All-U-Can-(See) at the Senior Buffet

The Senior BuffetOne of my favorite places to eat is the neighborhood Furr’s Cafeteria. Oddly enough, it’s not the food that attracts me to this eerie establishment. I love to watch people. It’s not a hobby, it’s an obsession. Furr’s cafeteria is a virtual crack house for people-watchers like me. Before I go on, please know this. I love old people. I actually hope to be an old person, myself, some day. When that day comes, feel free to make fun of me. I won’t care, because I guarantee you’ll find me and my Jazzy Chair at Furr’s enjoying a slice of Millionaire Pie.

You have to get there early. I mean really early. I have a philosophy on why the elderly do EVERYTHING earlier as they age. It has to do with how high they wear their pants. At seventy years of age, or so, the pants are hiked up around the bellybutton. At this time, the senior starts waking up at 5 am, eating lunch at 11 am, dinner (now referred to as supper) at 4:45, and off to bed at 8:30. Eighty-something gentlemen wear their pants 4-5 inches above the navel and the time shift happens yet again. Up at 4, lunch at 10:15, supper at 3:30, nighty-night at 7. Back to my original point…get there early.

Tip #1: Get a table that has an unobstructed view of as much of the buffet line as possible. If you are with a friend, race inside, even if you have to sit on the same side of the table. It will be worth it.

Tip #2: Take a moment and appreciate the Muzak playing. It is the worst of the worst. If it is a satellite channel, then it’s called “Doo-Doo Music from 1977-1989 Channel”. The last time I was there I heard this back-to-back-to-back triple play. “Dog Gone Girl is Mine” Micheal Jackson/Paul McCartney, “Heartbeat” Don (Miami Vice) Johnson, and “She’s Like the Wind” Patrick Swayze. I can’t believe I made it out alive.

Now it’s time to keep score. I have devised a Furr’s scoring system based on the frequency in which you will see the following things during your visit. Print this out and score your next trip…

  • Coveralls/Onesies/Jumpsuits – These will usually be light blue or pale yellow. There will be an embroidered anchor on the chest and a weak attempt at a half-belt that serves absolutely no purpose outside of fashion. 3 points (1 bonus point if it is bright red, no undershirt, or if there is no anchor)
  • Giant Sunglasses – I don’t mean regular sunglasses. I mean the ones to protect cataracts. They are roughly the size of a Buick windshield. You’ll first think they are welding something, don’t be alarmed. 3 points
  • Walkers/Wheelchairs Zero points. If you don’t see one of these, you’re at the wrong restaurant.
  • Oxygen – This only counts if it is in use during the meal. 3 points (1 bonus point if the tank has to be changed before you are finished with your meal)
  • Coin Purse – This must be used to pay for meal and may be one of two varieties. The leather, moccasin style, spiral engineered, coin purse. Or, the standard plastic, football shaped container with the slit that opens when you squeeze both ends. This one is usually red with a bail bond company advertisement on it. 5 points
  • Bolo Tie – Nothing says “I’ve given up.” like a nice bolo tie. 6 points (2 bonus points if the brooch is turquoise.)
  • Man Scarf100 Points
  • Sport Coat in Specific Colors – Brownish orange, Mustard, Chocolate brown, Lime, or any material that looks like it spent time as upholstery on a seventies style couch. 2 points
  • Rascal, Jazzy Chair, HoverRound1 point (1 additional point for every bumper sticker affixed to the scooter. 1 more point if it has a basket with a crossword puzzle book in it)
  • Ambulance/Paramedic – In order for this to count, medical assistance has to be administered inside the restaurant. 10 points (-2 points if mouth-to-mouth is necessary. Nobody wants to see that. We are eating, you know.)
  • Mutton Chops – These have to be larger than normal with NO attachment to a beard. 3 points
  • Derby HatSee Walkers/Wheelchairs.
  • Huge Cap with 3/4 Mesh Trim – The front panel must be at least 5″ high. The hat must rest awkwardly atop the old fella’s head. 3 points (1 bonus point if it has something about being a veteran. 1 more bonus point if there is some kind of pin or pins are attached.)
  • Bad HairpieceSee Derby Hat, Wheelchair/Walker
  • Female Facial Hair – Before you start, Sikhs don’t count. Must be visible from 20 feet. 2 points
  • Ranch Dressing on Someone’s Shirt – First, make sure it’s Ranch, if it is, you win 2 points.

You’re not going to believe how many points you’re going to rack up.

All of this thinking has worn me out. It’s getting late and tomorrow is Fish Stick day.

Who’s Your Danny?

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What’s in a Dealership Job Title?

job title

In this age of transparency in our business, let’s take some of our own medicine.  It’s time to practice what we preach. (I can’t believe I’ve surpassed my quota on clichés this early in the article.)  I want to take this opportunity to take a closer look at our job titles and descriptions in the dealership.  Let’s look at the different positions at the standard, ‘old school’  dealership.  Then let’s have some fun and rename them based on what they really are in this traditional setting.  Finally, let’s figure our what they SHOULD be called if they really made the most out of their influence.  I’ll begin by saying that some of these are original and some are not. When you’ve been in the business as long as I have, you can’t remember which ones are original, or who said it in the first place! (I wish I had a dollar for every ‘original’ idea I’ve heard in the last few years that I first heard in the 80’s!)

BDC/Internet Manager
More Accurately: The Phone Nazi or if you ask the veteran salespeople. The Antichrist.
Usually wondering why they left the sales floor for less money.  Got this position because they were pretty good on the phones and had a Facebook account.
Should be called: Handshake Procurement Specialist
They should be converting distant connections to personal appearances with honesty, integrity, and transparency.

General Manager
More accurately: Out-of-Touch Number Cruncher
Sometimes referred to as the “No it All”, because all they do is say “No” to it all. Drives the cool demo, works bankers hours, and is really out of touch.
Should be called: Resource Provider or Head Servant
aka, Head Cheerleader.  Their job is hands-on, and should be to provide the managers with everything they need to succeed.

Sales Manager
More Accurately: Wizard of Oz
Often too busy for their ‘lazy’ salespeople.  Real cool until their asked to actually put their talents on display in front of a customer.
Should be called: Offensive Coordinator
They should be planning, teaching, tracking, encouraging, scouting, executing, recruiting, motivating…..Did I mention teaching?

Used Car Manager
More Accurately: Lowballer
Emphatically explains why your trade-in is suffering in current market conditions….err, oh you’re selling it?  “These are hard to get, bringing top dollar!”
Should be called: Asphalt Real Estate Investor
They should be investing the dealership’s funds in the parking space rather than the vehicle.  Fully understands return on inventory investment and quick turn.

F&I Manager
More Accurately: Clean-Up Hitter
One more swing for the fences….no matter how long it takes.
Should be called: Security Guard
Protection, period.  Protecting the customer with viable products while securing financing.  Protecting the dealer with accurate, compliant paperwork.

Receptionist
More Accurately: Traffic Cop
Perfected the rehearsed greeting, 1000 friends on Facebook (personal), and a legendary pointer.
Should be called: Director of First Impressions
Enough said.

Lot Porter
More Accurately: Stretch Armstrong
Pulled in many different directions. Does everything, just never when you really need it.
Should be called: Merchandising Director
Taking ownership and responsibility for the way your vehicles are merchandised for all to see.

Salesperson
More Accurately: Management Critic or Baby Bird
Doing the best they can with the traffic YOU provide, even though you’re not advertising enough, you’re stealing trades, and you’re giving house deals to others, and the internet department is stealing all of their leads.
Should be called: Reputation Reversal Specialist or Experience Overhaul Director
Differentiating themselves and the dealership from what most people have come to expect from a typical salesperson. Just makes it fun to buy a car.

If anyone reading this article still refers to this group as salesMEN or salesMAN, please listen closely. The Cold War is over, gas went over $1 per gallon, we’ve landed on the moon, cell phones are no longer in bags, and we no longer refer to this, or any other group as anythingMAN. Give me a second…..OK, I’m better.
Office Manager
More Accurately: Culture Assassin
Tries unsuccessfully to contain their total  in the overwhelming incompetence of the human co-workers.
Should be called: Nutritionist
Making sure that the dealership stays financially healthy by ensuring profitability through cost controls and record-keeping.

Detail/Clean-Up
More Accurately: That New Clean Up Guy
It’s hard to remember anyone’s name in this department when the average length of employment is 14 days. This average depends on whether you pay once a week or twice a month.
Should be called: Delivery Set Director
Has the important job of setting the stage for a spotless and memorable delivery.

The truth is that all of these may look funny on a business card. But wouldn’t it be cool if the essence of what we expect was represented in their job title.

Who’s your Danny?

Be Your Dealership’s Fishing Guide for Digital Success

Be Your Dealership's Fishing Guide for Digital SuccessI wish I had a dollar for every corny fishing analogy used when talking about customers in our business. Ok, so I wouldn’t be rich, but I’d have, like, seven dollars. But who can resist a blog with cute kids in the picture?

Pay attention.

I recently took a fantastic striper fishing trip at Lake Texoma with my two boys Cooper and Carter. I decided to hire a fishing guide for a couple of reasons..one, more fish..two, my A.D.D. kicks in pretty quick when having a line in the water for more than 10 minutes.

I started thinking about why people hire guides when heading out on a fishing trip.  Simple…they seem to have more success catching fish.

The Guide understands the behavior of the fish. He studies them. He knows what motivates them. He knows what is important to them. He knows that certain things bother them, makes them uneasy. He is patient, calculating, and pays attention to the smallest of details. He prepares.

He knows where they are going to be. If he miscalculates on their location, he wastes little time adjusting his plan.

He knows his business.  He doesn’t operate on hunches.

In the digital landscape, we need to understand the behavior of our customers through research.  We need to know what information moves them in the direction of our products and services.  We also need to know where they are going to be in the digital space and set up camp there.  On the clearest of days, with the most talented fishermen and the best bait, all is for naught if we drop our lines where they aren’t.  We have to beat them to where they’re going and welcome them when they get there. Otherwise, we miss the boat. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Why do we treat this like a game of chance?  Like no other time in history, we have great bait.

It’s called data.

Without it we’re casting a bare hook.

Who’s your Danny?

Dear Cars.com…

do mathDear Cars.com,

I would like to volunteer to participate in the email program that you recently pulled. I must say, Cars.com, I am a little disappointed in your missed opportunity to defend yourself.

To begin with, I am a dealer. I am not an industry expert, nor do I give a Google about MOST of the arguments made on both sides of this discussion. I am used to dealing with mathematics and that is exactly why this topic interests me.

Let me make sure I understand correctly.

I get a lead on one of the vehicles that I have listed with you. Check.

I have three full days to work that lead and then you send them an email with my vehicle and possibly some competing vehicles. Check. (and yet another email a few days later…)

If ANOTHER dealer gets a lead on one of THEIR vehicles, then Cars.com sends THEIR lead emails a few days later with perhaps one of MY vehicles in it. Check.

So my vehicle was exposed to the customer on the initial lead (exposure #1), then in the first email (#2), then in the second email (#3), and possible in my competitors first (#4) and second (#5) emails on a like vehicle. Check.

If I am following up with my leads better than my competition, then my inventory simply gets exposed to more customers with more frequency, whether it is my store’s initial lead and the subsequent follow-up emails or the result of your follow-up emails to my sleepy competitors.

More vehicle exposures + more customers + good follow-up processes + thoughtful pricing/quality photos/good descriptions = More Sales

If I feared my competition, this program would terrify me.

But, until that day comes……….Sign me up.

Who’s your Danny?

Are you hard of listening?

orch

My pet subject with my staff lately has been ‘listening’.  I keep coming back to the notion that listening, not hearing, is essential in our business.  Whether it is listening to the customer, our co-workers, our spouses, our hearts, our intuitions.  Listening itself, is the bridge between selling and serving.

Are you hard of listening?

Recently I stumbled upon Rachmaninoff Symphony no.2 op.27 on a YouTube video. (Make no mistake, this is not something I do regularly.) I found this piece quite randomly, or should I say, it found me.  It was hypnotizing.  I should start by saying that most people can ‘hear’ the music on this video by simply turning the volume up.  After just seconds of hearing, I began ‘listening’.  It was only then that I recognized the subtle highs of the flutes, and the rumbling lows of the cello that I seemed to feel in my stomach.  I had to concentrate.  I had to shut out other sounds to zero in on what I wanted to listen to.  I then began to recognize the difference. Hearing is something that happens. Listening is something you do.

Igor Stravinsky said “To listen is an effort, and just to hear is no merit. A duck hears also.”

If we are not really listening to our customer’s needs, how can we serve them?  The truth is, most of us enjoy the sound of our own voice so much, that we forget to listen to what the customer is saying.  We so over-value our verbal contributions to the universe, that the only thing we end up serving is ourselves. Our customers come to us with a dilemma.  The product that they currently own is not meeting their needs.  If we listen, they will explain, in detail, how we can serve them.

Shhhhh.

We have to fight the urge to concoct our next verbal chess maneuver at the very time that we should be listening.  This is the quickest way for us to disconnect.

Guilty.  That one hurt.

We’ve all heard that God gave us two ears and one mouth.  And that means that we should listen twice as much as we talk, right?

Maybe God did this because we need two chances to listen because we were too busy talking the first time.

Who’s your Danny?

To become an effective listener, you need to learn the power of silence.  Silence gives you the opportunity to think about what is being said before you respond.  -Unknown

Build A Better Digital Burger

burgBuy more leads.

Upgrade my vehicle listing package from Gold to Super-Duper-Platinum!

Buy more leads.

Let’s go from 87 pictures to 196 pictures.

Buy more leads.

These are ways to sell more vehicles in our dealerships, right?  I beg to differ.

Let’s open a restaurant.  It’s going to be a hamburger joint.  Just play along.  We’ve done the heavy lifting.  Great location, tons of employees (nice ones, too), cool looking building, big ad budget for kickoff, super catchy social media campaign, website rocks, all systems go!  We have done everything to ensure that we have a HUGE volume of leads…err…I mean customers, right?  The answer is ‘yes’.  People will come from miles around.

One problem.  Our hamburgers suck.  I mean they really taste bad.  We have spent all this money on the things I mentioned above, but we forgot to make sure we had a great tasting burger.  The only thing we know for sure….We spent A LOT of money to ensure that A LOT of people will know how bad our burgers are.  Maybe we should have spent all of that money teaching our cooks how to make the best burger in the state.

When I took this dealership over, I hadn’t even had time to hang my kids pictures on the wall before I was inundated with vendors that were going to drive tons of leads my way.  Little did they know, I had to take some time to build a better burger.  And we did.  Our burgers rock.

I have people ask me all the time, “Danny, how can I get more leads?”  My response is always the same, “What are you doing with the leads you’re getting now?”

A good chef always tastes his food.

Train…track…repeat.

When your digital burger becomes delicious (and it will), KNOCK YOURSELF OUT.  Buy all the leads you can afford.  Trust me, your lead providers will love you.  They do back flips when their dealers handle the leads like superstars.  It makes them look great.

When your staff starts handling opportunities like a Michelin 5-Star Chef, sales becomes a math formula.  Your ROI becomes easy to figure out.  But, when you have untrained, unprepared, and untracked line cooks handling them, then sales become like an undercooked burger…….VERY RARE.

First things first.

Who’s your Danny?