those dealers can log into the DMV computers and check for any liens against a title... But just because it was outside the realm of my 15 years of selling cars up to that point, does not mean I ever thought it was a fantasy.

Although I firmly believe that the franchised and independent locally owned car dealer system in the USA is the best in the world at selling cars, I learned a long time ago not to believe in the concept of impossible or even "that will never happen..". I am old enough to have seen too many of those things come true. Including selling cars over the phone and on the Internet.
congrats on 3,000 members. That is impressive and powerful!


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