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While two friends were camping in the mountains, their conversation went something like this….

Friend 1 – Did you hear that??

Friend 2 – Sounded like a BEAR!!!

Friend 1 – Get ready to Run fast!!!!

Friend 2 – It’s not really that big a deal…

Friend 1 – Not That big a DEAL!!! We need to outrun that BEAR or it will EAT US!!

Friend 2 – I don’t really need to outrun the bear….

Friend 1 – YOU DONT NEED TO DO WHAT!!!

Friend 2 – I just need to outrun YOU!!

Friend 1 – (perplexed look on face) Hmmmmm

As I now approach the end of my 3rd month this year with at least 20 travel days jammed in each, I have been fortunate enough to have visited, met and trained with nearly 90 stores of a publicly traded automotive dealer group. During these store visits, I am thinking I might have learned more than I actually taught. In fact, It seems that most of my trainings focus on remembering my past mistakes and trying to teach others from them… So many times in the car business I hear those often used dreaded words… I, we or us will be the King of (Your text goes here)!! I also hear things like… I, we or us are the Best (Your text can go here too) you have ever seen or been around. In most cases, these words are generally right on the money… In fact, I have found that statements like these generally mirror the financial statement of the store…. The only problem is.. If the person who made those remarks has a higher perception of self-worth than the reality suggests… Well, let’s not go there….

I would like to step away from these words for just a second and share an interesting phenomenon with you. As a tenured 16 year Ice Hockey Coach, I see the “we’re #1 finger” after every game we won or lost by at least one player if not more on both teams. Now… I’m not talking the same “#1 finger” that the driver you just cut off on the highway flashed you… I talking about that “WE ARE THE BEST”…. Finger. As a Coach, we are driven and built to constantly raise the bar… Winning is never good enough… In fact.. No matter where we turn… I think it is safe to say that there will always be somebody bigger, faster or want it more than my players somewhere. When we win… I guess those people or that team that was better just wasn’t present. Now don’t get me wrong….. I like winning and love success even more!! I have always told my players… Until you lift the Stanley Cup over your heads…. There is plenty of room to improve…. Now follow me here… Ask any player that has won that cup and they will all tell you the celebration was short-lived. The reason why is this.. The next season starts the day after the old one ended… A team that gets to lift that cup suddenly realizes… a team that lifts it twice or 3 times would surely be better than one that just got to win it once…. Hence we begin a chase that has no end and contains an absolute certainty for disappointment…

Now how does that transfer to the car business…. It really is quite simple… Dealerships tend to only think in monthly increments. Each and every report we run always seems to have a field that pulls a date range… Year over year gain, Current month over last year’s same period gains and so on and so on…. Why does it have to be so complex. Why can’t we simplify the business to its easiest form..

Every day I wake… will have a clear easily attainable goal… To be better today than I was yesterday!!!

Whether that is business or personal, it is attainable. In fact, making that goal, that simple, will generally guarantee the results of those first reports we spoke of.

While not naming names!! (To protect the innocent of course) A dealer during one of my sessions made an absolute astounding statement… There was 30 or so dealership managers in the room and we were discussing Reputation Management. A gentleman from a tremendously respected online company was speaking and providing incredible information on managing a dealers online reputation… When I heard this come from the back of the room…

“Here’s a concept…. Take care of your customers… Do it ALL the time… and you won’t have to worry about your online reputation!!” It was a moment that aligned the moon and the stars for me and shaped my sessions going forward and truly changed my outlook…

This was a General Manager of no other than a Lexus Store.. Now looking back, it made so much sense. I will also add that several others in the room still missed the point. In fact, here came the Broad Objections… Sure, we could easily do that if we made 5K on every car we sold like you do… Then it dropped on me like a ton of bricks…. For months if not years.. I have been making statements like “The car business hasn’t changed, only how a customer finds you has.” Another that stuck out was, “Car dealers don’t sell cars…. They deliver a customer experience.”

The only answer to these Broad Objecting statements targeted at the Lexus GM was…..

WHY NOT!!

It really was that simple… Now these words are surely easier to type than accomplish in reality, this blog entry, and those that come after, will be dedicated to that simple philosophy.

“Becoming better today than yesterday” Then REPEAT!

You don’t have to be the BEST!! You just have to be better than the people you will be compared to!! Or simply…

You don’t have to be faster than the bear…. Only faster than the others running from it!!

Thanks for reading and please write me back.. Add to this or just tell me I’m crazy!! Tell me you like it!! Tell me I’m Stupid!! Just tell me something!!

Running from the BEAR,

Mark

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Before you get out the razor sharp pen and begin to craft your devastating critical comments about my title statement… Please let me clarify….

I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT ME!!!!

In fact, I am writing about a conversation with a Northern California Toyota dealer today in which he made a statement that went like this….

“After 34 years in the car business.. the amount of (expletive goes here) I have forgotten is staggering in comparison to what I currently know”…. In fact, he went on to compliment me along with an invitation to come back and visit with him sooner rather than later… His compliment was based upon my visit with his store in which we did an “Advanced Training”.. 

Every time I say that.. I get a crooked smile and an internal laugh showing through on my face… Somehow, I decided to call my trainings and store visits “Advanced Trainings”. I think it fulfils an internal need to seem important or smarter than I actually am… There goes that laugh again!!  You see.. I’m just not that smart… In fact, nothing about me is advanced.. I am just an  “Old School” car dealer… With my 44th birthday and 20 year Wedding Anniversary just around the corner… I have realized that while technology has carried dealers to incredible heights, it has also separated them from the very basics that in most cases… we all seemed to have forgotten and have generally kept us from attaining our sales goals…

Forget or forgotten are funny words, as I mention some of these forgotten traits, in my “Advanced Training”,  people realize that they really never forgot them… they just don’t do them anymore…  They have just been taxed by lower sales, less customers and cost reduction measures that have reduced staff and added countless hours to a typical dealers work load… Technology is supposed to increase our ability to do more work with less people while automating many of the day to day tasks.. The problem with technology is that is has no way to measure intent!!! whether it is a “reply all” email that takes on a life of its own (Trust me, I have been on the receiving end of plenty of these) or a search engine that somehow never knows I have 5 kids, a wife and 3 dogs when I type in Mazda Miata…. These very technologies have created roadblocks that dealers today need to overcome to get back to the “Hay Days” of years past…. 

By the way, I don’t have 5 kids… Just one, a 15 year old going on 24 who has mastered the art of that “Give me money while I think you’re STUPID philosophy”… (Eyes roll or extreme exhale followed by silence goes here) Put that pen back away… My son is 10x the kid I was in school. 20x the athlete I was and is generally just a great responsible young man!! Probably wouldn’t hurt to mention he got his looks from his Mother!!

Back to my story before you doze off…    

You see car dealers all agree that 82.54672% of their customers start their search on the internet… They all say the car business has changed but then grudgingly agree that it hasn’t.. Just the way a customer finds you has… yet these very car dealers who used to tell their stories in a full page paper ad or via really cool TV commercials (The Badger is by far the best!!)  just take 6 to 12 pictures of used cars. No pictures of new cars.. They use description builders instead of custom comments and they somehow have determined that customers only come to our sites to get our contact info.. (Please call Bill or Mike for the best internet price)

CHILD PLEASE!!! (I stole this quote from Ochocinco) is my only response that would be printable here…

Customers come to our site because they are looking for information about what is important to them not what we think is important… We build our websites based upon what we like and fill it with carnival like advertisements that we think are important.. Not wanting to listen to what our customers are really seeking by visiting our sites. A quick study of your analytics will show you that several buttons on your home page basically never get clicked or when they do… the bounce rate is staggering…. The trick to today’s car business is real simple my friends..

Act Like a Customer!! We all are one!!

“Make” or “Take” the time to be a student of the game… If you really agree that a crazy high percentage of customers start their search on the internet.. why not put as much effort into your online customer experience as you do your post funnel business model.. The answer is simple… Most people just don’t know what to do.. when in fact they just FORGOT!!  Here are a few ideas based around some areas of your dealership..

Dealership Facebook page:

A. It’s a social site.. Be Social.. Don’t spam your friends with inventory specials, they will get bored…

B. Ask your FBF’s to take a poll about your website and get them to give you ideas… If they do… Reward them with tons of cash or free services for the best ideas and comments…

C. Ask your FBF’s to ask their FBF’s to join the game and give them cash too!! Lord help us if we actually increase our friends on FB while increasing visits to our website. hmmmmmm

D. STOP TALKING or JUSTIFYING and LISTEN TO WHAT THEY SAY!! Perception is REALITY…. And their perception is all that counts!!

Vendor 3rd Party Classified Sites:

A. Go to actual site and act like a customer. Search, submit, shop and explore… Find your store, your cars and your comments!! See how many clicks and how long it takes.  

B. While you’re there… CALL THE PHONE NUMBER!! See if anybody answers!! Ask your spouse or significant other to do the same and listen to what they say.. That’s right, LISTEN!!  

C. Have your rep bring you lunch!! We all know you like to eat!!! while they are there, ask them to research your site and give you 3 things that you could do better to maximize their sites use.. Have them teach you those things and don’t ask them to do it for you!! Make them explain WHY!!

D. LISTEN to them!! They really do know what works best on their site.

F. Don’t change you’re store process for 1 site. You then effect all the others. They’re all different. (Certified, AT, Cars eBay and your website).

Oh… I almost forgot!! BE A STUDENT OF THE GAME. (Ooops, already said that!!)

Remember… Most of us have forgotten… More than we currently know….

Take two steps back…. Before you make that Giant Leap forward!! Your momentum will carry you further with less effort.

Thanks and please send me your thoughts…

Mark

214-549-7779

While two friends were camping in the mountains, their conversation went something  like this….

Friend 1 – Did you hear that??

Friend 2 – Sounded like a BEAR!!!

Friend 1 – Get ready to Run fast!!!!

Friend 2 – It’s not really that big a deal…

Friend 1 – Not That big a DEAL!!!  We need to outrun that BEAR or it will EAT US!!

Friend 2 – I don’t really need to outrun the bear….

Friend 1 – YOU DONT NEED TO DO WHAT!!!

Friend 2 –  I just need to outrun YOU!!

Friend 1 – (perplexed look on face) Hmmmmm

As I now approach the end of  my 3rd month this year with at least 20 travel days jammed in each, I have been fortunate enough to have visited, met and trained with nearly 90 stores of a publicly traded automotive dealer group. During these store visits, I am thinking I might have learned more than I actually taught. In fact, It seems that most of my trainings focus on remembering my past mistakes and trying to teach others from them… So many times in the car business I hear those often used dreaded words… I, we or us will be the King of (Your text goes here)!! I also hear things like… I, we or us are the Best (Your text can go here too) you have ever seen or been around. In most cases, these words are generally right on the money… In fact, I have found that statements like these generally mirror the financial statement of the store…. The only problem is.. If the person who made those remarks has a higher perception of self-worth than the reality suggests… Well, let’s not go there….

I would like to step away from these words for just a second and share an interesting phenomenon with you. As a tenured 16 year Ice Hockey Coach, I see the “we’re #1 finger” after every game we won or lost by at least one player if not more on both teams. Now… I’m not talking the same “#1 finger” that the driver you just cut off on the highway flashed you… I talking about that “WE ARE THE BEST”…. Finger.  As a Coach, we are driven and built to constantly raise the bar… Winning is never good enough… In fact.. No matter where we turn… I think it is safe to say that there will always be somebody bigger, faster or want it more than my players somewhere. When we win… I guess those people or that team that was better just wasn’t present. Now don’t get me wrong….. I like winning and love success even more!! I have always told my players… Until you lift the Stanley Cup over your heads…. There is plenty of room to improve…. Now follow me here… Ask any player that has won that cup and they will all tell you the celebration was short-lived. The reason why is this.. The next season starts the day after the old one ended… A team that gets to lift that cup suddenly realizes… a team that lifts it twice or 3 times would surely be better than one that just got to win it once…. Hence we begin a chase that has no end and contains an absolute certainty for disappointment…   

Now how does that transfer to the car business…. It really is quite simple… Dealerships tend to only think in monthly increments. Each and every report we run always seems to have a field that pulls a date range… Year over year gain, Current month over last year’s same period gains and so on and so on…. Why does it have to be so complex. Why can’t we simplify the business to its easiest form.. 

Every day I wake… will have a clear easily attainable goal… To be better today than I was yesterday!!!

Whether that  is business or personal, it is attainable. In fact, making that goal, that simple, will generally guarantee the results of those first reports we spoke of.

While not naming names!! (To protect the innocent of course) A dealer during one of my sessions made an absolute astounding statement… There was 30 or so dealership managers in the room and we were discussing Reputation Management. A gentleman from a tremendously respected online company was speaking and providing incredible information on managing a dealers online reputation… When I heard this come from the back of the room…

“Here’s a concept…. Take care of your customers… Do it ALL the time… and you won’t have to worry about your online reputation!!” It was a moment that aligned the moon and the stars for me and shaped my sessions going forward and truly changed my outlook…

This was a General Manager of no other than a Lexus Store.. Now looking back, it made so much sense. I will also add that several others in the room still missed the point. In fact, here came the Broad Objections… Sure, we could easily do that if we made 5K on every car we sold like you do… Then it dropped on me like a ton of bricks…. For months if not years.. I have been making statements like “The car business hasn’t changed, only how a customer finds you has.” Another that stuck out was, “Car dealers don’t sell cars…. They deliver a customer experience.”

The only answer to these Broad Objecting statements targeted at the Lexus GM was…..  

WHY NOT!!

It really was that simple… Now these words are surely easier to type than accomplish in reality, this blog entry, and those that come after, will be dedicated to that simple philosophy.

“Becoming better today than yesterday” Then REPEAT!  

You don’t have to be the BEST!! You just have to be better than the people you will be compared to!! Or simply…

You don’t have to be faster than the bear…. Only faster than the others running from it!!

Thanks for reading and please write me back.. Add to this or just tell me I’m crazy!! Tell me you like it!! Tell me I’m Stupid!! Just tell me something!!  

Running from the BEAR,

Mark

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