Guerilla Warfare

Through the years I’ve become famous, or notorious, depending on who you’re talking to, for any number of things I’ve said or done. Regardless, there’s one thing you’ll never hear anyone say about me is… “That Jim Ziegler, I can take or him or leave him.” I’ve always viewed that like Grant Cardone always says… “Where’d we be without our haters? Either way I get paid.” There’s one thing that both my raving fans and my most staunch detractors will agree upon: My predictions and future-casting events and trends in the car business have, for the most part, been deadly accurate. In speeches, articles, blogs, and interviews; my forecasts have usually come true, even when every other so-called expert and authority in the industry was saying otherwise.

Turn Out the Lights, The Party’s Over… We’re coming off of a couple of really great years in the retail car business. Truthfully, you didn’t have to be very good to sell a lot of cars and make a ton of money. None of you are doing the best job you are capable of. We are experiencing a great market and the general attitude is… “Party-On Garth!” … BUT… What if I were to tell you there’s a strong possibly that is about to grind to a screeching halt? To quote Jack Nicholson… “You want the truth? You Can’t Handle the Truth!”

I have interacted with literally thousands of dealerships at the highest levels of management and in the trenches, at the sales level, on the desk and on the lot. So, I’m telling it from an experiential viewpoint based on real-world observations in real dealerships. Believe me when I say that the manufacturers have once again screwed up the retail market and we are going to experience a slowdown, a deceleration of the market starting almost immediately.

Now, don’t be misquoting me here. I am saying it’s going to slow down, which is not saying the market is going to crash. So, if your dealership is going to do business in the cycle we’re entering; then, you’re going to have to take that business away from a competitor that has the business. You can grow, or you can die, but; You cannot stay as you are and continue doing business as you are now.

The Internet is the Battlefield AND Google is the weapon. The battle is already raging and most of you are losing. Competitors are siphoning sales out of your market area right under your nose, vendors are stealing your customers and renting them back to you at a discount, and your own manufacturers are shoveling your customers away to their preferred dealers.

To survive and thrive, to actually win the battles as the landscape changes daily online; you have to get in the game. It’s time for dealers and every employee to become committed to technology enabled sales and marketing. I’m talking committed, not just marginally involved as so many of you are. Marry your CRM and use it as the heartbeat of the dealership. Take a critical look at your websites and demand that your website vendors get results, conversion, and relevance. No more cookie-cutter websites. Get a Social Media Agency to handle your social marketing (hint the ones that the manufacturer co-ops are probably NOT the best choice). Don’t trust the vendors to deliver you stats about their own performance. Hold every vendor accountable for actual sales they produced. Beware of doubletalk and smokescreens. Hold your vendors accountable for Sales you can document.

AND… above all, educate yourself (Mr. and Mrs. Dealer) and educate your people. Seminars, conferences and classes. Dealers, train your people and yourself. The problem I see in most dealerships is that the Dealer Principal and the GM don’t get it and, some of you are too cheap to invest in improving. The most successful e-dealerships I know have dealers and GM that are totally tuned in to Internet Sales and Marketing. I always ask if the dealer and the GM can operate the CRM functions and read the reports. If your dealership is going to compete, you need to invest in training and technology. Just remember I said this. I know hundreds of ex-dealers that didn’t listen to me in the past. JIM