CDK's purchase of Auto/Mate may create a major disruption in the dealer management system (DMS) industry. Here is our take. DOWNLOAD
I drank Tang religiously as a kid and prayed that gulping down that orange energy drink would help me become a NASA astronaut. Tang ran one heck of an ad campaign, that's for sure. Alas, I never got to wear an astronaut's cool blue flight suit or to put my boots on the surface of the moon, but God remembered my prayers. You see, He allowed me, in His infinite wisdom, to get involved in the retail automotive industry. As a result, instead of having to travel millions of miles through boundless space to visit the Red Planet Mars, I need only drive three short miles to my workplace on terra firma to experience routine encounters of the third kind with Martians who visit my colleagues and me on a routine basis.
Before you dismiss me outright as a Discovery Channel-watching, UFO-believing whack job, please extend me the courtesy of reading this blog entry in its totality. Then, perhaps you will understand how best to win over your own customers from Mars. Because, yes, they are among us. They are watching you and me. They are in our showrooms now. They are everywhere. They are all around us. On Earth.
One would think that well educated, inherently logical Martians, forced to live in an extremely cold, hostile climate back at home, would relish tanning on beaches at Cancun, Key West, Miami or Padre Island during business or holiday jaunts to the Planet Earth. However, for some paradoxical reason, Martians are drawn instead to Earth's automotive dealership showrooms just as hungry canines are drawn to raw meat.
What to do? Hey, Martians are customers, too, and they deserve nothing less than first class treatment. Here's how to make that happen. There's no need to run down to Wal-Mart to buy expensive force fields or Star Trek phasers. Winning over recalcitrant Martians to become customers for life merely requires knowledge of their culture and style and then implementation of appropriate, progressive business practices as outlined below.
Most Martians tend to be brusque and domineering when entering a showroom. Having a limited command of the English language, they will usually either issue a terse imperative command in a loud tone of voice or they will ask a demanding question, also in the same loud tone of voice. (Martians are not known for winning "Miss Manners" competitions.)
Due to an inexplicable fear of chairs, Martians will usually refuse to sit down. Do not, under any circumstances, play the Dovells' oldies hit "You Can't Sit Down!" on your dealership's music system during a Martian "meet and greet", or you will have a World Cup soccer riot on your hands. Most standing Martians love the 2004 smash hip hop hit "Lean Back" (by Fat Joe and Remy Ma) and will, in fact, lean back, while folding their arms across their chests and hiding their hands under their armpits in a classic Martian posture of initial defensiveness.
Below I have outlined a series of "meet and greet" conversations between a Martian-knowledgeable sales professional and a fresh Martian customer who has just burst through a showroom door. As you read these conversations, remember these key elements that are necessary to win over Martian customers:
- Concur (agree to the extent possible with the Martian's initial utterance)
- Confound with courtesy (use a combination of a non-traditional reply and a courteous delivery to cause the Martian to hesitate and to cease his combative posture)
- Remain silent, do not laugh and smile sincerely (let the Martian absorb fully what has been said by both parties and then let the Martian reply accordingly)
- Re-engage and redirect (restart the conversation at a lower level of intensity and point the Martian in a more positive direction)
Review the word tracks below, tweak them as needed to fit your dealership's culture, and consider putting them to good use. Remember, in the stress of the "meet and greet" moment, that every Martian needs adequate personal transportation. Also, remember that some fellow Earthlings, deceitful professionals to the core, will "act up" and pretend to be Martians in an attempt to get a better deal on the vehicle of their choice.
Martian (shouting as he enters showroom): "All I want is a number on my car!"
Sales Consultant: "That's fantastic, Sir. My name is Edward. You must be coming in on the NASCAR special. You're the tenth person today. While we prefer to have our service department handle such customizing, as sales professionals, we will be delighted to help you. We will just need to know the name and number of your favorite NASCAR driver and where you want his number emplaced on your car. On which door? On which window? I will go get the decals, paint and stencils. Our work is 100% guaranteed, service will make it right if you are not satisfied with the quality of our installation. I promise."
Martian (shouting as he enters showroom): "All I want is the best price on that one!"
Sales Consultant: "That's great news, Sir. My name is Ellen. Thank so much for asking us for the best price right up front. You are one in a thousand. You must surely be a successful businessman. Your asking us for the best price allows us to allocate sufficient funds internally to always offer you, our valued customer, the first class sales, service and parts experience that you demand and expect, every time you visit us. Most consumers and customers are not as educated about smart business practices as you are. Such well meaning people often confuse "the best price" with "the lowest price" and think that "the best price" is "the lowest price." They are all really nice people, but they do not possess your "street smarts" about how to run a business in a progressive manner that insures total customer satisfaction. Where did you learn to ask (so wisely) for "the best price?" What type of profitable business do you own and run? I really enjoying meeting and working with savvy consumers just like you."
Martian (shouting as he hears his trade appraisal value): "My trade is worth $3,000 more than that!"
Sales Consultant: "I feel exactly the same way about my truck! Just as you feel that your car is worth $3,000 more than its current real market value, my truck has an "emotional value" to me that far exceeds its current real market value. My truck means so much more to me than to some anonymous wholesaler. Accordingly, when I trade it in, I understand that I am going to have to cover the cost of the emotional value, in other words, the monetary difference between what the truck means to me and what it means to a dispassionate auctioneer. My truck is easily worth $3,000 extra to me and to me alone because of where it has taken me in my life. I will admit I have an emotional connection to my truck, just as you have an emotional connection to your own car. I understand totally how you feel. We are alike in that regard. Now, how do you want to handle the indicated "emotional value" difference amount on your car, with cash or through financing?
In summary, Martians, despite their oftentimes disquieting demeanor, always come to automotive dealership showrooms bearing gifts. The gifts borne are in the form of the words that come out of their mouths. Every time a Martian speaks to a sales consultant or to a sales manager, the specific words spoken initially to the dealership employee provide an opportunity for the sales professional to effect a gradual transition to a conversational point where even the most hard core Red Planet resident will smile and say: "Fear not, Earthling, we come in peace, we are buying today, we will be returning often for service, we will refer all of our friends from Neptune, Uranus and Pluto to you, and we will max you out on dealerrater.com!"
P.S. Here's a final word to the wise: if a Martian customer refers to "Internet pricing", that customer definitely is an Earthling pretending to be a Martian to get the lowest possible price point and a free warranty. True Martians regard the Internet as an outmoded means of communication used only by barbaric, primitive people. How do I know this? A Martian customer told me.
Christopher Ferris c 603.233.8759 email@example.com