We've all heard that expression, "The tail is wagging the dog." In retail, that usually means our sales staff is dictating management rather than the other way around. Usually, the fix occurs when new management or a new training process comes in and everyone gets to start on the same page. However, the decision to change process or change personnel is at the dealer level.
Lately, a much larger tail has been dominating the countryside and predicting the end times if we continue as we are. Look at recent articles in Automotive News and other industry "expert" publications. The constant theme regarding the future of sales is to change the culture of your sales staff, or better still change your staff. Technology has passed your current team by and you need a new team that can fit in with the technology currently on the market. Are you serious?
Step away from the ledge. No wait, take a long view from the ledge and see the whole picture. Do you notice who has started to dominate the ad pages, booth space at conventions, and even your mail? That's right technology. And, as "Deep Throat" once admonished, "Follow the money."
Please don't misunderstand, I am definitely not anti-tech. Quite the contrary. I 1995 I began writing my first book. It took 18 months of typing, sending it to the publisher (on paper), having them correct it, and then typing it all over again. By 1999, I was able to afford a computer ($2,500) with a Pentium I. I also began using the internet to send my writing to the publisher. That year I finished 4 books. I adore technology.
However, I didn't change what I wrote about. My writing style stayed the same. And, that was my best year ever (Over 150,000 copies sold). So, why complain about what tech is doing today?
The power of technology is often dictated by the creators. If tech people build systems and software from a tech standpoint, it will be excellent from the inside out. However, if the end user isn't tech savvy, say sales oriented, there can be some speed bumps. You see that in the "Big Boys" selling this way. "With a few changes as to how you conduct business, our system is perfect for you." That's insane.
I believe dealers can embrace and excel with technology, the same way my generation has struggled through dial-up and smart phones. But to do so means figuring out first what their business goals and objectives really are (Sell more, service more, gross more, be more compliant, more accurate, etc.) rather than scrapping the very reason they entered the business so they can configure their operation to fit some grand plan from a software company.
Software changes should be treated no different than if you were expanding a showroom or adding to the service drive. You plan based on your desired outcome and go from there. After all, you're cutting the check. Shouldn't you have some say in how it's supposed to work?
John Fuhrman is Director of Training for OptionSoft Technologies (that's right. A software company for retail dealers) and has trained over 15,000 sales, management and F&I professionals since 1996. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.