I don’t think there’s been a single meeting I’ve had with clients in the past year where the term “millennial” hasn’t come up at least a half dozen times.
All across the country, CEO’s are trying to figure them out. How to sell to them. How to hire them. How to keep them motivated. How to keep them engaged. Dealerships are no different. You guys are just a little behind.
Oh, don’t get all sensitive on me. You are and you know it.
I blame it on the old school style of doing business. Don’t get me wrong – I respect it. But I also understand that the whole sales floor strategy that’s worked out so well for you for the last 30 years is shifting – and you’re losing ground because you just don’t seem to get the millennial.
And if you want to figure out how to sell to them, you need to figure out how – and why – to hire them.
I didn’t realize how heated people get over just the very word “millennial” until I wrote a piece that was published in New Boston Post a few weeks back – “An Open Letter To College Crybabies From A CEO”. A few days and a few million hits later, I got the call from Fox and Friends – along with dozens of other media outlets. “We want to have you on our show to talk about millennials.”
So let’s talk about the group – which, keep in mind, runs a span of more than 15 years.
Here are a few things you might not have known about millennials.
In the world of the car sale, why should we care about this seemingly random smattering of information? Simple.
What's changing, you ask?
It's ALL changing.
The workday is no longer 9-5. The work PLACE is no longer just the office. And while at dealerships the world has never been 9-5, you’ve got to understand that the consumer has shifted just as much as the employee.
Is your BDC only working normal business hours? Are Sundays sacred “closed” time? Does your service department only work until 6 – when people are just getting out of work?
Millenials don't turn to the local newspapers for information. They go online. In the world of automotive, you are probably starting to realize this. But you’re still relying on third party vendors like Autotrader and Cars.com and don’t understand the power of digital video.
Millennials don't rely on commercials to learn about products. They read reviews. They ask their friends on social media. They don’t go home and watch TV – they sit on Snapchat for six hours.
Listen, I'm not saying an old dog can't learn new tricks. But when you go to a surgeon, do you want someone who has always lived in the world of medical...or someone who started learning it a couple of years ago so that he'd still have a job?
Most millennials don't remember life B.I. (before internet). They haven't had to adjust their way of life - they've just always lived it.
Think about it like this. Boil some water and throw the lobster in there. He'll go crazy.
Put a lobster in a pot of cold water and bring it up to a boil - he won't know the difference, because things have adjusted while he was in it (let's ignore the whole dying part of that analogy).
This doesn’t mean that your non-millennials don’t get it or aren’t tech savvy or advanced. Many of them are. But you’re doing yourself a disservice by not using millennials to better understand millennials.
I’m sure some of you are sitting there thinking about the one or two millennials that you’ve hired, thinking that perhaps they’re not THAT different. But ask yourself this – are they not that different because they just aren’t, or is it because you’ve created an environment at your dealership where you’ve stifled their innovation and forced them to conform to what the good old boys are doing?
Are your millennials running live video feeds on Facebook, Meerkat and Periscope? Are you allowing them to mine Instagram and Snapchat? Are you encouraging them to create custom audiences using social media targeting and then track them across the Google ad network?
Or have you decided that the priority is quibbling over who gets the “next up”?
If you want to understand how to sell to millennials, you might want to start by hiring them. Then give them a little room to “do their thing”. You might just like what you find.