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Can't we just go back to the way it was?

In the wake of this Truecar debacle. It has made me think about how we do business now compared to just a scant few years ago. Here we are at the end of hopefully another good year going into 2012. I look back and have realized that, in the time that I have been in this business it has changed to a point that I wish I could go back to the way it used to be (and I’m not that old). A simpler time, when grandma used to put apple pies out on the window and “Reputation Management” wasn’t a thing dealers paid for. I started in this business as a salesman which apparently has become less the norm and more the surprise when I talk to my fellow directors of Internet, E-commerce, Digital Media, Internet coordinators and whatever other names have come out of the woodwork to define what we “Internet” people do. I for the record call myself an “Internet Director” for what it’s worth.  When I started there was a way of doing things, a process, a system, a defined guideline to success, or at least I was told. I reflect on this because I recently found the old “9 steps to the sale” sheet I was given the first week I started selling cars and was trained on. Finding that made me think that there are now nearly the same amount of (or more) steps after the sale than what there used to be.

                At the end of this list I read Step 9: Follow up. As if that step were so simple in the first place. Follow up. How simple it sounds to say. Now from the moment a salesman shakes the hand of John Q. Customer and gets the paperwork into “The Box”, we require our salespeople to follow some “steps” to ensure the customer is satisfied to the maximum possible level.

Step 1: Tour the dealership, introduce them to Parts and Service. Make sure they see a FACE of a service advisor so they know who will be helping them when they bring their car in for maintenance. Show them how to schedule an appointment online. (Doing it online is convenient, frees up our advisors from the phone to focus on customers in front of them, and is the future of service, just as it is in sales)

Step 2: Introduce them to a Manager, where said Manager will inform them “we can replace cars, we cannot replace customers, blah blah blah” and informs them of our referral kick back. Send someone in we’ll give you some $$$

Step 3: Have them sign a waiver to allow us to post a picture (sometimes video) of them and their testimonial to our Facebook, Twitter, Website, etc.  

Step 4: Grab someone to get the picture/video, have them fill out testimonial.

Step 5: Coach them to give a “perfect/excellent/10 for 10” Review on the Manufacture survey they will most certainly get and either file under ‘TRASH’ or most likely blow us up for not throwing in the floor mats

Step 6: Folks can you go online and give a 5 Star rating on our “independent” Dealer rating provider for our Reputation Management, then also can you do that on Google Reviews too, then can you also do the same thing on Yelp.

Step 7: Pray to the Car Gods that Finance will come get them before they start asking you to pay them for all the work they have to do to spend money with us and give you their business.

Step 8: Follow up

(Maybe step seven isn’t required but of all the steps this is the one I see every salesperson, with clasped hands looking to heavens, doing without fail every deal.)

                Somewhere in all of that you’ve got to sprinkle in getting the car cleaned up by detail, don’t forget they’re here to buy a car so finance will have to get squeezed in there and good luck getting any of this done once they’ve left finance they just want to get home and on with their day, but not before a textbook delivery by a certified sales professional. My point is that the days of “I’ll sell the cars and you can leave me alone”, that so many salespeople have known for years is gone. It’s gone the way of the Buffalo and it’s not coming back. By the end of the deal the customer has done more work than the salesperson to build your dealership up. There comes a point where you might stop and ask yourself, “Is all this necessary?”, your answer is YES!

                You’re dealership may have been in business for 60 years and 3 generations by now or more, you may have ate, slept, and breathed this industry since you were an infant. It doesn’t matter, the internet changes the way we do business on a yearly if not faster pace. All your ties to the community and years of service would mean nothing if you killed your website and lead providers. Odds are those people you just ran through the 8, 9, 10 steps to the “after the sale” probably found you online. Doing these things is a pain, and often you don’t know how well you are executing them and what their net benefits are. It is however MILES from 1993 where a shotgun newspaper, TV, and Radio Campaign hopefully drew in enough people to keep the lights on next month.

                So when I look back at my steps to the sale, and see what the business was (not all that long ago) and what it is now only makes me believe that what it will be in another 5 years will only make what we’re doing now look obsolete. I look forward to 2012, I look forward to the new app, the new lead provider, the new step to the sale. I look forward to these things because without them, there will be nothing to look at in the future. This business once was unchanged in nearly every facet since the days of the caveman car guy. Now it moves so fast, with so much to learn, it’s like trying to take a drink out of a fire hose, while keeping up with the dealer across the street in a race to be the most advanced dealer customers could access. If you do not keep up, at the pace our business is going, most assuredly you will be left behind in some aspect. If you are anything like me, you can at least understand that you don’t understand it all. At some point in your day though, take a breath, and take a moment of silence remember a simpler time, when politicians were honest, nobody knew what a Lady Gaga was, and Truecar wasn’t trying to ruin the way we provide for ourselves and our families.

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Comment by Mike Watson on December 13, 2011 at 10:35am

Was Truecar ever not trying to bite the hand that feeds them?

Comment by Tom Gorham on December 13, 2011 at 5:33am

Great post Mike.  BTW, were politicians ever honest?

Comment by Ralph Paglia on December 11, 2011 at 4:56am

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