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Larry Bruce

Larry Bruce Founder / President / CEO

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go-owneer-followup15 years ago I told Ron Craft (the dealer I got my start in the car business with in 1984) “Customers aren’t shopping for a car they are shopping for a salesperson to buy a car from”. That was the way I approached car sales when I got into it after having been in the shop for a few years. I didn’t know it then but I was using social media. Each day I would I would take brochures, donuts and coffee to local hair salons, boutique stores, doctor’s offices ect. talk with the employees, customers and patients about just anything… and cars too, I got to know a lot of people and got a lot of referrals. Before I knew it I was selling 20+ cars per month and in 1988 I made over $80K selling cars in Baytown TX. For a single 20 yr old making $80K and yr runnin around in a free Camero, well those who know me know can certainly imagine the trouble I was able to get into, that’s another post (maybe). On each sale I got to the point that I would pretend to take the deal to the desk. Just leave my office hang out in the back for a while then return with a number. It was great fun and I think the reason I have stayed in the car business as long as I have is that it was and still is fun. This morning while working out and listening to Seth Godin as I often do, all the pieces started to fall into place from my early days selling cars to now and the use of social media in the car business. I Tweeted this morning “Customers will no longer pay for salespeople who are merely a cog in a machine #thedeathofthedesk in automotive” People are shopping for a salesperson…an experience, social media starts that experience with the salesperson early and can greatly enhance the customer wanting to buy from that person and your store. You dealers that are blocking Facebook, Twitter and keeping your salespeople from blogging you are killing yourself and stopping many customers from connecting with the experience, DON'T. Secondly, we all know that the back and forth to the desk process…customers hate it. They want their salesperson to be empowered, so let them be. Bottom Line – the desk was put in place to control gross… here is a wakeup call dealers, the market controls gross now you don't. Abundance of information has removed that responsibility from you, you don't have to like that fact but you do have to live with it. For the record I am with you I don't like it either, some of my best retail memories are of working the desk. Pricing is a function of the market now, your job is now price positioning and differentiating your buying experience. Social media and how you interact with customer pre and post sale has a great deal to do with that experience. Make no mistake about it like it or not you are seeing the last days of the desk, and because I love it so much and want to remember it in its prime I am willing to put a bullet in its head now and put it out of its misery, you should too. That’s my opinion…what say you? Larry Bruce (@pcmguy) www.pcmguy.com
Mico Mlodzinsky
I think we are getting past the point of market controlling pricing. In the old days dealers had the upper hand - controlling the information and the process, ripping off easy customers, and letting hard customers take advantage of dealers desperate to move old inventory or to hit a bonus goal. The next logical step would be for the market to control pricing - hotter car should bring more gross, old inventory should go cheaper. But what I see is customers becoming smarter than the system, taking advantage of dealers, and eliminating the possibility of any profit. I see it more with specific models and brands - those that attract younger, iPhone carrying crowd, and here is a comparison between two models on our specific market - SF Bay Area: Model #1 - Jetta TDI - hot car, hard to keep in stock. A lot of dealers charge mark-up for it on the floor, and even on the Web. A customer that is attracted to this car is usually older, with cash in hand, they will poke around a little, see the mark-up, find a dealer that will sell at MSRP, pay cash and leave happy. Model #2 - GTI - equally hot,even harder to keep in stock, but attract a very different crowd - people that exist on facebook, Twitter, and things that we haven't even heard about. They will go on forums, email every dealer, employ every available shopping strategy, and they will find a dealer that will give away their last car, or order a car at dead cost or loss. This is not market, this is a couple of weak dealers giving away profit they deserve, and while at it - everybody else's profit. It is time to stop selling out of desperation, and stand by your product. There is no reason in the world to sell your only car in stock for less than MSRP, and there is no reasong you should agree to sell one that is not even built yet at a loss.
Bart Wilson
But hasn't the market always controlled the price? The factories put rebates on the cars that aren't in demand. Dealers take skinnier deals on the vehicles they have too many of. The difference is the accessability of information. Business everywhere, not just car dealerships, are feeling this. In addition, customers now have the ability to compare their buying experiences with peers. It may be time for a change (What Would Google Do?) in the way dealers sell cars.
Bryant Gibby
I think you are definitely right in saying the market controls the price more than ever. However, being a desk manager right now, I couldn't imagine letting sales guys have full reign of the dealership. There is still plenty of gross to give away in every car deal(front and back). Dealers now need to more cautious than ever and desk managers are still needed to control gross, train sales people, help close deals, etc. Most sales managers are there because they have proven themselves in sales and most sales people aren't to that level yet. That is my thoughts anyway!

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