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Wow. Five and half years years ago I received a phone call from Jared Hamilton. He asked, no - told me, I had to head out to Las Vegas to attend a new event he was holding specifically for "progressive dealers." I had no idea what he meant by that; as a relatively new dealer on the scene I just assumed every dealer was progressive. It sounded awesome and I knew I had to be there. so off to Vegas I went.
Jared described a conference that would speak to dealers about their current problems, provide greater awareness and help dealers actually improve operations. I recall him telling me how this was going to be the best thing ever and that someday, eventually, it would be the biggest & best retail conference. I also remember getting off the phone saying to myself, "I like that kid - he's a dreamer, but I like him."
True to his word Jared has delivered on that promise to the retail industry. After five years the DrivingSales Executive Summit has become the defacto retail automotive conference to attend. Nearly 3000 people have attended all five events over the years, thousands more have followed along online to soak up the knowledge from the speakers and the attendees. (The event has even been a national trending topic on Twitter. Twice.)
Jared and his superstar event planning team have attracted the best industry speakers, world-class keynotes from outside the industry and the best retail dealers to contribute their experiences with attendees. This year was no exception. In fact, this year's event was extended to include a special pre-DSES Canadian section for our dealer neighbors to the North. This group of dealers, vendors and speakers nearly equalled the same number of attendees from the 1st DSES.
The Canadian portion of the event signifies a new shift in the retail industry. The Canadians appear to be even thirstier for the information flow US dealers have been sipping at the past few years. The speed at which they're absorbing and implementing this content is staggering. These dealers needed their venue due to the culture changes and DrivingSales was able to respond with the help of Jay Radke. (Did you know that Canadians are the largest consumers of YouTube content in North America?) Jay assembled an all-star cast of successful Canadian dealers such as: Robert Karbaum, Aleksandra Banas, Dave Hicks, Doug & Andrew Maciver. Brent Wees (Glovebox) was also invited to share his knowledge on responsive web design and mobile strategies. Bringing everything to a close and validating everyone's presentations was Al Awadia (Google).
Later on Sunday master of ceremonies Charlie Volgleheim opened up in the festivities tighter than ever and with his unique blend of professionalism and wit. Jared Hamilton wasted no time in delighting the attendees with what to expect over the next couple of days. He then delivered what I believe to be one of his strongest keynotes to date. He whipped the audience into a frenzy with fixed operations stats and performance data over the years and how this segment has fared against other dealership departments. Bottom line - it isn't pretty. His presentation ended like the finale of a fireworks display. He rattled off performance numbers in a Ran Man-esque manner that was not only impressive but made clear and simple sense: dealers need to pay attention to their fixed ops activities, how they manage this department and how their marketing activities can impact their fixed ops efforts.
- 62% of drivers research the service technicians recommendations before coming in.
- 43% of drivers search online when deciding where to take their car for service.
- Dealers must go with a fixed ops approach in your BDC structure.
Scott Hernalsteen took the stage next and shared some of their and insights on how to help improve merchandising efforts. While he offered some general best practice reminders, the data points can clearly help any dealership with regards to their 3rd party merchandising efforts:
- VDP views increase by 34% when vehicles arelisted below MSRP.
- 186% more VDP views when priced below the market and also have multiple customer photos.
- 70% of new car buyers actually pay more than the price they saw online.
- 26% more people traveled 30+ miles to a dealership when there are custom vehicle comments
Up next was Leif Babin, US Navy SEAL Officer. This was an intense keynote with one simple message: Leadership. Also important to note, Leif is only the second person in DSES history get a standing ovation after his presentation. (Gary V. was the 1st)
Rather than try to convey the emotions his keynote elicited, I'll share some of the hard hitting items Leif provided us:
- If the team fails, everyone fails.
- Laws of Combat: 1. Cover & move. 2. Simple. 3. Prioritize & Execute. 4. Decentralize Command.
- Orders need to be given in a clear & concise manner so everyone understands them.
- When it's overwhelming, relax, look around and make a call.
- Talk through what could go wrong with your team so they're prepared.
- Your team needs to understand not only what what to do, but why they need to do it.
- Leaders take ownership when things go wrong.
- (And my favorite) It's not what you preach, it's what you tolerate.
I'll follow up tomorrow with the rest of the DrivingSales recap - so much more to review.