An Honest Attempt at Herding Cats
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]echnology is fundamentally changing what we do and how we do it. Just look at book buyers. Ten years ago, they would’ve scoffed at the idea of buying anything other than a paperback or hardback. Today, digital publishers are cleaning up. In fact, recent online reports showed Apple’s iBooks platform adding a million new users a week.
The same level of radical change is happening in our dealerships. It’s happening in the service department but also in the sales department. Like the service manager with his beloved hand-held calendar, there are people in sales who are resisting the changes technology is ushering in.
A perfect example: The way we stay current with major unit retail financing offers. Many sales departments still rely on old-school approaches to handle this. Maybe it’s updating the contents of an old retail finance promotions binder on the sales and finance managers’ desks. Or it’s updating one long, printed list of major units and their specific rebates and programs. These eventually resemble a horse racing program, with big portions crossed out and little, penciled-in notes here and there.
For sales departments with multiple OEMs, it’s an honest attempt at herding cats – somewhat successful, but not what you would call an efficient process. It’s certainly not one that provides the sales or finance manager time to put more emphasis on sales or training.
That’s where the industry has to lend a helping hand. For years, some of our dealership management systems did not adequately support sales and finance managers with accurate, up-to-date information on current retail financing offers. In fact, what you saw was workarounds: accounting devices that allowed the sales manager or staff to input the rebate or specific promotion on a major unit invoice. In other words, the salesperson had to go back to that old binder or long, printed list of models and scan it for several moments to identify the correct rebate. Hopefully, that list was up to date.
Or perhaps the salesperson had to log on to the Internet, go to the specific OEM site and search for the information.
That led to this conversation:
Consumer: “Hi. What’s your latest offer on the Gold Wing?”
Salesperson: “I’ll find out. Hold on please.” The salesperson opens a Web browser, starts typing and tries to come up with some type of idle chitchat to keep the customer on the phone …
Consumer: “But that V Star 1300 you have is really nice as well. Any special financing on that?”
Salesperson: “Umm, let me check. Hold on please.” He opens up another browser window and then tries to recall the store’s correct password for that site.
Consumer: “But you know that Boulevard caught my eye as well …”
Salesperson: “Oh sure, and I believe there’s a new promotion on that unit. Hold on please.”
A minute into the call and we have three “hold on pleases,” perhaps a brief discussion on the crummy weather and no answers for the consumer.
Progress toward a major unit deal? Hardly.
The good news is this sales efficiency issue is being addressed by the industry. Modern dealer management platforms are working with OEMs to create an easier and more efficient process for the sales department. When DX1 users, for example, type in the name of a unit, they see any current rebate or financing rate associated with that model. No more inefficiencies like having to scan a website or look down a long list of cross-offs and penciled-in notes to get that information.
Many DMS providers are striving to broaden these sales efficiency efforts for all OEMs, a goal we hope to achieve with mutual cooperation.
At the same time, we’re having the difficult conversation with dealers about how that prized, weathered sales binder will have to go if we’re to successfully launch a more efficient sales process. Grab some tinder, a match and say goodbye to that old, dog-eared binder.
It’s time to modernize your dealership processes.