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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Jessica Russell

Jessica Russell Dealer Services Manager

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It’s referred to as the “car business”, but true car professionals know it isn’t and never has been just the car, the transaction, or the money.  Beyond the negotiating, bargaining, and adversarial activity over the terms, conditions, and other costs of these temporary contacts, it’s the “people”…the personal connections and relational interactions between vehicle buyers and service visitors and frontline dealership employees in those departments. 

 

Routinely dealerships focus everything and everyone on transactional buyers that have little willingness to commit beyond the “current deal”. Relational buyers who are seeking a lasting connection and wanting to become actively engaged with the dealership are more prevalent in today’s market than ever before consisting of up to 80% of new car buyers.

 

True car “professionals” always managed customer relationships to turn prospects into customers and customers into repeat and referral business.  They realized that making a connection and building trust lead to many benefits: less price resistance, more future work, more referrals, better working relationships with their customers, and more revenue…repeat customers spend 33% more.

 

Technology only vendors continue to enter the market place touting “CRM” applications they say will revolutionize the “car business”.  These highly automated, low touch, and impersonal systems continue to fail at alarming rates, up to 80% according to experts.  These folks just don’t get it…customers are not just numbers and do not want to be made to “feel” like they are just a number and all car people are not stupid idiots.

 

Unfortunately these high-tech CRM systems, many dealership frontline employees, and many in middle management rely totally on a transactional view of prospects and customers, not any reliance on a relational viewpoint.  They continue trying to automate and totally mechanize the industry as a substitute for the human process.  It appears they really have no interest in changing…its just about driving “new traffic” and the “current deal”. They may all say they want the benefits of retention, yet they continue to act in ways that suggest that what they are really interested in is the one-time sale.  It’s all about “what can I do to sell you today”.  What it should be is what can I do to sell you today, what can I do to get you to return and buy from me again, and what can I do to earn the right to referrals from your family, friends, and co-workers.

 

Please don’t accuse us of being “phobic” about technology or CRM systems because that would be a mistake.  In fact we know that technology and CRM combined with the human element can be a powerful tool to incrementally improve vehicle and service sales and increase customer retention.   By the way, we think we have a better knowledge of how to really make it work in “real world” dealership environments than about anybody in the industry.

 

However, it seems the up front agenda of these non-car people, dot-com types, techno-freaks, and techno-only companies is to exterminate retail car professionals, make new vehicles commodities, take all the profit out of car sales, recklessly stereotype car dealerships and the folks working there.

 

You can let these folks force their ways into your dealership or you can require them to work CRM and technology into your dealership in a way that enhances the culture of your clients and frontline employees...not breaking it.  Quite frankly we do not believe the car business is broken… it just needs to adapt and adjust to take advantage of the new emotional relational driven economy.

 

 

Bart Wilson
I agree that relationships are a big part of the sales transaction. People buy from people they like. I believe that how they go about developing that relationship is what's changing. The tools we have in dealerships today should be about making a salesperson's job easier. Whether it be how they get traffic or how they manage that traffic. Its all about efficiency. One question: You wrote, "Relational buyers who are seeking a lasting connection and wanting to become actively engaged with the dealership are more prevalent in today’s market than ever before consisting of up to 80% of new car buyers." Interesting comment. Could you please elaborate?
Shawn Maloney
As a trainer who travels all over the USA working with dealers to implement our CRM/ILM I understand a lot of what you are saying. A good CRM should combine current technology and a human element. It should be customizable to the dealers preferences based on his/her staffs strenghs and weaknesses. A lot of managers and sales staff are scared of using this "new" technology. Generally once they see the value of getting rid of all the paper tracking (desk logs/workbooks/notecards) that they were using before, they are more open to the change. A good CRM should make everyones lives run smoother by taking the guess work out of what has been done to follow up with last weeks/last months/last years customers. A CRM should make repeat and referral business easier to get and keep track of.
Jared Hamilton
Running a dealership is harder than most people think. Remember when Jacques Nasser was going to buy up all the Ford stores and make them OEM dealerships and totally change the way things are done? Yea... big failure. Im not anti change, just the opposite, but I do think people underestimate the emotional/physical side of selling a car. Replacing sales people with touch screens isnt as simple as an engineer would think...
Jared Hamilton
Shawn - I like what you are saying. Its good to hear technology companies focus on the human element. Thats what makes big success inside the store, not all see that. welcome to the community - hope to hear more form you!
Evans Bridges
Women are much more relational than men and they certainly are more and more influential in the buying process and anyone observing a service lane anywhere in the country would agree that at least 60% of the time it is a woman in the lane. They are more influenced by what they "feel" and they trust what they "feel". They want someone that will really or what we call actively listen to them and then do what they say they will do. Most processes in a dealership especially in the sales department are based on the transaction. For example if I could get you $500 more for your trade can we do business now or if I could take another $1000 off can we do business. More times than not when a buyer says yes the salesperson becomes like smoke and disappears until that salesperson can give them to the next person in the process. Would you like that and what kind of trust is built with now that you have purchased let me hurry and get you out of here rather than taking the time to insure that you provide that customer with enough knowledge to really enjoy they new car, the fact that it needs maintenance, where to get it maintained which is here, and introduce them to their service advisor who will take make sure they have an enjoyable and reliable ownership experience. And although men are more transactional they still want service after the sale and they also enjoy doing business with someone they like and someone they can trust. Everyone is not all transactional or all relational but all like to do business with people they like, however in the car business that appears to be superficial rather than genuine. Its funny that people will pay 10 cents more a gallon for gas because that gas station carries their favorite brand of something and the one across the street doesn't. That is relational.

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