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Back to Basics???


Did you hear this at NADA?


"We have got to get back to basics".... Everywhere I went it was said over and over again but what does it mean? Where are we going back to? A friend and colleague, Larry Feldman said today on a call "Back to the Future". Another Jason Harris was concerned were going back to the "Steps to the Sale" training. So where are we heading but more importantly where do we need to go.


I think we all can agree that the industry is moving forward not regressing therefore we can establish we actually are not needing to actually go back but understand where we are missing some important details in our operations.


Scary to say but I've worked in six different decades in this industry over forty years. When I started, ashtrays were on desks and bottles were in them. There were no computers, fax machines, scanners, or cell phones. Inventory lists were supplied on Microfiche every two weeks for dealer trades. Forget about Facebook... Mark Zuckerberg wasn't born yet so social networking was done in clubs and associations. Dealer ads were in the newspapers, on billboards and the radio with prospecting was done from the phone book. A lot has changed since then so I know we're not going back there.


However, there is one thing I did not mention from back then is we sold on the principle of relationship. Everyone had a CAR PERSON... When we needed to get something done we went to see Joe at the dealership. He was there to help us, he was our friend and he looked after us like we were family. What did we do? We rewarded him with referrals and repeat business year after year. This is why we saw Joe in the dealer long past his due date. His relationships were so strong that he didn't need to work hard to out sell everyone and enjoy his position beyond retirement. However the days of Joe are gone but why should the relationship sales model be with him, it shouldn't.


For the last three years, dealers migrated further from this model than ever. They changed from a relationship model to a transaction sale, end stop... With lack of inventory, it was a take it or leave it proposition as there was a willing buyer standing behind you to accept whatever the dealer offered. Market Adjustment is what it became to known as. Regardless of the lack of inventory profits climbed through the roof. Hell bent for leather we were on a trip to PROFITLAND. It was raining hundred dollar bills everywhere. There was a victim and casualty to this though the client and the relationship sale. Now, not all dealers participated in this but there more than not as they followed the masses rather than blazing a new trail.


So with 2023 upon us, challenges we faced have changed or been eliminated. Our inventory issues are almost nonexistent, interest rates are still climbing, past clients our now facing equity concerns, and pre-owned vehicles losing values fast. We must pivot and adapt, and fast. We know a whole world of hurt is coming so we need to figure out how to triage it quickly to survive the pain.


This is where "Back to Basics" comes into play and it could actually be "Back to Common Sense"


We need to understand that we are in the CAR BUSINESS not running the CAR LOT. The focus has to be on the "Business" and what is right for the business. We need to improve employee engagement and become more customer centric. Technology is here to assist us, making it easier than ever to accomplish these tasks. We need to move in a direction that frictionless, simple, transparent, fast sales conversions can take place with a single point of contact after engagement. Ai can make this seamless but we still need to utilize the human connection for a positive interaction and customer experience.


Team members must be vested in both the business and clientele with pay plans reflecting this. Make them accountable, hold them to budgets, targets and goals. Create and develop business plans coaching them on execution. If they are new hires, we must onboard them correctly not just provide orientation. Give everyone a roadmap to success and hold yourself accountable to get them there. Remove negativity from the workplace, promote on merit and accomplishments allowing your people to shine.


Sir Richard Branson said "Look after your Employees and they will look after your Customers", common sense... and employed in every aspect of his businesses.


We are in the people business... We must always remember this but more importantly we must never forget people develop relationships, it is the strength that holds and bonds us together. Back to Basics is about recreating the relationship sales as well as redefining how we conduct our businesses by building solid relationships with our team members that will enhance the customer experience.

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