I hear from managers over and over again: “retail automotive is different from other retailers.” They also say things like: “our products are different”, “our customers are different”, “our employees are hard to find.” This mindset has paralyzed our industry leaders into believing that nothing can be done, however, if we take a deeper look, we will see that our industry is being held back by our own misconceptions.
1. Our customers are not different from other industries. The same people that buy everything else in the marketplace are buying our products and they are driven by the same consumer forces. They are looking for a product they can rely on and for a business they can trust. Trust is something we have squandered with old-school sales processes. Our customers will keep giving us more and more chances as long as we are willing to accommodate their need for a better, more transparent experience. Other industries figured out a long time ago that focusing on building long-lasting relationships between their brand and the customer will create higher closing percentages. How many managers do you know that still focus on closing percentages first and then hope for a relationship with their clients?
2. Our product is different than most, however, not the way most managers think about it. A lot of managers say that it’s a long term commitment and customers don’t like to make long term commitments. If that were the case, 85% of customers would not finance their new vehicles as they did in 2018, according to a study How American Buy Cars, by Lexington Law. There wouldn't be a 96-month term to finance a vehicle, however, there is. For most people, owning a vehicle is as much of a need and a want as food and shelter. Bottom line, people need our product and they are willing to make a huge monthly payment to have it. What does that tell you?
3. “Our employees are hard to find.” Have you ever asked yourself why? Most managers I hear say: “nobody wakes up one day wants to sell cars for a living.” Well, the same could be said about servers, windshield installers, construction workers, etc. There are a lot of jobs out there that may not be prestigious, however, people do the job and the requirements are the same as being in the car business. We have to stop looking for employees and understand that they are just people. We have to start asking questions like, what are we doing to be more attractive to the people we want working for us? What is it they want from a job? All too often, managers are stuck in the old school thinking of how to attract, train and retain good talent. Managers still want their people to go through the same trial by fire training process and then wonder why people don’t want to work for them or why they can’t get them to stay. Other industries figured out the formula, however, we are too busy excusing ourselves by saying things like: “our business is different.” It’s not. They’re just people and all people want the same thing when it comes to their career. They want a career path, mentorship, clear communication, and good compensation. That’s different from the traditional sink-or-swim approach, don’t you think?
As leaders within our industry, we must look at the success of other industries and stop excusing ourselves with historical caveats. We must remind ourselves that no matter what, the automotive industry is still for the people and by the people. Stop looking at the next gimmick to win over customers and understand that if we want to succeed, we as leaders must change. It’s ok to look to the past, however, we cannot allow it to dictate our future. If we want to sell our products and our brands to our customers, we must provide them a great experience. If we want to deliver a great experience, we must give our staff the resources to thrive in their role. So now ask yourself this question, business as usual or am I ready to embrace change?