Spending years in the automotive industry, one gains an appreciation for the Sharpie - that felt tipped wonder that is used to generate unimaginable amounts of gross when in the right hands. However, in the wrong hands, the destruction that can be caused with a Sharpie could bankrupt even the best-run business.
One of my former sales managers lived and died by the Sharpie. His strategy was that he wanted his worksheets to be almost unintelligible. Creating confusion for the customer was the way to make the highest gross profit in his mind. His Sharpie art included not only the pricing for the vehicle, but canned phrases such as, “You Win,” and “Congratulations, today is your lucky day.” And let’s not forget the ever-present smiley face. In his opinion, the more graffiti you had on the worksheet, the more the customer thought you were working for them, thus increasing the chance for the close.
I never fully understood that mentality, but incorporated into my own desking style, because that’s what I was “taught” to do. I became the master of the canned phrase and a pretty good smiley face artist during my tenure at the desk. My problem was that I never fully bought into the whole Sharpie desking process. I was sure there had to be a better way. Seriously, would you go to the supermarket and buy a can of peas with a hand written label? Of course, you wouldn’t! Yet, we present our customers a hand-written proposal for the second largest purchase of their lives. It doesn’t make sense.
Keep in mind, when I was still on the retail side, CRM was just in its infancy. The only deals that were desked electronically were leases generated from the old Lease Link machine. The F&I Manager’s job was to decipher the Desk Manager’s notes on the worksheet and load the deal into the DMS. Nobody ever thought to automate the process in those days. What we were doing worked just fine.
Today, it’s my job to convince those same Desk Managers that there is a better way to work deals. Ways to not only speed up the process, but also present the customer with a professional, printed presentation with automatically generated payments. The old, hand-written, Sharpie art that was the norm as little as 5 years ago belongs in the history books.
I believe that Drew, my 4-year-old son, is a Sharpie art savant. In all my years in the business, I’ve accumulated thousands of Sharpies. There are Sharpies in literally every drawer in my house. Perhaps I should be proud that one of my sons is (in a way) following in my footsteps. But I’m not at all excited about Drew’s penchant for Sharpie Art. Every time he finds a Sharpie, I acquire a new piece of Sharpie art somewhere in my house. The walls of his room are by far the most Sharpie decorated, but I’ve located some of his art in the most uncommon places, such as inside the dishwasher and behind the toilet. No matter how many Sharpies I throw away, he always seems to find another to continue his craft.
Last week, while silently cursing as I painted the walls of the hallway leading to my son’s room…again…it struck me that Drew’s love for the Sharpie was learned, not unlike many Desk Manager’s love for the same thing. It is going to be very difficult to make him stop the child-like graffiti without replacing that behavior with a more positive one that creates better results with the same satisfaction. For Drew, that solution might be chalk board paint on the walls of his bedroom (OK, maybe every wall in the house, but you get the point). For the Sharpie-obsessed Desk Manager, the one who thinks it’s all for the sake of gross, it’s a robust digital desking tool. He or she may even discover a few ancillary benefits they had not thought of:
1. Efficiency – In the time it takes a desk manager to pencil one deal using a Sharpie and the data collected from the DMS, a digital (even mobile) desking tool can present up to 18 payment options with one click - all populating from a 20 second point of entry. Once a deal has been reached, the entire deal can be posted in real time into the DMS.
2. Increased Gross – A good digital desking tool should allow a desk manager to present up to 18 payment options. This enables the customer to make decisions, which equals “wins” in their minds. Each time the customer has a “win” they are one step closer to buying. By presenting many options quickly, the customer is more likely to pick a payment rather than negotiate the sales price without ever knowing what the payment will be.
3. Higher Closing Percentage and Better CSI – If you have the time, Google “how long does it take to buy a car?” You will find pages and pages of customers complaining about how long of a process it is. The results range from 2 or 3 hours to 2 to 3 days. Get through the negotiation process faster by using an integrated desking tool. Your CSI scores will reflect the difference it makes! The faster the process, the happier the customer.
4. Full Integration – What’s worse than entering a customer into your CRM, then into your Inventory Management Tool, then in your DMS? One point of entry into your CRM should not only log the customer, but make them available for desking, and provide a real time push into most inventory management tools and DMS systems with the click of a button.
When we become more efficient, everyone wins. Gotta run…Drew is outside spray painting the trees in the front yard. *Sigh.