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DrivingSales Presidents Club 2015: Inside Look | DrivingSales News

DrivingSales Presidents Club 2015: Inside Look

April 8, 2015 0 Comments

In the shadow of the Chrysler building in Manhattan, and adjacent to Grand Central Station is the Grand Hyatt where DrivingSales held their 3rd annual Presidents Club. This gathering is an intimate annual leadership conference for Dealer Principals and General Managers. Speakers engage with peers including industry and external thought leaders to collaboratively navigate the current business challenges and opportunities of automotive retail; designing market-leading strategies to grow their core assets: Brand, Capital and People. Presidents Club is a preview for leaders to see what’s around the corner for the automotive retail. The goal is for those in attendance to set trends, not to learn about what they are and simply follow them.

The overarching theme of the President’s club event is improving the Customer Experience at your store. The event began with Jared Hamilton’s Keynote address. Hamilton, the CEO and founder of DrivingSales shared results of an original research project. Surveying some 1300 car shoppers and buyers using interviews and hidden cameras, Hamilton was able to shed light on what customers want out of the car buying process.

In his keynote address Hamilton said, “I’m going to talk about the core of our business, the core of our money-making machine, our sales process and how the sales process is evolving.

Hamilton also told dealers that being rigid in your sales process could be problematic

Hamilton explained, “It’s a branching exercise. It’s about having the guest come in, doing a needs analysis and figuring out where they are. If there’s a trade, get to it. If they’re wanting to explore some inventory, get to it. If they want to go on the drive by themselves, Rodger that, sir. If they want to go to numbers, get right to it. It’s a branching exercise, it’s understanding the guest’s needs and taking them where you want them to go.”

In the end Hamilton, referenced the man being forced into keeping his car as a dealer winning a war and losing the battle. In his context, it meant selling one car though cohesion, while leaving a customer ultimately unsatisfied. This means that future business is being cut down in favor of the sale today.

“He ended up buying a car, but this dealer is going to lose many sales by the way that they treated him, and the recommendations and referrals and him never coming back. So this dealer won the battle but they are clearly losing the war.”

Following up the keynote from Hamilton was a talk from Erich K. Gail, the Chief Operating Officer of the Cardinale Group, which includes the Cardinale Auto Group. Gail spoke during his keynote about dealership branding from the executive point of view. On this subject Gail said, “There is no individual who is more important than our brand. We will separate a relationship with a 30 unit a month salesperson for the very reason that they don’t honor the brand. If you don’t buy in 100%, we don’t have an outstanding relationship where everybody gets to win and your choice is to go someplace else.”

Following Gail’s talk was a competition called “Most Valuable Insight.” A group of retail automotive thought leaders had 9 minutes to present insight for the retail automotive industry. Their presentations were judged and questioned by a three-team dealer panel. This year’s winner was SCI MarketView, which presented about “The Importance of Quality Response.”

After a lunch break, attendees returned to the ballroom of the Grand Hyatt to hear from the Chief Marketing Officer and VP at Sonic Automotive, Rachel Richards. Sonic has made several headlines lately for their the major changes their implementing to their processes to improve their stores’ customer experience. Richards provide an overview of Sonic Automotive’s customer strategy during a sit-down interview with DrivingSalesNews.

Richards said, “Basically, what we do, when a guest comes to one of our one Sonic one experience stores or echo park, they can go if they want to get their vehicle appraised first or if they immediately want to go on a test drive or if they want to go back and meet with our service manager. The guest is in control of what he or she wants to do.”

Jeff Roberts followed up the keynote by Richards by providing insight into the latest legal developments in retail automotive. Roberts is an attorney who specializes in among other things, dealership legal compliance.

Roberts explained, “Everyone of you who’s a dealer or general manager should be at least familiar with these regs and I would recommend that you be intricately involved in your compliance process.”

After his keynote Roberts sat down and told DrivingSales News about an unexpected topic: Tesla Motors. He feels that they are here to stay.

Roberts explained, “The dealer associations need to sit down and work with him instead of fighting him because ultimately, if consumers want to buy Teslas, then they are going to buy Teslas.”

The speaker after Jeff Roberts provided a lot of insight from her wide variety of automotive industry experience. Maryann Keller, Managing Director of MaryAnn Keller and Associates is familiar with TrueCar. That’s because she was part of a similar project years before with Priceline.

Keller also sits on the board of Drivetime Automotive a buy here pay here dealer group. We reported previously that they faced a CFPB probe and penalty. On this issue Keller said, “We just went through a CFPB investigation for several years and in the forth quarter of last year we signed a consent decree.”Keller also went on to talk about what is causing a less overall vehicle purchases. She referenced Millennial grads with lots of student loan debt and added, “We haven’t had income growth, we haven’t had appreciation in home values. Not for any other reason I think that you find families with fewer cars today because they just can’t afford them.”

Following up the presentation by Keller,  dealers were motivated by former Navy SEAL, Robert O’Neill who shared his experience leading SEAL Team Six into high-impact, actionable insights on leadership, decision-making, and operating in uncertain environments.

Jeremy Alicandri, a BMW dealer said, “It keeps getting better and better and every year when you come to DrivingSales President’s Club, you can learn about different ways to improve your dealership. Furthermore, Blake Underriner, the GM of a Honda dealership explained what he likes about one keynote in particular. Underriner said, “Rob O’Neill, he served our country very, very well and (his keynote was) very dynamic, a lot of life lessons in it.” Finally, Aaron Berg, the COO of the Sunrise Auto group told DrivingSalesNews, “Being a young executive in the business and being able to come here and meet a lot of seasoned veterans to hear about their past experiences and learn from their mistakes and gain their valuable insight is really one of the main reasons that I come to this event.”

About the Author:

The DrivingSales News team is dedicated to breaking the relevant and the tough stories affecting car dealers. Have questions for DrivingSales News? Reach the team at news@drivingsales.com.

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