Selling cars in an effecient market place. The times are a changin...

Chris Pyle
After enjoying a recent thread about pay plans (Thanks Greg) I felt like throwing something out there that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Gone are the days of selling new cars with 25% margins, holding 5 points in F&I, and trucks with no window stickers. Gone are the days of follow up index cards, ashtrays and loading up the family wagon on Saturdays to get the best deal. Welcome to the new “Efficient marketplace” for retail automotive sales. By definition, an efficient marketplace means there is an equal amount of available information, for both buyer and seller alike. Dealers no longer control the flow of information and as a result, price is only one of many less important factors. Being able to provide customers with the information they are seeking, in a timely and professional manner, thereby creating an enjoyable experience is key. Expecting one Manager and only a handful of employees to handle 90% or more of the traffic and initial customer interactions the dealership receives, is becoming increasingly difficult and in many cases, counter productive. What used to be an adequate solution, just a few short years ago, may soon be a totally antiquated business model and most likely abandoned by dealers across the board in the near future. The obvious question then arises, if there is no more Internet Manager, no more Internet sales consultants, or special internet department, what’s the best answer going to be? It starts by taking a hard look at what “Internet leads” and “Internet customers” really are in the first place. In reality, they are both just customers. The mediums they choose to 1st make contact with us, can no longer be used to define or separate them into a sub-category of customer or prospect. Placing potential opportunities in categories as walk-in, phone-ups, internet leads, new car leads, used car leads, causes us to overlook the basic fundamental truth, which is they are still quite simply... people...more importantly, people with a problem we can help solve. Although it’s important to track how well we handle each of these mediums and how effectively we are converting these opportunities into sales each month, the focus must be on ensuring each interaction with both potential and current customers, includes our consistency of message and our complete competency and professionalism. It’s equally important that this high level of customer service be maintained by each person they come in contact with. From the moment they start shopping online, decides to chat with us, to the first phone call, visit to our store, initial greeting all the way through to the moment they take delivery, and then even throughout their ownership period. “WOW” moments must become part of each step of the process if we ever want to truly stand out from the rest and protect ourselves from all comers looking to “change the business” by replacing our highly trained, skilled professionals with “do you want fries with that”? This is exactly what today’s buyer is asking for, if not demanding that we provide for for them and yet the truth is, high ticket, complex transactions handled in such a way that makes them appear seamless and enjoyable takes much more hard work, training, skill, talent and leadership than most customers would ever think possible. Instead of hiring more individuals to act as “competency band aids” or crutches (like we’ve done for years) for those we continually make excuses for, perhaps we need to utilize the right people as simply “Managers” and “consultants”. People that can demonstrate high levels of core competency in all areas of car shopping, negotiating and the buying process. This would including those skills that are more traditional as far as selling and management goes, the more “paint based” or tangible skills (Thanks Dale ; ) , but also those things that are “pixel” or digitally based online. These are the things that require a much different set of skills than ever needed before, and unfortunately, not everyone will be able to incorporate and master them well enough in order to maintain their own personal value and relevance. As Dave Anderson says, don’t mistake Loyalty for Tenure. Just because someone has been around a long time, doesn’t mean they are a loyal employee. As leaders, it’s up to us to make the tough decisions when holding our people accountable. So the obvious question becomes, what’s the best structure for running a dealership going to look like over the next 1-2, 5 years down the road? Will it change for the better, or for worse? Will a lower paid order taker become the name of the game? I can’t wait to hear everyone’s thoughts!
Lauren Moses
Chris, You are coming up with some great topics. I love this because as much as the times have changed to become more "online" we all know things are going to continue to change. There is no stopping it, all you can do is adapt or get run over. I do think that as we get more and more online there wont be a need for "Internet Manager" (uh oh...that means me). But more for like you mentioned just "Managers" in general that can handle all aspects, online and in store. I think when we get to this point (going back to the other thread) the pay plans will have to change since who is going to want to work for straight commission at that point. Especially if everyone is doing the same job, except your few managers. In the long run, I think it's going to be for the better, but for all the good in the world, there is still bad. So I'm sure we will see our fair share of great dealerships doing it the right way, but there will still be some that aren't one of those.
Chris Pyle
Thanks Lauren. And make no mistake, I wasn't suggesting those in charge of the internet (part of my job description is "e-Commerce Manager") will be gone, quite the opposite. Those that can adapt to the changing landscape (technology) while either learning or improving on all the fundamentals required to manage a profitable dealership will win the day. You are clearly someone able to do both and I'm sure you'll have an awesome career should you choose to do so.
Lauren Moses
Oh I know Chris... We just wont have to be called "internet managers" anymore, just merely managers. It also means that others that are great managers but not so technical savvy will really have to step up their game if they want to really make a difference. Times are a changin.
Chris Pyle
I wish I would have Red Robert Karbaums blog before I posted this. He did a much better job of articulating where the business is going and I couldn't agree more. I've seen many an industry dry up over night just in my lifetime and never did I think that this would happen with cars since they're expensive and the transactions are complex. Now all of a sudden it seems as though adapting won't be our choice for long, it's going to mean the very survival of the retail side as we know it. Case and point, when I hit spell check on this P.O.S computer here at the office just now, the word "blog" wasn't even recognized lol
Lauren Moses
Chris, Great minds think alike. I started reading his post but didn't have time to finish reading I'll definitely have to go finish reading it. Good luck with the POS. I know the feeling. I am on my 3rd computer here because the others were running too slow and I was burning them up. This one is much better and I can actually get stuff done without having to shut down and restart every hour or so. Now if I could just get a dual screen I would be in heaven.

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