FEELS UNNATURAL? THAT'S GOOD!

Sometimes skills that will make you an exceptional performer in any area are skills that feel unnatural. In modern day psychobabble the new buzzword to describe this is counterintuitive, in direct contradiction to what feels correct.

If you've ever played golf you may have experienced this. When you first pick the club, instinct most likely dictates that you wind up, holding the club in kind of vertical ball-bat fashion and simply smack the little white ball as hard as possible. It can get the ball to travel far, usually in the wrong direction.

Then you learn the proper way to hold the club, the proper foot positioning, locking your hands in a contorted Joe Cocker-kind of position, and the importance of keeping your left arm fairly straight. Eventually, after you put all the pieces together, it's amazing how easily you can hit the ball and have it travel a long distance in the right direction. Eventually, the unnatural feels like “the right way.”

What feels like a starting point to make changes can often be based on intuition that steers us wrong. Software is one of those areas. What intuitively feels like the right approach may be the wrong place to start. Implementing software without the right preliminary work can cause further disruption or alter an intended goal.

Somewhere along the line, software in and of itself became the illusionary magic pill that will solve operational problems.

The intuitive tendency is to assume that the organization has processes defined, and that leadership is in place, and putting in software such as BDC programs will solve a specific issue such as follow-up.

THE USUAL STEPS ARE THESE:

  1. Identify the area we want to improve. Example: BDC or CRC for better customer follow-up.

  2. Research available products in the marketplace, based on features, price, and ease of use.

  3. Contract vendor to install in the dealership.

  4. Vendor goes to dealership for a few days with technophiles with very little or no understanding of a dealership. They've had a lot of caffeine, talk incredibly fast, and cover 842 topics in two days. Then they and leave. On Monday, we say, “Wha'd they say”?

  5. We watch employees use software to about 12% of it's potential.

  6. Either a) continue to write a check and grumble, or b) bag the software (if we can) since it doesn't work.

This is a fairly typical sequence of events. It feels very natural, very intuitive. It produces consistently poor and predictable results. The majority of the failure isn't due to the software, but taking the intuitive approach. It's intuitive because it's based on assumptions that have rarely, if ever, been challenged in the dealership.

THE ASSUMPTIONS:

  • There is a sales process in place that's well defined and everyone understands it.

  • We have the right people in the right positions, especially leadership roles.

  • The management team is well aligned, and views the process the same way.

The reality is that those assumptions rarely get tested and ultimately we end up with “more of the same.” The only way to break out is to start back at the beginning and test our assumptions. To do so is counterintuitive, and probably one of the most productive things you'll ever do.

A real world example is demonstrated by an implementation U.S. Automotive Alliance is currently involved in at Midwest Auto Group (MAG), a dealership based in Columbus, Ohio. The dealership was in the process of implementing a web-based CRM and desking platform developed by Autoclick.

During the initial process, several questions became evident. How much impact is there in the counterintuitive approach of backing up and really defining the sales process? To what extent will the approach foster higher levels of buy-in? Once the software is put into play will this approach provide a basis for change?

In the initial meeting with the executive management team it became apparent that management had differing views on certain aspects of the sales process.

We see this at many dealerships.

One version from a manager may be that customer information should be in the system prior to a test drive, to assure the right car for the right customer. Another manager's view is that it's OK to have the information prior to working the deal. Since the two approaches are different, you can see that there is a high likelihood that employees will end up getting mixed signals.

At a second meeting with the management team, we were able to clarify discrepancies, map out details of the process and make the checkpoints very specific. Although the sales process was initially well-defined, taking things to higher levels of focus and clarity makes good companies exceptional.

It's difficult to imagine the level of focus and direction that taking this counterintuitive approach will provide in your dealership. In a future article we will detail the steps to employing this process in your dealership.


George Pavlyak is the CEO of U.S. Automotive Alliance, a dealership consulting company. He can be reached at 513-232-4222, gpavlyak@usautoalliance.com.