A Tin Hat Opinion

What We Learned About Car Dealers in 2020

Written by Christine Plunkett

Written on December 30, 2020

What did we learn about car dealers this year?

For starters, you can’t hold ‘em down. Not surprised. The collective display of fervent determination to adapt, adjust, and quickly re-learn how to sell cars during the s&!%show that was 2020 is commendable. Attention must be paid. Some stores worked with limited staff, others shut down entirely, and across the board it was definitely NOT business as usual. So, what did we learn, exactly?

Salespeople are rocking at max capacity. For the first time in 50 years, the average number of units sold per rep has gone up, way up! With fewer team members in the showroom, everyone is required to multi-task, show up early, stay late, and generally be superhuman. 

Work ethic quickly filtered the rock stars from the rabble. Working remotely is, for many in automotive, a first. In a VERY interesting evolution, the killer/closer attitude is no longer the hottest commodity at your dealership. It’s the individuals with a knack for communicating remotely, by phone and email, and who understand the importance of polite persistence, who suddenly became indispensable. Desk managers who rule with rudeness and sales guys with bad attitudes, in many stores, got the swift boot in lieu of internet managers, BDC staff, and even receptionists! People who are good with people, who want to help them, not close them, are having their day in the sun. 

Curiosity is key. Dealers with a willingness to explore unfamiliar processes and experiment with different vendors/solutions reaped the benefits of their exploration. There is no shortage of intelligent and innovative automotive solution providers who are working feverishly to accommodate the new/different demands and help car dealers not only stay afloat, but thrive in an economy our generation has never experienced before. 

In short, take the demo. Take all the damn demos. That’s how you learn and find the hidden gems that will push you past your competition. There will undoubtedly be some duds too. Fight the urge to laugh at the poor soul pushing the tool with “Start the Buying Process” as the main CTA, bless his heart. Just smile and move along. It’s worth it. At least, you might end up with a funny story. 

I have seen more impressive advancements in automotive digital retail and remote customer engagement in the last year than in my entire career combined. From tools that help you start conversations, to vehicle transportation solutions like DRAIVER cooked up, it’s really exciting out here! Advancements emerged to help car dealers with everything from virtual contracts and video meetings to virtual BDCs and showroom sanitation. The uprising of entrepreneurs with a clear focus on the automotive industry have impressed me massively. 

Consultants and trainers also had to start from scratch; the old play books, thrown out. Industry veterans like Jennifer Suzuki, Brian Pasch, and many others pounded the pavement, attended seminars, demos, talked to dealers, and hosted virtual conferences and podcasts to disperse the secret sauce to surviving and thriving in automotive mid-pandemic. It’s no easy feat to re-write the rules while the game is in constant flux. The cheese moves almost daily, it seems.

We are blessed in this industry to have dedicated, motivated, and enthusiastic dealers and dealer partners to watch and learn from. Those happy to share their success stories, and not-so-successful ones too!

While the year, in general, pretty much sucked, there are many reasons for the autofam to celebrate. We showed up, rocked it, and are super primed for a kickass 2021. Kicking down the door to the new year with our lean, hyper-effective workforce bolstered by innovative customer engagement advancements, and a slew of new processes to sell cars remotely and more quickly… yeah, we’re ready. 

Bring it, 2021.

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