The Paradox of Progress

The Farther You Get, the Farther You Have to Go. In taking a detour this month I want to share with you something I have been observing in some dealerships which frankly are holding back business achievement. This article will be a living testament as to why it is so important to establish certain things first. Just this past month, I spoke with several dealerships regarding their latent and unfulfilled attempts to establish a solid CRM strategy and see business growth.  Actually, it astonishes me to see what some stores think the answer is and what is involved in establishing a disciplined  solution. Go slow, yet be deliberate with your quest to identify processes and training needs, locate solutions, purchase elements, implement them and finally, put in play developing your store’s growth potential.   Just like writing a book; one word at a time (or step) is the best method. Of course, before all this occurs you remember we do have to develop certain processes for every nook and cranny of CRM and then maintain a vengeance in adhering to those principle processes. Let’s take store number one for now; Wow, newly upgraded CRM software tool. They just went out and purchased everything they possibly could which looks, smells and tastes like it has anything to do with how “I define” technology and CRM. I mean this store was ‘wired up’ with every gadget, software, camera, monitor, wireless headset and computer you could wildly imagine. Initially, I felt like I was in Best Buy but then migrated quickly over to  more like CIA headquarters as they began boosting about and...

Dealer Math Test: Data + Thought + Action = Cash

Quiz Take your most popular selling make and model and pick your very best zip code. Do you know how many of those particular vehicles were sold in that zip code in the last quarter? How many of those were used? What year was the most popular? Who sold those vehicles? What color were those vehicles? Did they finance? What was the average advertised price? What did those buyers look like? Young? Female? Income? Where can you find similar consumers? Where do those consumers shop? What beer do they drink now that Earnhardt has gone to AMP? How has the data changed from last quarter? Extra credit: Which vehicles will be the most popular used vehicles 90 days from now? What would you do if you had all of this information? Could you use it to make better decisions regarding used cars, mailings, Internet leads, service, finance, training, etc.? All of the answers to the questions above are pieces of data. The trick is to find a way to quickly pull this data together, think over what the data means and how it has changed, and then take meaningful action. How do you know if you have used data correctly? Easy, cash flow! Try this. You have decided to use direct mail this month; you’re going to send out 5,000 pieces offering free groceries for a month. Who are you going to send the piece to? One of your staff is now shouting “five-mile radius, five-mile radius.” It’s a shame your store is one mile from the Atlantic Ocean. Someone else is telling you to mail your customer base…again,...

CRM Leadership Change Required

There comes a time when dealership management teams simply have to exhibit leadership and steer the ship instead of waiting for the currents to drift them to port. I continue to encounter numerous dealerships that have extensive, and I might add in some cases, very expensive CRM software in place. The software covers all the actions of the floor, Internet and in many cases, back-end activity. The biggest continuing problem I see is what I call the “why isn’t our business growing?” question. The case in point happens to deal with the simple fact that most dealerships that have installed CRM software still think that some magical transformation will convert the dealership into a growth spurt because it now has software. Back to the case in point, this week I spoke with a dealer who is getting ready to change all his Internet departmental platforms, including a new web site (again), new CRM software (again), new lead providers (again), new location in store (again), new approach (again), and a new ISM (again). One year ago, we wrote and trained for all the standard operating procedures and processes inclusive for the ISM, management support and sales personnel as they interface in building the department. The processes included Internet management, incoming and follow-up telephone calls, owner base management and total CRM software practices and procedures. The management team at the time in our initial meeting was all too happy to agree to adhere to the standards for success we laid out. All vowed to practice leadership to ensure the processes were carried out by the ISM, the sales team and it...

Customer Relationship Leadership

Customer relationship management has changed the automobile retail industry right along with a multitude of corporate giants. Although lagging in the embracement of CRM compared to other industries, the efforts of dealership teams across the country to more efficiently cultivate new and returning customers has had a profound effect on the industry. Most notably is the sharp decline in lot traffic; because of the Internet trend, buyers are choosing store contact by e-mailing and calling, or in more cases, sales professionals are staying in touch with customers and recapturing them as they enter their buying cycle. This trend is a daunting notion for new comers and the old school methodologies of our industry who are more acutely dependent upon lot traffic. However, my goal is not to recap what has happened in the automobile retail industry, but rather provide a vision for the future of the CRM era. Before we continue, it is imperative that you are comfortable with the fundamental differences between management and leadership. Management is about serving processes, while leadership is about influencing people. Managers build rule sets through which their subordinates are forced to follow through a given process. Leaders build desire in people so they, the followers, choose to utilize a given process. In our industry, managers are often concerned with making sure everyone is jumping through the appropriate hoops, while leaders are concerned with growing people who prefer jumping through the right hoops in order to grow.  Leaders create the vision and make it become reality. To help concrete your understanding of leadership versus management, picture Bill Lumbergh from the movie Office Space,...

Step-By-Step CRM

Thus far in this series about building a more effective CRM department in your store, I have outlined how to construct a solid CRM foundation that must be present and working smoothly to ensure that the forthcoming processes will be successful. These processes are: (1) inter-relationship development; (2) planning for cultural and process change; (3) disciplined decision making; and (4) leadership. Once the concrete dries on the aforementioned and is firmly a part of your foundation, it is time to announce to store employees that CRM is coming their way. In addition, this explanation must also describe for them what CRM will do for them and what benefits it will generate for them and the store. Given how important it is to establish such a solid CRM foundation and then to communicate to staff what it will help them achieve, why then do we spend so little time, if any at all, describing to employees, individually and summarily, how the store will benefit from an active CRM implementation? Sell Your CRM Initiative So why don’t we sell our CRM initiative? After all, a CRM department will bring a multitude of benefits to the store, but for those benefits to happen the CRM function must be supported by the right processes and practices. A CRM function will impact transactions, staff, management, your customers, and your relationship with them. Begin selling CRM to your sales department first. You must gain its buy-in. Sales consultants will be most wary of CRM, especially those whose view of CRM will be “I’ve been selling for 10 years my way.” A masterful sales presentation to...

Dealing With Objections Properly

My recent article entitled “Are You Converting Opportunities into Accountable Business” took an unabashed perspective into the posture or mindset of the internet shopper and subsequently the elements involved in that process. At the end of that article I offered a total store CRM checklist for anyone who wanted to join the “We are growing our business club.” I was impressed with how many of you were interested in receiving that document and are now pursuing new avenues towards true CRM in your stores. Good for you! If you happened to miss the offering for the checklist send me an e-mail (cbarker@digitaldealer-magazine.com) and I will forward you one. One of the critical elements of that article necessary for solid CRM is how to deal with objections. Again, success here hinges upon being in possession of rock solid 21st century communications and telephone skills. Without these it is like raking water; it just won’t work. The following is a paraphrased rendition of my in store curriculum The Fine Art of Negotiations where I train sales professionals and managers in taking a new look at handling objections. Objections in our industry essentially come in four forms: 1)  Personality conflict (this should not be a problem if you have trained your team in identifying behavioral profiling) 2)  Money 3)  Timing 4)  Product How we deal with these objections will determine if the deal continues to move forward or crumble in its tracks. I ask; are objections good or bad? An objection, frankly speaking, is a good thing. It is all about attitude. If your attitude is good then you will look upon...