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15 years ago I told Ron Craft (the dealer I got my start in the car business with in 1984) “Customers aren’t shopping for a car they are shopping for a salesperson to buy a car from”. That was the way I approached car sales when I got into it after having been in the shop for a few years. I didn’t know it then but I was using social media.

Each day I would I would take brochures, donuts and coffee to local hair salons, boutique stores, doctor’s offices ect. talk with the employees, customers and patients about just anything… and cars too, I got to know a lot of people and got a lot of referrals. Before I knew it I was selling 20+ cars per month and in 1988 I made over $80K selling cars in Baytown TX.

For a single 20 yr old making $80K and yr runnin around in a free Camero, well those who know me know can certainly imagine the trouble I was able to get into, that’s another post (maybe).

On each sale I got to the point that I would pretend to take the deal to the desk. Just leave my office hang out in the back for a while then return with a number. It was great fun and I think the reason I have stayed in the car business as long as I have is that it was and still is fun.

This morning while working out and listening to Seth Godin as I often do, all the pieces started to fall into place from my early days selling cars to now and the use of social media in the car business. I Tweeted this morning “Customers will no longer pay for salespeople who are merely a cog in a machine #thedeathofthedesk in automotive”

People are shopping for a salesperson…an experience, social media starts that experience with the salesperson early and can greatly enhance the customer wanting to buy from that person and your store. You dealers that are blocking Facebook, Twitter and keeping your salespeople from blogging you are killing yourself and stopping many customers from connecting with the experience, DON'T.

Secondly, we all know that the back and forth to the desk process…customers hate it. They want their salesperson to be empowered, so let them be.

Bottom Line – the desk was put in place to control gross… here is a wakeup call dealers, the market controls gross now you don't. Abundance of information has removed that responsibility from you, you don't have to like that fact but you do have to live with it. For the record I am with you I don't like it either, some of my best retail memories are of working the desk.

Pricing is a function of the market now, your job is now price positioning and differentiating your buying experience. Social media and how you interact with customer pre and post sale has a great deal to do with that experience. Make no mistake about it like it or not you are seeing the last days of the desk, and because I love it so much and want to remember it in its prime I am willing to put a bullet in its head now and put it out of its misery, you should too.

That’s my opinion…what say you?

Larry Bruce (@pcmguy)

Views: 61

Tags: CRM, Post-click-marketing, automotive, bruce, click, dealership, internet, larry, marketing, post, More…sales, sem, seo, site, web


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Comment by Larry Bruce on May 10, 2010 at 4:12am
Stanley your right in that a customer is shopping for a salesperson they're not shopping for a car. In the end for a new car franchise the service it gives is all that separates you from another store of your make. That is why the desk has to go, it is the icon for friction in the sales process it is the anti-customer service.

If you want to make the sales process friction free you will have to remove the barriers, be responsive even anticipate the customer’s needs:

1. The first thing I want to know - How many of what I want do you have and what will it cost me to get it. So give them that, DON"T MAKE THEM ASK FOR IT.

2. Anticipate my needs give me some clean used car options. NOT a lot just one or two.

3. Give me all the financial options I have right on the phone even email them to me in clear easy to read menu so I can make an informed intelligent decision.

4. Give me a guarantee XX number of days return policy no questions asked. Take away my reservations about this large purchase.

5. Make it easy for me to buy. If I am coming to the store have me in and out in 90 min or less, preferably less. If I want to have it delivered, great deliver it to me.


Hopefully you can get some of these implemented at your store.

Comment by Stanley Esposito on May 4, 2010 at 10:21am
I am on the sales floor everyday. I see the customers and talk to them. Many of them are looking for one thing. That one thing is a salesperson. If you work at a dealer look at your top guy. He has a following and referrals. His customers are using the service department. The top guy is known around town people want to deal with him because their friends and family do. Does your store have that guy? Do these guys still exist?

My dealership is lucky we have quite a few guys who have been in the business and same store for more then ten years. They have followings. I see my store and others trying different ways to get customers in the door. In the end the salesman is the face of your dealership. All the time money and effort is out the window if the customer can't find a salesperson.

How about taking one of your guys and creating a brand out of him? The competition has the same product at the same price. What separates you from everyone else? Maybe you have the top guy in the County or even the state. The store down the street does not. As a salesman I try to do this myself. I work hard to get my name out there. I go to many different car shows. I have entered cars from my dealership. The guys who go to the different shows all know me now and guess who they come to see? This is one of many examples of prospecting that I do.

My name is in front of my sold customers once every quarter. I can't wait for the dealership to do it because I like my house and my four kids like to eat. These are tough times for sure. This is when the top guy always shines. I see the value in a good salesperson and so should the dealerships because the stock is rising for the good sales pros out there! I cannot wait to teach some of these methods to the young guys who want to hustle!

Comment by Larry Bruce on May 1, 2010 at 10:33am
Chuck it's funny you should mention a stopwatch. At MotorTrends we have a in and out of our store in 90 min or the car is free and we hand the cusotmer a stopwatch when they enter the store.
Comment by Chuck Dapoz on May 1, 2010 at 9:38am
@Larry: I'm with you. One of the big benefits of the internet is saving time. A friend who hates car shopping goes into a showroom holding a stopwatch and tells the salesperson, "I'm walking out in 60 minutes." He won't start the conversation unless a salesperson says he/she can negotiate a deal without management approval. He typifies the modern buyer. The role of the salesperson is NOT about the walkaround ... especially not when the the prospect knows more about the vehicle than the salesperson. WTW, WTWI, TWTWI should be tattooed over the heart of every salesperson (or maybe on the head).

Comment by Larry Bruce on April 30, 2010 at 8:23pm
@chuck no question the salesperson will make the diffrence in the experience, but not like you may be thinking. It's not about the walk arround anymore or your skill at relationship building it comes down to time. Respecting and working to save the customer time and help them get what they want, when they want it, the way they want it. That is the new walk around...eliminate the brain damage from the car sale!

Comment by Larry Bruce on April 30, 2010 at 8:18pm
@Rick, it has certainly been our experience at MortorTrends. The sales manger is more of a problem solver than anyting. I would prefer they not get into the deale uless needed. They are also there to manage day to day ops.

Great people skills is a must in any business these days, so thats a given. Really just be a sales manager again and stop being a "Desk Guy" (god I hate that term!)
Comment by Rick Law on April 30, 2010 at 8:35am
I definitely think you are on to something. The day of the desk guy sitting around penciling OK Deal is a dinasaur. I think a hybrid sales manager that gets involved early in the sales process and helps with the sales process is what has to happen. He has to have great people skills and not be an ego tripping maniac. He has to be a rennaisance man more than ever.
Comment by Chuck Dapoz on April 30, 2010 at 2:32am
Larry, you nailed it with you comments about the importance of people (salespeople). Quality, features, performance and technology don't differentiate products like they used to. That makes the sales experience the big differentiator today. Consumers increasingly make buying decisions based on what they perceive as a superior experience (more friendly, more relaxed, more trusting, whatever). Most people prefer to pay a "competitive" price for a good experience than the lowest price for an unsatisfying experience.

Comment by Larry Bruce on March 27, 2010 at 5:53am

Sales Managers are going to have to be "Sales Managers" again not deal negotiators. This is a bit of a full circle thing in that what a "Sales Manager" was supposed to do was help salespeople with communication skills, sales skills, follow-up process ect.

The desk bastardized this process and turned us all from salespeople into deal people.

Now don't get me wrong, the desk had its place and time but that's over now and your dealership needs a "Sales Manager" not a "Desk Man"

Comment by Craig Lockerd on March 17, 2010 at 9:31am
Desk,Yes.....But not as it has been for years,I started 37 years ago and have seen many different ways to approach a car deal.Managers{The Desk} need to be involved from the start of any relationship being built with the clients as they walk in....NOT when they are walking out!
Desking....."Coaching" in my opinion must be upgraded not eliminated.Salespeople need to be recruited properly,trained and trained and trained some more.....managers need trained and trained and trained some more....and somewhere in that whole deal needs to be a coach,to insure all the "training" is paying off.

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