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Expanding on that statement will be the intent of this blog.
Looking back at a career in our industry now in its fourth decade, I reflect on the lessons of several wild economic swings and the cycles of rising and falling sales that accompanied them, the extraordinary rise of the import brands and the absolute revolution in communications brought on by the Digital Age.
But, despite the wonders of the technology in the vehicle itself and the promises of the electronic wizardry of the Internet, Social Media and now, the "Cloud" (whatever and wherever that may be). I still return to one of the smartest things I've ever heard anyone say, "They don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care."
Zig Ziglar says a lot of things in his famous seminars, but that's one that never left me, and I believe it has contributed a lot to the success that I enjoyed as a retail salesman, sales manager or factory representative. It puts the focus perfectly on the most important person in the dealership, the customer. Every client, every transaction, every day is the chance to let that person know that you care about them, their needs, their humanity. I sometimes fear that we confuse the medium with the message and become so enchanted by technique that we short-change content.
My first sales manager, in my first sales meeting, told us something else I never forgot, "We aren't selling two tons of glass, steel and rubber (cars were bigger then); we're selling a mirror of the customer's self image". He understood the emotional context of choosing a new car. He taught us to, as best we could, match the customers needs and desires with our product.
Obviously, to do this we need to develop a relationship with the customer where they will trust us enough to tell us what they really want. It sounds so simple, but it can also be so difficult. Our technical resources will continue to expand. The opportunities to communicate with wider and wider circles of people will continue to grow. The challenges of economic turmoil, governmental dictates and manufacturer difficulties will only increase, but in a business where success is measured in sales, and where those sales are the result of the individual choice of each customer, the greatest challenge today is the same as it was on the first day of the first dealership, "how do you train a your sales representatives to handle those "golden minutes" of initial contact".
It is fearful to contemplate that the efforts of tens of thousands of people who designed, built, marketed and transported the vehicle with the expenditure of hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars, and the efforts of the retailer who, in so many cases has invested their life's work in their store, can all be rendered pointless by the mishandling of the first ten or fifteen minutes of customer contact. Those first interactions, in person, on the phone or via the Internet, will determine whether your customer trusts your representative to sell them a car, a service job or a part.
Techniques of communication will continue to evolve, but the heart and mind of the person with whom you communicate is where the battle is fought and won or lost. In the long run, you cannot simulate sincerity, but you can train for listening skills, for proper greeting and fact finding skills. You can teach sales. I was taught, and I have taught others, "If you develop, train and motivate for a customer centric process, your customers will feel it, and they will respond."
It is simple, but not easy.
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