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After reading Brian Pasch's insightful blog post about dealers egos and how they can be hobbling their own successes (see here), I got to thinking about this subject in greater detail.
I've already replied to that post that our industry is really coming up short on success because of the limitations imposed by some styles of leadership. But there may also be a deeper issue - one that is the cause of many dealership headaches and lamentations:
Does the Dealer/Dealership truly value their staff?
Here is why I ask the question. When you operate a service business, you are in the business of creating relationships with people. That being said, success would be a direct result of how many people you can engage, how many you can sell a product/service to, and how many either become your champion or come back and consume more of your product/service.
How important, then, as a primary selling point of your business, is the aspect of your own staff?
How many times does a Dealer's stated Value Proposition tell about how many employees are on hand to service the customer's needs? How many combined years of technician experience in the service shop? How many years has the sales force and management been selling? How much value does the store put in its own staff? Does a Dealer realize that when they complain about high turnover, that people leave or get fired because not enough value is being placed on training them, retaining them, or helping them get motivated to succeed?
Don Graff and I had a brief conversation on the way to lunch one day with Jeff Bonnell, the principal of TransparentDealer.com, one of our partners at Don Graff Automotive (www.DonGraffAutomotive.com). He was talking about how dealers who embrace putting a lot of emphasis on who their salespeople are (both in and out of work) tend to get more social attention when happy customers share who their salesperson was. As that social sprawl happens, more explorers come to the store's website, and a marked increase of floor traffic say that they came because they got a chance to "know" their sales consultant a bit better and realized that they were a nice person and someone they thought they should work with. The customers then relate better with the salesperson and there's less "first-sight animosity". Deals tend to be a little easier afterwards.
Customers share, through Facebook and Twitter, how happy they are with a new purchase, so why not give them the ability to really highlight the sales consultant(s) or manager(s) that did such an awesome job of serving them?
I blogged on our company site (see here) about how Salespeople can at least start their own electronic Brag Book by creating a personal Facebook Fan Page. That is a grassroots way for the individual to promote themselves. But, there are limitations to Facebook, especially when happy customers may want to Google or Bing their salesperson's name to recommend them to a friend.
I say that a dealership's key staff, Salespeople, Managers and Service Advisors, maybe even the Internet/BDC team, make up a huge part of the character of the dealership. They certainly merit more than one photo (without SEO-friendly alt text) on a page, buried at the bottom of the About Us menu.
But the kicker is, the upper managers may not see things the same way. The ego comes into play because, as the dealership principal, I might say, "My value proposition is based on all the money I spend to make my dealership the way I think my customers want it." Of course, there is no mention of the importance of my team of people that make those sales happen every day.
What I should be saying is, "My total value proposition involves the investments I make in my facility, providing value-added products and services that my customers want, and the investments I make in the skills of my team. The sales consultant or service advisor or Internet call center agent that you talk to is so important to me, that I do everything I can to train them well, give them the skills to make your customer service experience second to none, and celebrate them as individuals. Because without them, I would have no ability to do business with you, my valued customer or prospect."
If a principal can't make that statement, then it's pretty certain we know where their ego lies.
That's my two cents. (And if you rub them together, you'll have two cents.)
Thanks for reading!