It’s the Dealership News Podcast, this is Kelly Kleinman of dealershipnews.com and today we travel north of the border into Canada to visit Brandin Wilkinson, a Car Dealership owner by trade, blogger and writer in his in-between moments. If you want a Wrangler, check him out at Woodworth Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Ltd in Kelwona, BC, and tell him Dealership News sent you. Brandin and I became acquainted through the pages of Driving Sales where we’re both Senior Contributors - to their SEO benefit and our egos gratification. Brandin, welcome to the Podcast!
DN: Have you always been a car guy or did you just sort of wake up one day and happenstance brought you into the automotive industry?
Total accident! I am a welder by trade and on one of my days off I went into the local GM Dealership to get my wife’s vehicle serviced and started chatting with one of the sales consultants. This dealership had a fishbowl style office setup in the middle of the showroom so you could see into all of the offices. 4 out of the 6 had their lights off, and to this day I have no idea where this came from, but I blurted out that I could fill one of those offices if they needed someone. Within minutes I was being interviewed by the Sales Manager and General Manager. This was on a Friday, and I got the call Monday that I’d be starting my new career. I even asked my boss at the welding shop if I could have my job back in 30 days because I was sure sales wasn’t going to work out for me.
DN: Unless you’re a former NFL quarterback, you don’t just become a dealership owner, what did your path look like?
Haha, I can’t even throw a proper spiral so I’m the farthest thing from a former NFL Quarterback. From ages 22-25 I was a Sales Consultant. From 25-27 I was a Sales Manager. And at age 27 I was the General Manager of a 53 employee team at 2 locations. The dealership was changing its culture as the owners son was beginning to take things over so I was looking for a new opportunity. Thankfully, my father-in-law and Don Carter, previous owner of Woodworth Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Ltd. were attending a junior game in town that they rarely went to. Somehow, they ended up sitting close to each other and started visiting. One thing led to another, and I went in, met Don and started my Journey with Woodworth Dodge. I bought 20% when I was 28, and because of the rapid growth we had, I was able to buy 80% of the company in 4 years which is what I currently have and will remain to have. My 2 business partners make up the other 20%. Since I live in Kelowna, BC and the dealership is in Manitoba, they look after day to day operations along with other key team members.
DN: When you joined forces with your dealership, what changes did you implement and how did you leverage yourself into being in position to purchase the dealership?
Nothing too complicated. Marketing and Investing in employee development were the biggest things. I went from a $7 million dollar General Motors facility to a Chrysler facility that had huge fixed windows and didn’t have a/c, or wifi, cell reception, coffee machine, water cooler, or a client lounge. So not only did I have to convince my GM clients to drive an extra 30 miles and change product, but also get adjusted to the new facility. Thankfully, they did end up following me and we now have all of those things I mentioned. We send our team to events such as Darci Lang (motivational speaker), Leadership Courses (Dale Carnegie), and personal development seminars like Unleash the Power Within hosted by Tony Robbins. This has had a major impact on our culture, growth, and overall success. In regards to marketing, we simply say thank you to our current and past clientele in various ways such as: 1) For anyone who has been in for service, parts, or bought a vehicle, we automatically put their name into a draw on a Tuesday for a pair of NHL tickets, hotel, fuel, cash for food, etc. and pull the name on that coming Friday. 2) We send personalized gifts to clients 30 days after they’ve purchased. Imagine going to the post office and unexpectedly receive a package in the mail. It’s a nice surprise to get those right?! Kind of makes you feel like a kid again. Then you open the gift to see a personalized cutting board, tackle box, gym bag, hoodie or hat of your favorite sports team, etc. That’s what our clients receive. 3) When you come in for service and you’ve been a pleasure to deal with, we look after your oil change. For example, if we have someone who is always smiling, fills the room with their positive energy, etc., we then surprise them by paying for their service that day (we have a weekly allowance for service/parts). The service or parts person would explain why we are taking care of them today. From there, that person leaves with a new level of confidence and pride, then goes on to share that experience on social media and in person to her friends and family. We do quite a bit more than this, but it gives you an idea of our approach to marketing.
DN: Is there a difference between the way Canadian car dealers operate vs the way we do here in the states? If there is, what would it be? As a follow up, are dealers looked at with the same healthy modicum of distrust as they are here, and how do you deal with changing that perception?
I can’t speak for US dealers as I’ve never been in one. But I would assume it’s much the same. For the most part we probably aren’t trusted but it’s our own fault in my opinion. We’ve inherited a lot of that distrust but we aren’t doing enough to rebuild it either. Dealers will say that they provide a pressure free buying experience and then on the last day of the month post a video about how you have to buy today because tomorrow’s programs could be a lot worse. This is why establishing trust starts at the top of every dealership in my opinion. We know we need cultures of trust, integrity, and transparency but the biggest thing is acting on it. I believe Marketing plays a major role in this as well. For example, in our marketing we talk about things like the stronger our culture is and the more we invest in our team, the better experience the client has with us. Rarely do we promote sales, rebates and price. In our experience, it has helped us gain trust and respect from the public, and it shows as I mentioned earlier about the growth we’ve had. No other dealership in our area has come close to that kind of growth, and we’ve kept our Customer Acquisition Cost under $250. We back what everyone else, including ourselves, preaches which is customer service. The difference for us is that we invest in our team first and that in turn pays dividends through a better client experience.
DN: I’ve noticed that new car sales here in most of our major cities hit an iron wall in May, comparatively with May 2017, sales are down double figures in most dealerships, how are you looking up there?
As an industry we were near breakeven from this time last year, we were down 0.6% but our dealership had its best April and May in the 33 year history with selling 29 new retail units in April and again in May. We tend to have more consistency than other dealers which I contribute to how we approach our clients and marketing. We’re not concerned about getting the sale today if the client is ready. It’s more about establishing a relationship so we can be top of mind when they are ready.
DN: Which vendors do you swear by, and which vendors do you swear at...be honest and name names!
PBS is awesome, they are our DMS Provider. We don’t really swear at any vendors. although I have literally sworn at our Dealer Operations Manager a few times for various reasons. Mostly because of inventory management and Vehicle performance allowance targets.
DN: What are your thoughts about the direction dealers are taking these days in regards to the ever-changing digital marketplace? Are Canadian dealers adjusting?
We seem to be adjusting slowly but surely. There is an obvious disruption coming to the industry when you look at companies like Fair, Carvana, etc. There’s less noise about that stuff up here but we know it’s coming and I welcome it personally. Any tool or resource that can make the buying experience better for the consumer and still a win for the dealer is a win all around.
DN: Let’s chat about your book; “Rethink Selling”, what motivated you to write it, and what are your top 3 reveals regarding what we don’t know about selling and what we really need to know about selling
Oh great thank you for asking about it. It will be available on Amazon and all major distributors in the first part of July so watch for it there. I’ve struggled personally with mental health. And the auto industry can be demanding, thankless, and stressful, much the same as any business owner will tell you. Yet it seems as though we don’t have much as an industry to support or guide on how to handle the roller coaster ride of emotions that is sales. I felt we were missing tools and resources to help sales professionals, managers, and owners develop their much needed mental strength. When I saw Tony Robbins in West Palm Beach a few years ago he said something that resonated well with me and that was “Success is 80% mindset and 20% skill.” The vast majority of sales training programs focus on the 20% that makes you successful, which are the strategies and in my opinion, as tech evolves, those strategies are becoming less relevant. Mindset will always be relevant and critical to your success. So I focused my efforts on the 80% for this book and it’s like a new category of sales training. No other sales training book has taken this approach before. We discuss the importance of areas such as self-awareness, gratitude, why having a growth mindset matters, and the power of momentum. At the end of the book, I provide invaluable resources for fitness, nutrition, personal development, sales, and many other categories. It’s an evergreen resource for sales professionals to lean on throughout their career. And it will be available in audio, digital and print.
DN: Where will our industry be in 25 years when most of the vehicles will be autonomous and or all electric...or not?
That’s a tricky one, at the speed of technology it’s not unrealistic to expect all autonomous vehicles in the year 2043. I’m curious to see what role the dealership will play at this time. We could end up being a pick up destination for the clients and there will be less need for salespeople as time goes on. We’ll see where everything ends up. But in my opinion, we’re transitioning into a high demand for providing an excellent client experience. And that won’t change. In order to adapt to this sales transformation, it starts with personal transformation.
DN: What car do you drive and why?
I drive a 2018 Ram Sport and my wife drives a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica for our 2 kids and black lab. I tried driving an SUV but had to go back to a truck. There’s just something about a guy and a truck. Can’t part with it!