Automotive Truth in Consulting Disclosure

Rafi Hamid AutoExecutive
Truth in Automotive Consulting Automotive Industry: There are only a handful of Automotive Sales and Technology consultants.. Most of these consultants are very smart and have a lot of talent. They are on the cutting edge of business and technology. The truth is, during these tough economic conditions when dealers are struggling, they look toward these consultants to guide them through the turbulent times. The consultant should provide needed solutions and training. We “consultants” are really poised to gain from the current situation. Automotive consultants carry the responsibility and obligation to their customers. They must provide dealers, dealer management team and dealers front line with a solid Training sales, service, parts, technology. If the consultant feel necessary to refer the dealer to another consultant or company he or she must do so with the best interest of the dealer at heart. I heard firsthand what the dealer and the dealer management really want. Here is the information that I want to share with our vendor community specifically my esteemed colleagues “consultants” about truth in consulting. I can improve our customers' experience we must not only be open to learn and improve ourselves, we should also be open for any criticism. When I posed the question to my audience of large group regarding their past experiences with consultants they had lot to say. One general manger said, "I have gained significant market share despite conditions.” The other Used Car Director said, “I think if it was not for this trainer I would have been looking for another job.” On the other hand, there were several executive and general managers that had less than pleasant experience. After probing I found out a few common factors that caused the dissatisfaction and below you find some. The dealerships were searching for a qualified consultant to help their Internet Sales department and management training. The consultant was knowledgeable in SEO, SEM, Social Media and the only thing this consultant focused on was those areas, not that these were not important, but this consultant was retained to do other than what he provided. The Corporate office of a large group hired a consultant to stream line their enterprise e-business strategy and the overwhelming censuses was that consultant was on the job training. Consultant had previous successful experience in a single roof top with couple franchises and could not grasp the communication angle of enterprise management and consolidation of services. The result was less than desirable. This consultant was very aggressive in just single area of his expertise and constantly pushing products from other vendors to cover the area consultant was lacking the expertise in. That was the extent of the engagement. Consultant and trainer from a well known classified Internet company came into a group meeting to provide the group an Internet sales training including industry's best practices. The only thing that consultant or the trainer did was shared few slides aggregated from the Internet about Internet stats to pitch the product and upgrade they have to sign-up for. That was their value added training. There are many good consultants in the automotive industry, they work with extreme business ethics. Driving Sales is an exciting place for these dealers who can pick, compare and choose from all the qualified consultants and trainers to reach their desired objectives. Driving sales is providing an unbiased and a total transparent evaluation across all the vendors. Yes, dealers can go to many other social networks or blogs. But at the end, it is very obvious who these social networks and blogs are serving. From day one, I have commended Jared Hamilton for his extraordinary vision regarding “”. When you buy a home there is a disclosure form you sign where the real estate agent must discloses to you as to what you should expect from him or her and who they are really working for, the buyer or seller or both. When you borrow money or leasing vehicles there is a truth in Lending and discloser form. There are hundreds of professions where parties must sign by law or by self-governing rules of that industry. I am proposing we should call for a unified “Automotive Truth in consulting DISCLOSER agreement” This agreement must be provided to the dealer or dealer group before the start of the engagement. Remember the consultant that was pushing the products from various vendors. Maybe that consultant was recommending what was in the best interest of the dealership or was there a conflict of interest? The management was concerned that this consultant was not only charging them the hefty sum for his time but working as sales front for all those companies to enhance his or her bottom line, not the dealers. We just cannot assume that our customer should trust us. Being a reseller is totally fine, if you are on a referral program is totally fine too and whatever other legal arrangements you may have are fine as well. Just remember to be transparent with the client as we all preach to dealers the importance of transparency with their buyers. I am posting my Agreement shortly on DOC.
Gary May
Rafi, It's no secret that there are consulting 'secrets' out there: in the form of fees, wool-over-your-eyes and smoke-and-mirrors practices, and in other "yeah-we-do-that (but not so much so we'd better learn)" ways. Add to that many consultants are actually reps that are getting, as you pointed out, money on the front end and back end with "best practices" recommendations that are far from. This style, approach and dare I say 'creed' are needed today. Not too many people will admit to not knowing something and less to sweeping it under the rug. Full transparency is so needed or we consultants will end up with a significant backlash that is, well, deserved. Great post, strong document. Run with it! Gary May IM@CS
Mark Dubis
Rafi, as my sales manager in the dealership said to me when I first sold cars, “Mark, do you think you are too honest to succeed in this business?” That was the wake-up call that auto retailing was a whole new world. Rafi, your goals and heart are in the right place but we have no licensing body for consultants or trainers in this industry. I have seen many great practitioners leave the dealership to start consulting practices. Some succeed and others fail. Their skills and value they provide do certainly vary. Just as the Obama administration promised transparency, they never delivered. We can talk about transparency at many levels in this business, but we all know the manufacturers and dealers are not really comfortable with transparency in their operations. The best place to start is for you to create an “Automotive Consultants Code of Conduct.” You can distribute it to the trainers in the industry, ask for their comments and feedback, and encourage them to adopt it. Then craft a final document and post it on this site and all the other networks. Then consultants and trainers can chose whether they want to adopt the principles or not. They can post info on their websites and in the marketing materials. By promoting it in the industry, you leave it up to the hiring dealer to determine if he/she feels it is important for “their hire” to adopt those principles. Every dealership is different, with different cultures, employees, and styles so it stands to reason that some dealerships might absolutely love one trainer and another store feels they are the worst trainer ever. I have personally heard feedback from dealers to this effect. A number of the top trainers represent and recommend products and services they feel provide value for the dealership and I see no issue in doing this. Just like a smart consumer, the dealer client should ask lots of questions when a trainer recommends a product or service. First question should be, “Are you compensated in any way if I use that service?” Then dealers can make informed decisions. We must also recognize that some dealerships bring in trainers to improve performance and then do not fully commit to implement the changes needed to really make a difference. Who do they blame when the sales start to drop? Yep, he/she was a bad trainer! I have the privilege of speaking with almost every major trainer/consultant out there and have nothing but respect for the job they do. We have all discussed the challenges of the market, the resistance to change in our industry, and a mentality of “that’s not the way my Daddy sold cars, so we aren’t changing things now.” Bringing in the best trainer/consultant doesn’t guarantee success. Taking their advice, implementing their processes, and executing on the strategy does.
Rafi Hamid AutoExecutive
Mark, As always you are man of words, Excellent response and yes you are on target with the right words to my thoughts “Automotive Consultants Code of Conduct.” Thank you so much for your comments on my posting, Warm Regards from Cold Chicago :) Rafi
Rafi Hamid AutoExecutive
Gary, I am taking a poll on linkedin at Poll shows 25% do not want “Automotive Consultants Code of Conduct.” or truth in Consulting, 5 questions in poll and result so for. A: Yes 62% B: May Be 12% C: No 25% D: Dealers Not Ready E: Vendors Consultants not Ready Poll is still on and would love to get more people to visit and take the poll.
Tom White Jr.
Rafi, I applaud your interest and proactive approach to this subject. From my perspective, the old adage "those who can't do - teach" is alive and well in the consulting arena. Now I can't make a blanket statement that ALL consultants are bad; however, I have had my share of bad experiences. Our industry is experiencing some amazingly tumultuous times, and what Dealers are desperate for are professionals that can bring real value to the Dealers' operations. The question is how to create a win-win for both parties. As a General Manager, I am compensated on the performance of the Dealership - PERIOD! Regardless of how many hours I work or the changes I make (good and bad), ultimately my pay is derived from the net profit the dealership makes. Why aren't consultants willing to take the same gamble? Performance based pay works. How refreshing would it be for consultants to price their services based upon some performance based metrics as opposed to pricing their services by the hour or project? If consultants want to be "partners" with me and truly are wanting me to succeed, they should put their money where their mouth is. Show me measurable results and be rewarded - show me nothing and receive nothing. Your Code of Ethics is a start. I simply wanted to bring my own perspective to the conversation. For what it is worth, I am a big fan of your work and appreciate all that you do for our industry. Keep it up... Just sayin'

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