Many think of innovation as introducing something new. Innovation comes from the Latin innovationem, stemming from the Latin innovatus, “to renew or change”. Innovation can therefore be seen as the process that renews something that exists and not, as is commonly assumed, the introduction of something new. The central meaning of innovation thus relates to renewal. For this renewal to take place, it is necessary for people to change the way they make decisions. They must choose to do things differently, to make choices outside of their norm.
The greatest need for innovation in today’s dealership is not technology, or a better CRM tool; it is people. It is a need to renew or empower the skill set that exists on the floor, starting with the sales manager and leading to every salesperson. Technology will not bridge this ‘innovation gap,’ but engaging our sales managers in a challenge that expands the scope of their skills will.
We have all heard the chorus that profitability in today’s marketplace is driven by loyalty. But how do we make that anthem make sense to people whose profits are generally pegged to a 30-day cycle? Dealers, owners: this is for you! We are presented with profitability pressures from every direction. Admittedly, it is hard to see the forest from the trees when entrenched in the day-to-day battle. Most of the people running our showrooms have tremendous skills; however, their skills have been limited to a very specific environment. Today’s battlefield is expanding, and therefore, so must our sales managers.
How do we do this?
1. Get their attention (o.k. I know there are a lot of jokes here).
Speak in a language they understand.
Ask them why their salespeople have handwritten notes from their customers on their cubicles? Ask them if a customer who comes to them on a referral is an easier transaction (maybe with more profit?) than a customer who walks through the door for the first time. Both are trust builders. Both are referrals from customers. They understand this, but what they need is help transitioning this to the expanded battlefield, the online battlefield. You want to beat your competition? Beat them by managing your store’s reputation online. When customers search for you, what do they see? Are you happy with it? Is it helping you sell more cars? It wouldn’t be a surprise if the OEMs start including some type of online user generated content in their CSI programs. After all, what long-term impact does a good OEM CSI have compared to an online testimonial of your store’s service (which remains visible for an extended period of time)? Remember, innovation is not a new technology but renewing a skill that already exist.
2. Give them the spotlight.
What sales manager doesn’t want the spotlight (speaking to the majority)? They are the ones who often have the charisma, the flare, and the connection to customers. But why do we limit that connection to just the people who walk in our doors? Today’s innovating dealer understands the reach and impact of video and seeks to empower their team to use it.
Important! You would not accept “I don’t know how” when doing a meet and greet in the showroom. Do not let “I don’t know how” stop you from doing it online because of technology (that is the easy part). Do you have a welcome message on your website that is updated each month? Do you have video about your specials? Do you have video about what your certified program provides? Every store has someone who can upload a video if the sales manager can’t. But usually it is the sales managers, the one’s with the personality and enthusiasm , that can engage a customer on a deeper more personal level, one that builds familiarity and even a beginning relationship. Remember, innovation is not a new technology but renewing a skill that already exist.
3. Use their natural voice.
There is a great paradox that exists in many automotive sales organizations today. We expect our teams to sell more, but we limit the amount of contacts they can have to potential customers. Most sales managers have “sales meetings,” and tell their troops what the marketing message is for that week. Often times we hear “tell everyone you know,” yet we limit their ability to do so. Social networking isn’t new. Your sales professionals have been doing it for many years. Your sales managers are the champions of your message; you need to empower them and their troops in spreading that good news.
Sadly, many stores do not empower, but still expect increased sales.
This is the paradox we create for our sales teams when we limit their access to social media. We all know the movie “Field of Dreams” and the famous quote “if you build it, they will come.” Well, with your sales team, if you sell it, they will promote it! They are always selling. It is imperative that we let our Sales Managers use social media to promote and engage. Are we letting them ask everyone at their store to tell everyone they know? That is the true exponential effect that dealers have yet to leverage in social media. Some say that they don’t want their salespeople on Facebook and Twitter, that it is a waste of time. That’s right, it’s a waste of time talking to family, friends, people who know them, like them, and trust them and, oh, who may need a car one day!
Most sales managers are wired to engage, to talk about themselves, and talk to others. Word to the wise: There is a way to do this that makes it productive. Remember, the innovation is not a new technology, but renewing a skill that already exist.
Innovation, it’s more about using what you already have in a more productive way than finding the latest and greatest thing that is out there. Change does not happen overnight and it does not happen without vision. However, the good news is that most of us already have the people in place to make it happen!