Women in Automotive: My 4 Favorite Things

When I first heard there was going to be a Women in Automotive conference, my interest was piqued. I know there are more women than ever before gaining ground in the industry, and I wanted to get hear the insights first hand.

I did a little research and found the WIA Board Partners. And what I learned is that these 5 women are not only leaders in the industry, but also leaders and a voice for women.  I want to thank Christy Roman, Subi Ghosh, Joni Stuker, Jody DeVere, and Kathy Gilbert for having the foresight to realize not only the impact women have on this industry, but also the potential.

I was sold and I knew I had to be at this historic event.

Being part of something new is always exciting. You feel like an insider with inside information.

But being part of something groundbreaking is truly exhilarating. And that is how I would describe the Inaugural Women in Automotive conference.

Exhilarating.

I am new-ish to the industry and was fully aware as I made my head-first dive into this that it is a male dominated industry. I toughened up (as much as I could) and prepared myself for change.

What WIA allowed me to realize is that as a woman, I am uniquely qualified for this industry--girly-ness and all! I was told to embrace who I was and stop trying to accommodate.

Stop being the notetaker! (Unless you are the secretary. Then you should definitely take notes!)

Stop apologizing.

Start doing.

These statements--although seemingly simple--were incredibly powerful and delivered by powerful women.

I originally tried to write an overview of my experience, but that was way too long--resembling a novella. So, here are the 4 vignettes of my time that I will take away from this trailblazing conference.

#1: The Sea of Women

If you are a woman in the industry, you know what it feels like to constantly walk into a room of men. Not that is is awful, but when you do see a woman, you are like “Yaass, Sister--I’m not the only one!”

Walking into the ornate Grand Ballroom, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of intelligent, hardworking, successful women. And these women were eager to talk, share, motivate, and mentor.

That, in and of itself, was pure awesomeness.

#2: The Speakers

I have been to many conferences and I cannot even begin to count the number of keynote speakers I have been subjected to. Some have been entertaining, and some have made me wish for an act of God to make it stop.

These women were, by far, some of the most articulate, poised, and prepared speakers I have heard in quite some time. Their subjects were relevant and I was taking notes furiously.

Tammy Darvish, Allison Estes, and Julie Staub kicked things off on Wednesday with three very different, engaging and powerful messages. Tammy focused on surrounding yourself with uncommon people who have common goals. Allison's presentation highlighted why the dealership experience is so important and included exciting and scary data (depending on your belief of the importance of treating customers well). Finally, Julie Staub ended the first general session talking about the different generations purchasing cars, and why millennials are important not only as purchasers, but as employees.

Powerful, intelligent women. Engaging presentations.

And this was just the start.

The Breakout Sessions were equally as powerful. The panel discussions allowed me to hear from the people in the trenches everyday. There were practical questions, honest answers, and genuine banter.

One of my personal favorites was when Lisa Copeland, Managing Partner, Fiat Alfa Romeo of Austin, spoke of her success and brought her mental toughness coach with her. Lisa and Steve Siebold engaged in this beautiful joint storytelling where Steve broke apart one of Lisa’s success stories and highlighted the actions that are replicable. When they finished, I was ready to take over the world! (or at least my niche of the industry).

#3: How our language was redefined.

I am just going to list the words that were used to describe the women in the industry. These words are powerful, empowering, and just plain brilliant:

Bad Ass

Trendsetters

Intellectuals

Camaraderie

Collaboration

Fearless

Historic

Motivating

Trailblazing

Powerful

Yes, please. All of the above.

 

#4: Work Hard/Play Hard:

This industry is not easy. There are long hours, stress, and politics involved in everyday life. So it is nice to have a moment to enjoy life and the people around you.

Which is what we definitely did. It all kicked off on Tuesday night with a cocktail party at Ember sponsored by TrueCar. The place was filled with music, laughter, and extraordinary food and drinks.

Wednesday night we were surprised with a live concert from none other than the Jersey Boys! ALLY sponsored that event and created the unique purple drinks:)

Finally, on Thursday we were entranced by Jade Simmons, a motivational speaker and concert pianist. Her talent, humor, and spunk were energizing and empowering. And I definitely left with a signed book.

SiSTeR Technologies sponsored free makeovers and hair stylists to make you feel beautiful. After your makeover, you could head over to get a free headshot so your online presence can look as professional as possible. (No more car selfies:) Thank you PenFed Credit Union.

PS--It is not vapid or conceited to care about these things! Caring about your outward appearance (but not making it your worth) is important, too.  And the new look, for me, was a definite bonus!

So, for the first time in a long time, I can truly say that it was worth being out of the office for a few days to not only experience this event, but take part in history. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I know that this event changed me in positive and impactful ways.

Take Aways:

  • Women need to support each other in this industry.

  • Powerful Words = Powerful Actions

  • WIA will be even bigger and better next year. Make sure you register as soon as it is announced. That means you, too, MEN!


 

8 Elements of a Successful BDC: Part 2

8 Things Your Dealership Needs to Know Right Now

Training is important. But creating positive habits from that training matters even more. Anyone who says it's not either hates progress or hates money.

And really, who hates money?

If you want your team to move forward and your dealership to stay relevant, you need to have solid coaching that creates repeatable habits.

That is why we started talking about this last week and introduced the 8 Things you really need to do to train/coach effectively and see improvement. We are not talking about that training you had before. You know what I mean. Someone came in (or maybe you went off site), you sat in an uncomfortable chair for hours, and maybe listened to why you sucked.

That is not helpful.

Or maybe you were in charge of the training, and the team kind of listened--sort of--while on their phone, checking leads, checking facebook, and staring at the clock.

It’s not your fault. I blame distractions. And games. And the internet. And Al Gore.

Let’s talk about what is actually helpful- 8 Things that will make training relevant and help it stick better than ever before. This way you can remember the awesome tips and tools the coaches are introducing, and you can implement them back at the ranch.

This week’s edition talks about putting the right team together--Because...Teamwork Makes the Dream Work.

The Right Team:

The right team is critical for your dealership.

Imagine Hans Solo without Chewbacca. Hall without Oates. Ricky Bobby without Cal Naughton, Jr.

These teams, together, created magic. Sometimes they had spats, but they always turned things around and found thier way.

You need a team with that kind of sticking power.

When you choose your team for your BDC, or your Customer Experience Team, you need to make sure that you are choosing people for their talent, skills, and attributes. Not solely on their availability and relationship with someone in the dealership.

Make sure to choose people with the soft skills necessary to be the face of your dealership. If someone gets tongue tied every time he tries to talk, the BDC is probably not the right fit for them. Choose right and choose well.

Trainers/Coaches:

This is also ridiculously important. There is no magic dust or unicorn sitting on a rainbow that will make your BDC 300 percent more profitable.

If someone tries to sell you on that, run. Run fast and hold on to your wallet.

Training is a hot commodity right now because so many people WANT to do things the right way. Sometimes the right way is not as clear, though, and we look to professionals to guide us. There is nothing wrong with that--as long as your BS meter is not broken and you can see through it all. There are some great trainings and some that are one and done.

One and done never works. Never. Ever.

There needs to be consistent repetition and measurement. Without these in place, you don’t know what needs to be adjusted and re-trained.

And YOU need to buy in.

Yes, you--manager, director, GM--you need to believe in the training enough to support it when people complain that it is too hard. Or it is taking too long. OR that the video is boring.

Without the “top-down” approach, there will be very little buy-in from the rest of the group.

Take Aways:

  • Choose the RIGHT team

  • Choose the RIGHT Trainers/Coaches

  • Choose to Buy-In (from the top down)

Simple, right? Not always, but luckily we are here to help!

 

Check out next week’s post on the tools needed to help you be successful!

 

8 Elements of a Successful BDC Training

Is the Customer Experience important to your dealership? Just listen to a webinar, pick up a magazine, or look online and you will see the conversation revolving around how to create this experience, which will ultimately lead to higher loyalty and customer satisfaction.

We talk about this because it is important. It is important to dealerships. It is important to your bottom line.

And it should be important to you.

However, not every sales person in you dealership has the skills necessary to provide a good customer experience. Look at your latest mystery shop. You could be ROCKING your online and digital portion, but once the mystery shop comes to your store, you could plummet. 

That is because we have relied so heavily on our digital that we forget the most important commodity we have--our people.

There are 8 things that REALLY affect the way your team performs. And they  revolve around putting the right training in place.

Myth:

Training your employees is outdated. Employees don’t have the longevity they once had--it is a waste of time.

Reality:

Training is needed more than ever. Employees who are not adequately trained are 70% more likely to leave a position within a year. (hr.blr.com) The costs incurred from turnover alone is staggering. And then trying to find qualified replacements is even harder.

Training has proven to be a critical component of a dealership. And it must be done well. It cannot be relegated to a one and done mentality. It is a process that takes a little time and repetition. So, on that note, let’s take a few weeks to really dive into the 8 things you MUST do to have a successful, productive, customer centric dealership.

#1: Time

This is a commodity that we do not have a lot of and cannot manufacture. It is the one thing that can run through our fingers without us even realizing it.

Training takes time.

That is a fact that cannot be ignored.

And for sales, this is time off the phones. Time off the floor. Time away from the next up that walks in.

This can be intimidating--especially when your commission relies on interacting with people.

Here's the thing, though. If your team (or even the one or two) does not have the skills necessary to talk with customers in any form (email, face to face, text), then you are hurting yourself and your dealership.

The time it takes to train a sales team (whether it is brick and mortar training, online, or blended) is time that you are investing in your team and in your future. Without this investment, most will never get better, turnover will be high, and you will live in a cycle of frustration.

TIP:

Evaluate your team and really dive into the numbers.

  • What are the percentages of appointments set? How about appointments kept?
  • What is your close ratio? It is better than last month or the month before?
  • How are your response times?
  • What do your mystery shops look like?

If there are areas which really need improvement, that is where your training should focus. You must be conscious of time, which is why you prioritize and find the areas where training is most needed.

If you think you do not have time to train your team (or have someone train them), I would have you look back at your numbers. I am sure you don’t have time NOT to train.

Next Week:

We will look at the tools your team may need to be successful as well as how to put the right people in the right position. Success doesn't just happen. It is planned and calculated. If you have people in the wrong positions in your dealership, you could be stalling or ruining your success.

 

Perfecting the Customer Experience

Finding the magic between automotive technologies and human interaction.

With technology taking the place of so many now automated human interactions, the Customer Experience is more important than ever. We have fewer touchpoints with potential customers, so how do we maximize them and increase our ability to not only gain customers, but retain them as loyal 2nd, 3rd, and 4th car buyers?

Automation is possible. Technology is inevitable. They make things, easier, faster, and more consistent. However, the automotive industry is not fast food. I don't mind pushing images on the kiosk and get my spicy chicken sandwich, but I certainly don’t want to do that when I buy my next car.

That is why we must train and maximize the soft skills involved in a customer centric culture.

There is still the need and desire to talk with a human, ask questions, receive guidance, and walk through the automotive purchase process.  You can find many robust and fantastic technologies, but when it comes down to it, they are only as good as your team working with you. People buy large purchases from people they like. And can easily walk away from people they don’t.

Case in Point:

I was researching different small trucks for a while. I knew I wanted something cheap, reliable, and relatively low mileage for my son who will soon be driving. I searched high and low until I found the exact truck I wanted.

And it was his favorite color.

Score.

I drove 45 minutes, found the the guy who responsed to my lead, and started doing business.

Not only was he very condescending to me (questioning my knowledge), but he also kept pressuring me to view a newer truck, even though I knew what I wanted to spend and I was ready to purchase.

I drove 45 minutes back home, no truck, and really frustrated.

Back to my search online.

True Story.

They got me in the door with a quick response and the vehicle I wanted. The technology component was great. But it all turned out like online dating gone wrong. He looked nothing like his “picture.” 

Ughh

If your first touch point is technologically amazing, but that is where it stops, you need to train your employees what “Best in Class” customer service looks and feels like.

Simple Ways to Improve:

Listen

Talking is overrated. Listen to your customers. Listen to their comments. Once you do, you will find out what they really need and be able to give them more options.

Process

Train your staff how to consistent go through the sales process--from first greeting or internet lead response to the final moment the customer drives off the lot.  Make sure that process is followed and is consistent between the entire team. There are always variables--that is what allows some to be better than others--but have pieces that are the same throughout.

Go the Extra Mile

What does that mean? Learning the customer’s name before she walks in the door (if she set an appointment). Remembering on their third visit that they have three kids and need an SUV or “really cool” minivan. Making sure when they drive off the lot, the vehicle is the cleanest it has ever been. And maybe calling or checking in to see how things are going a few months down the road to reminding them of the free oil changes they should not forget to take advantage of. 70% of people who consistently have their vehicle serviced at the dealership of purchase will buy another vehicle from the same dealership.These easy steps will help create loyalty and repetitive purchasing habits.

Simplify

Whenever you can, simplify the purchase process for the buyer. How can it be faster, smoother, and less stressful? What can they do prior to finalizing the deal with you to spend less time in F&I? Also, be transparent. Something as simple as turning your screen so that the customer can see what you are doing, or using tablets to share information will foster trust and allow the customer to have confidence in your information.

Take Away:

Selling a car is still a relational experience. Even with shoppers spending so much time researching before they visit, they still come to your dealership to purchase. Take that moment and make it the best for them--they will remember. The combination of technology and human interaction is what will bring you the most success.

GM Compass Tour 2015, BDC, Overnight BDC

Three Shocking Ways to Ruin Your Dealership BDC.

And Three Smart Ways to Fix It.

Are you meeting your customers where they are?

Are you meeting your customers where they are?

BDCs and/or Internet Departments are a necessity for today’s automotive dealerships. BetterCarPeople is part of the GM Compass Tour this year, and BDC or BDC Cultures have been at the height of the conversation. With 89% of sales originating from an online lead or search inquiry (according to Edmunds 2014 research), these departments are not just a fleeting whim, but the real deal.

So why do we think they will just create themselves?

When one single department is bringing in this level of revenue, you would think there would be a tried and perfected plan in place. And some dealerships have this department rock solid.

Others—not so much.

The need for process, as noted at the GM Compass Tour this year, is at an all time high; yet many think these magical unicorns called a functioning BDC will just appear. We know the formula for making things fail, and we know the secret sauce for how to make a Rock Star BDC. And both start with the word “process.”  

We can plan for our BDC/Customer Experience to fail, or we can plan for it to blow all the others out of the water. Let’s talk about both.

Way to Fail #1:Hire anyone who looks techy.

Yeah—that kid who just graduated and has an iPhone for a hand—you know who I mean. He MUST be a technological Guru. Hire him to head up your  department.

Forget that he has no clue how to communicate with people, set expectations, plan for a day, or motivate people. He LOOKS smart, and can SnapChat like a beast, so he must be the best fit.

Plus, he is the Dealer Principal’s nephew.

Bonus Points

(Unless he fails. Then you fail.)

Way to Fail #2: Don’t worry about the details.

After all, this is just answering leads, right? Anyone should be able to figure this out— even if you really don’t know what you expect. Forget that the BDC/Internet Department is the first real communication with the potential customer. As long as the BDRs have a laptop and a phone, they should be able to get the job done and bring people in. Still not sure how many people we want them to bring in, though.

Lots

They can bring in lots.

“Lots” is a good metric, right?

And if you don’t bring in lots, you will continue to lose money until you either quit or get fired.

Way to Fail #3: Assume things be understood without training.

I remember a teacher way back in highschool telling us never to assume anything; it makes an a** out of you and me. (See what she did there? Pretty clever).

When we assume people know what is expected and can implement without training, we are setting ourselves up for failure. And it is a giant waste of time trying to reteach things that we may not even be sure of.  

Let’s Fix This With Process.

Focus on People:

Hiring the right people from the start. That will take a little work on your part. Especially if you are not familiar with the elements of the job. Do a little research. Ask other professionals who have been successful in setting up their department.

Know what you expect from your employee and the position.

You are much less likely to hit a bullseye if you are blind. Stop leading blindly and know the expectations of the position.

Focus on Process:

Good things don’t generally just happen. They are planned, developed, and discussed—part of a process.

You can hire the perfect person for a job, but without a process, she will flounder. Process beats out talent any day.

Get your process in place and know what you want from your team, when you want it, and how you will measure it. This is not an easy fix, and needs some definite thought, but once it is in place, you will see the process kick in and productivity rise.

Focus on Time:

It always takes less time to do something right the first time.That is why you have your processes in place and prepare your employees well. That includes being transparent, sharing the information they need to be successful, and training the employees on what is expected. Share information—don’t hoard it. There is a fear that if you share, you either look weak, or employees will know too much.

That is dumb.

The more they know, the more they can focus on their job at hand.

Finally, if you are not a trainer, you will need to find good, practical training to educate your BDC on YOUR processes. Luckily there are options from online to brick and mortar to face to face to blended. Find the trainers who have similar philosophies as you, will be able to accomplish what you want the way you want.

Take Aways: 

  • It is easy to fail if you do not prepare
  • Preparation and process take work, but in the long run you will save time and be much more successful
  • Training is necessary. If you are not able to do it, find someone who will do it in the manner that works best with your dealership.
  • When you have a targeted focus, you will see results. You can’t get where you want to be if you don’t know where you want to go.

 

Some Helpful Referenes for Creating a Rock Star BDC:

 

Internet Departments, BDC, BDC Managers, Automotive Training, GM Compass Tour, GM Compass Tour 2015

GM Compass Tour and BetterCarPeople: Catch us while you can!

2015 has been an incredibly busy year for BetterCarPeople--and especially for its owner and CEO, Matthew Belk. While in the midst of creating new products, renovations, and keeping up with a quickly growing business, Matthew was asked by General Motors to be a Subject Matter Expert and speak about retention and the customer experience at the GM Compass Tour.

Today, Matthew is in Novi, MI followed by Minneapolis, MN on Thursday.

The GM Compass Tour is “an interactive journey created exclusively for GM dealers and key leaders. This daylong adventure provides multiple opportunities to meet GM and Industry experts who will be on hand to share new methods to market your data and provide training for the innovative tools and processes that will help drive retention, increase sales and service, and grow your entire dealership business.”(GM) The focus is on sharing best practices, networking, and developing skills that will either make dealerships more relevant in their market or make them even better than they were previously.

The tour kicked off in Orlando on May 19th and has already had 5 stops so far. Each stop has been bigger than the last, and all have been received extremely well. The tours, starting at 7 am in the morning and lasting until about 4 pm, have been sold out and filled with everyone from General Managers, to Internet Directors, to Service Managers, to all levels of GM employees.

One of the main reasons the tour has been received so well is that the speakers are providing specific and tangible solutions to modern problems in the dealerships. The face of automotive has change drastically, and will continue to change with technology, social selling, and varied forms of communication. The GM Compass Tour is providing real world solutions to relevant concerns--and it is going incredibly well.

Matthew Belk, alongside three other presenters, will continue to travel across America throughout the summer, ending the tour in September in Las Vegas, NV. Check out the dates and make sure to register for the Compass Tour if you have not been already. Click here to sign up to be a part of the Tour.

Remaining Dates:

July 23--Minneapolis, MN

July 28--Chicago, IL

Aug. 4--Wilmington, OH

Aug. 6--Pittsburgh, PA

Aug. 12-- Baltimore, MD

Aug. 18--Teaneck, NJ

Aug. 20-- Boston, MA

Aug. 25--Santa Clara, CA

Aug. 27--Los Angeles, CA

Sept. 10--St. Louis, MO

Sept. 15--Las Vegas, NV

 

GM Compass Tour, GM Compass Tour 2015, Internet Leads, BDC, BDC Manager

Is The End of Automotive Near?

Is it all over?

Millennials in the automotive industry. What does that even mean? Excitement? Fear? Annoyance at the overuse of the term?

To some it looks a little something like this:

the simpsons

The term millennial in the automotive industry has become synonymous with slow buying cycles, lack of excitement, and pure fear that they are not interested in cars.

And these fears did carry weight even a year ago.

Many studies were showing a decline in automotive purchases, dwindling passion for cars, and increased interest in car sharing, urban living, and reducing purchases. As all things do, though, times are changing, cycling, and new research is showing new trends.

The end may be a good thing, though.

Well, maybe not the definitive end, but definitely a modification.

Things are changing in the industry. And Thank God! If nothing changed, it would be a stagnant, boring, predictable life--and those words definitely do not describe the automotive world. The changes that are occurring at such a fast rate keep us all on our toes--connected technology, autonomous cars, progressive fueling systems--it you don’t feel your heart racing a little, you need to check your pulse.                

So of course, with these changes come the need to change your marketing habits.

It is a different product to a different segment of the market.

And Millennials are ready to buy. With purchasing power and a need to find the vehicle that represents who they are, it is time to adjust how to market to, sell to, and talk to Millennials. Automotive is not dead--not even close!

What can we do to market effectively to Millennials?

Hire Some!

They are the peak age, peak market, and at the top of their game for learning. Hire some. Ask what would get their attention.

And then LISTEN.

 

We all know we are experts and that we have all the answers. But sometimes others can add value. And the value of knowledge could pay back in dividends. Listen to their ideas--even if they are incredibly different than your own, and try to incorporate some.

Modify SOME Habits

I used to have a manager who would say “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” I always thought that was an odd statement, but very appropriate. Just because something is tepid and needs to be replaced, you don’t throw everything away.

Keep what works, get rid of what doesn’t modify what you can, and then add new ideas to spice things up. And when focusing on millennials, the spice may be an increased online presence. Removing stale content from your website and bringing in real stories from customers. Making sure all processes are as transparent as possible.

These are small, simple, and incredibly effective ways to market that target audience.

Take Aways:

  • The End Is NOT Near--Enjoy the Changes

  • Millennials are not the enemy, but rather your best friend. Talk to them

  • The industry is changing. Keep up or lose out.


Image Credits: 

Image 1: donteatthepickles.wordpress.com

Image 2: dreamingup.blogspot.com/2011/05/end-is-near.html

Image 3: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Restoring_sanity_sign_-_The_end_isn%27t_near.jpg